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Title: The Boy Patrol Around the Council Fire
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
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 Patrol Around the Council Fire" ***

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FIRE***


[Illustration: In It a Single Man Was Seated]


The Boy Patrol Series

THE BOY PATROL AROUND THE COUNCIL FIRE

by

EDWARD S. ELLIS

Author of “The Flying Boys Series,” “The
Launch Boys Series,” “The Deer-foot
Series,” etc., etc.

Illustrated by Edwin J. Prittie



The John C. Winston Company
Philadelphia

Copyright, 1913, by
The John C. Winston Company

Printed in U.S.A.



CONTENTS

              I — “He and I Must Never Meet”
              II — A Slight Miscalculation
              III — A Strange Occurrence
              IV — Curious Sights And Doings
              V — Concerning Certain American Trees
              VI — A Patriot Martyr
              VII — Concerning Certain New England Birds
              VIII — A Council of War
              IX — An Unwelcome Guest
              X — A Sudden Separation
              XI — An Unsatisfactory Interview
              XII — Groping After the Truth
              XIII — The Committee of Investigation
              XIV — The Men Who Laughed
              XV — The True Story of a Famous Sea Serpent
              XVI — Zip
              XVII — Wonderful Work
              XVIII — A Match of Wits
              XIX — The Final Test
              XX — Speed the Parting Guest
              XXI — Call For Help
              XXII — Groping In the Dark
              XXIII — A Fortunate Meeting
              XXIV — “The Latchstring Was Inside!”
              XXV — And the Last



                 The Boy Patrol Around the Council Fire



                 CHAPTER I — “He and I Must Never Meet”


You will recall that one day in a recent August, Jack Crandall, a member
of the Stag Patrol of Boy Scouts, who with the Blazing Arrow and Eagle
Patrols was spending the summer vacation on the shore of Gosling Lake,
in Southern Maine, met with a serious accident. In climbing a tall pine
to inspect a bird’s nest, he fell to the ground and broke his leg. His
companions, Gerald Hume and Arthur Mitchell, belonging to the same
Patrol, made a litter upon which he was carried to the clubhouse. Dr.
Spellman, staying with his wife and little daughter Ruth, christened
“Sunbeam” by Mike Murphy, in answer to a signal, paddled across the lake
in his canoe, set the fractured limb and did all that was necessary.

Jack was an athlete, in rugged health and with no bad habits. He,
therefore, recovered rapidly. After spending a few days on his couch, he
was carried to the front porch, where in the cool shade and reposing
upon an invalid chair, especially fashioned for the occasion, he feasted
his eyes upon the delightful scenery and enjoyed the pleasures of his
friends although he could not take part. He insisted that they should
pay no special attention to him, though there was not a boy who would
not have gladly kept him company all the time. A reunion of the troop
took place in the evening, when he was carried inside, listened to the
reports and took part in the conversation which you may be sure was of a
lively nature.

Thus the days passed until the arrival of the silver mounted maple wood
crutches, a gift from the other Scouts, and Jack swung carefully out on
the porch and walked the length of it several times before sinking down
in the waiting chair. This, of course, did not take place until the
month was well by and the time for going home near. I thought it best to
close my previous story with this glimpse of things, but it now becomes
my duty to turn back and relate some incidents that occurred during the
first days of the patient’s convalescence, since they have to do with
what follows.

Dr. Spellman and his wife returned to the bungalow on the day succeeding
Jack’s mishap.

Scout Master Hall and several of the lads expressed their surprise that
no call had been made by Uncle Elk, the Hermit of the Woods, who showed
so much fondness for the Boy Scouts that they expected to see him every
day, provided the weather was favorable.

“I am sure he would have been here last night or this morning, had he
known of Jack’s misfortune,” said Mr. Hall.

“If ye have no ’bjection I’ll drop in on him and let him know,” replied
Mike Murphy, whose heart was as sympathetic as that of a young child.

“Please do so.”

Mike glanced around for his chums, Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes, but
they were not in sight. It did not matter and he decided to make the
trip alone, using one of the canoes to take him to the end of the lake,
where he would follow the path that led to the cabin through the woods.

“On me way back,” remarked Mike to the Scout Master, who walked with him
to the water’s edge, “I’ll drop in to larn how Sunbeam is getting on.”

The Scout Master smiled.

“That will take you considerably out of your way.”

“It’s not worth the mintion, as Ball O’Flaherty said whin he fell off
the church steeple and broke his neck. Then ye know it’s a long time
since I saw Sunbeam.”

“Yes,—less than a day.”

So the Irish youth seated himself in the stern of the graceful craft,
and swung the paddle with creditable skill. No task could have been
easier, and he grinned with satisfaction, as keeping close to shore, he
watched the trees with their exuberant foliage glide silently backward.

“A canoe is a blissed boon to byes that can’t walk; we might set Jack in
one of ’em, and he could paddle wherever he wished. I’m going to suggist
to me friends that whin they go back home, each of ’em has a canoe
mounted on wheels, so he can roam round the country, the same as if he’s
skimming over the water as I’m doing this minute. I’d try it mesilf whin
I get back, but dad would objict and there’s so much water there I don’t
naad anything of the kind.”

Far over to the left, he saw the other canoe handled by several of the
Scouts, while somewhat nearer and a little way back from the water, a
thin, feathery finger of smoke filtering through the tree tops showed
where Dr. Spellman’s house stood.

“Sunbeam has been gone so long that I’m worrit less something may have
happened to her; I won’t tarry at Uncle Elk’s, but make haste to relave
me mind as regards the Quaan.”

Uncle Elk’s canoe was drawn up the bank and turned over. Landing near
it, Mike followed the winding path to the door from which the latch
string hung, pulled it and stepped across the threshold.

“Good afternoon, Uncle Elk,” was his greeting as he closed the door
behind him.

The hermit was sitting in his rocking chair, reading “The Truth of
Religion,” by Rudolf Eucken, Professor of Philosophy in the University
of Jena and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1908. The old
man laid aside the heavy volume, still open, face downward.

“Michael, I’m glad to see you.”

He leaned forward, shook hands and motioned the youth to the chair
opposite. Mike obeyed with the remark:

“We have been expecting a call from ye, Uncle Elk.”

“You don’t wish me to bore you with too much of my presence,” said the
hermit, with a twinkle of his bright eyes.

“That’s something that can’t be done, if ye tried it till ye were an old
man,” replied Mike warmly. And then told of the mishap that had befallen
Jack Crandall. Uncle Elk listened sympathetically.

“That’s bad, but it might have been much worse.”

“Which Jack himself has obsarved,—for instance, ’spose it had been
_mesilf_.”

“That surely would have been worse for _you_, but better for him. You
say that Dr. Spellman set his injured leg?”

“That he did, and I couldn’t have done it better mesilf. He called this
morning and said the spalpeen was doing splendid.”

“When will the doctor call again?”

“I’m not sartin,—but likely tomorrer.”

“Forenoon or afternoon?”

“I couldn’t say.”

Uncle Elk withdrew his gaze from the face of the lad and looked into the
fireplace, where only a few dying embers showed. He was silent for a few
moments and then addressed his caller.

“Michael,” he said in low tones, “I shall call upon Jack at the earliest
opportunity, but my call must be timed so there will be no possibility
of meeting Dr. Spellman.”

Mike was amazed by the words and at a loss what to say. Therefore he
said what after all was perhaps the best thing.

“I’ll see that the doctor doesn’t try any expirimints on ye.”

The old man actually laughed, but only for an instant. With a shake of
his head he said:

“It isn’t that, Michael, but he and I must never meet.”

The youth was astounded, but his sense of propriety forbade any
questioning. If Uncle Elk did not choose to make known the cause of his
strange enmity, Mike had no right to object.

A strained silence followed for a minute or two, when the hermit again
looked meditatively into the smouldering embers.

“It can be easily arranged: let Dr. Spellman make his calls at such
times as suit his convenience and I will adjust mine accordingly.”

“That should be aisy. I hev it!”

“Let me hear your plan.”

“’Spose the doctor makes it a rule to call ivery other day and ye can
fit yer visits in betwaan, though we should like it to be oftener.”

“That would hardly answer, for he might be needed every day. A better
plan will be that he should never call at the bungalow during the
evening. If he agrees to that, everything will be right.”

“That’ll doot! He wouldn’t come anyway unless we signalled him, and if
ye happen to be at the clubhouse, ye’ll have plinty of time to run.”

“How am I to know that he consents to it?”

“If he objicts, I’ll come back and tell ye; if he agraas, I won’t show
up here agin till after ye have visited us.”

“That settles the matter. I suppose, Michael, you are wondering why I
make such a strange request?”

“I am, but I’m not asking any quistions, as ye’ll obsarve.”

“Well, you will never learn from me.”

Mike was slightly nettled.

“Why thin did ye think it worth while to raise me hopes, whin I hadn’t
made any inquiries?”

“I beg your pardon, Michael; I shouldn’t have done it. Let neither of us
refer to it again.”

“Do ye wish me to till Docther Spellman what ye said?”

“I do.”

“Then consider that I’ve told him.”

“It would be hard for him to understand my request unless he knew my
feelings. You may as well stay to supper and over night with me.”

“I thank ye, Uncle Elk, but I much fear that if I don’t return to the
byes they’ll think I’ve tumbled out of a tree the same as Jack, and have
broke me neck. I’ll bid ye good afternoon and make me way to Docther
Spelhnan. Onless ye hear from me to the contrary, ye’ll understand that
he’ll not visit the bungalow on any avening onless he is sent fur, so
the way will be open to yersilf.”

The hermit rose from his chair and stood in the door as Mike walked down
the path to the side of the lake. He looked round just before passing
out of sight and waved his hand to the old man, who nodded.

“It’s mighty qu’ar,” mused the lad, as he shoved off in his canoe; “the
docther has niver said a word as far as I’ve heerd about any throuble
between ’em, and I couldn’t guess what it is to save me life.”

The bright, sunshiny afternoon was well advanced when Mike paddled a
little way from shore and turned in the direction of the thin wisp of
smoke which revealed the location of the physician’s summer home. Almost
beyond sight could be made out the second canoe, which some of the
Scouts had used in making an excursion over the sheet of water. The
craft was close in shore and seemed to be motionless, as if the boys
were fishing. The distance was too far for him to tell the number of
occupants, but he judged they were three or four.

“And I belave Alvin and Chester are among ’em,” he added, after a
scrutiny of the boat; “I mind me now that they said something about
going off to-day on a cruise. Hello!”

The exclamation was caused by an unexpected discovery. Between him and
the home of the physician he saw a second spiral of vapor climbing up
among the treetops. Like that of the former, it was so far back from the
water that nothing could be seen of the party that had kindled it.

Mike held his paddle motionless while he looked and thought.

“They must be strangers to the rist of us. If this thing kaaps up, bime
by we sha’n’t have elbow room and will have to camp farther inland. I
wonder now if they could be some other Boy Patrols that have strayed in
here. They may have heerd of us and desire to make me acquaintance, as
do most people.”

Mike had his natural share of curiosity, and decided to learn who the
strangers were. He had enough time at command to permit a diversion of
this nature, and he headed his craft toward the bank at a point opposite
the dim wavering column of vapor which showed that a fire kindled
beneath was the cause.



                  CHAPTER II — A Slight Miscalculation


The distance was so slight that a score of strokes drove the canoe to
shore. Nothing in the nature of a path was to be seen, and there was so
much undergrowth that when Mike glided under the vegetation, only the
rear of the boat was visible to any one on the lake. He drew the craft
up the bank far enough to prevent its floating away during his absence,
and began picking his way through the bushes. A few rods and the wood
grew more open, though not being much accustomed to that sort of
traveling, he made considerable noise in his progress. He was thus
engaged with his head bent and his arms thrust out in front feeling his
way, when a low horizontal limb slid under his chin and as it almost
lifted him off his feet brought him to a sudden stop.

“Worrah! I wonder if me hid is left on me shoulders!” he exclaimed,
vigorously rubbing his neck; “yis,—the most of me is here, as Tarn
Murry said whin he came down after being blowed up in a powder mill.”

A few rods farther and he came upon a sight which caused him to halt as
abruptly as before, with a strong inclination to turn about and go back
to his canoe.

In a small open space a fire of pine cones, twigs and branches was
burning beside the trunk of a fallen tree. Resting on the top of the
blaze was a tomato can, filled with bubbling coffee, whose aroma reached
the nostrils of Mike at the moment he caught sight of the fire. On the
log sat a ragged, frowsy tramp, with a crooked stick in his hand tending
the blaze, while on the ground half lying down and half sitting up, was
a second vagrant sucking a corncob pipe.

You remember the two nuisances who called upon Dr. Spellman and because
of their insolence were sharply rebuffed by him, though his wife, in the
kindness of her heart, gave them food. These were the same hoboes, who
it will be noted had not as yet wandered far from the physician’s home.
You remember, too, their characteristic names,—Buzby Biggs and Saxy
Hutt. Lazy, shiftless, dirty, rugged of frame, thieves and unmitigated
pests, they were straggling through this part of Maine, in mortal dread
of two afflictions,—work and a bath. They were ready to suffer harsh
treatment and privation rather than submit to either.

Mike’s sensitiveness revolted at sight of them, but before he could turn
away, both of the men, who must have heard his approach, raised their
heads and looked toward him. Hutt, who was smoking the pipe, slowly rose
to his feet, stretched his arms over his head, and beckoned with his
grimy forefinger.

“Welcome, my lord!” he called in his husky voice; “wilt thou not come
into our baronial castle and partake of a flagon of wine with us?”

The grotesqueness of the invitation appealed to Mike and he walked
forward, recalling that he had not his buckthorn cane with him. Had he
gone for a tramp through the woods he would have held it in his hand,
but it was in his way when using the canoe. He never carried firearms,
for to do so is to disobey one of the strictest rules of the Boy Scouts,
besides which, as you know, an Irishman believes in the use only of
nature’s weapons, with the addition perhaps now and then of a stout
shillaleh. Not that Mike Murphy expected any trouble with these men, but
the thought which came to him was natural under the circumstances.

He approached in his confident fashion, with a grin on his face, halted
a pace or two from the fire, and with the couple examining him, made the
Boy Scout salute.

“’Tis so kind of ye that I will halt a brief while and enj’y the
hospitality of the Knights of the Ragged Shirt and Dirty Face.”

This was a pretty crisp salutation, but it need not be said that Mike
felt no more regard for the couple than do all respectable persons. He
remained standing and did not go nearer.

“Aren’t yer afraid of being arrested fur yer beauty, young man?” asked
Biggs with a grimace.

“Not while yersilves are in the counthry.”

“Who are you anyway?”

“Mike Murphy of Southport, State of Maine. I would exchange cards wid
ye, but I’m afeard ye couldn’t return the compliment.”

“I left my pasteboards at home on the piany. We gather from your dress
that you’re one of them Boy Patrols.”

“Ye’re right, excipt jest now I’m on this side of the lake.”

“Gee whizz! but you’re keen. How long do you chaps intend to stay
there?”

“Probably until we lave. We’re not among the folks who hev to be kicked
out by their betters.”

“Meaning us?”

“As ye plaise; I want to be agreeable to ye.”

Mike had not shown tact. He ought to have reflected that it was
imprudent to rouse the resentment of two full grown men of so lawless a
character as these tramps undoubtedly were. Combative as Mike was by
nature, he would have hardly been the equal of one of them in a “shindy”
which could be easily started and which it seemed he had set out to
provoke.

“I observe,” said Biggs, “that you have a brass chain dangling from yer
coat pocket in front; does the same signify that there’s a watch
anchored at t’other end?”

Mike answered the question by flipping out his time piece and displaying
it.

“The best Waterbury chronometer made,—price a dollar and a half.”

“I should like to borrer the same for my pal and me.”

“I’m thinking ye would like to borrer a good many things ye can’t; I
carry a little loose change in me pocket. Mebbe you’d like to borrer the
same?”

“Yer guessed it the fust time; while yer turning over that turnip and
chain yer may as well h’ist out the few pennies in yer garments.”

The tramp took a step toward the lad, his companion grinningly watching
proceedings.

The words and manner of Biggs left no doubt that he meant to rob Mike of
his watch and money,—though neither was of much value. Was the Irish
youth angry? I cannot do justice to his feelings, so let us try to
imagine his state of mind.

Prudence demanded that he should try to conciliate the scamps, or,
failing in that, to dash off at the top of his speed, but two reasons
checked this course. You know he was not formed for running, and either
one of the tramps could have overtaken him by half trying. The other
reason was that Mike never ran from any foe. He would die fighting
before showing the white feather. Convinced that nothing could avert a
fierce struggle, he instantly prepared for it. He would have felt better
had his shillaleh been in his grasp, but it has already been shown that
his only weapons were those which nature had furnished and no youth of
his years could have known better how to use them.

I should be distressed if I had to describe Mike’s fight with two full
grown men, for it was impossible that he should not get much the worst
of it. While it may be a relief to picture one in his situation as
baffling, if not defeating two burly despoilers, yet to do so would be
contrary to truth.

The youth recoiled a single step, closed his fists and assumed an
attitude of defense. Saxy Hutt, still stood grinningly listening and
watching. As he viewed the situation it was preposterous to think his
pal would need his help. None the less, he would be quick to give it
should the call be made.

“Come on as soon as ye plaise, and I’d as lief take both as one; don’t
kaap me waiting.”

“Hear him talk,” said Biggs, still advancing, though more slowly than
before; “he makes believe he ain’t scared half to death.”

“Ye’ll be thankful in less nor a minute if ye’re allowed to escape wid
yer life.”

This sounded like the wildest kind of boasting, but it was justified.
Since Mike Murphy faced the two tramps, he saw what was behind them,
which they did not. In a direct line with Biggs, slightly to the left of
Saxy, and no more than a dozen paces to the rear, stood Dr. Spellman
with leveled revolver and face red with anger.

“Move a little to one side, Mike, so I shall run no risk of hitting
you,” called the physician; “just now you’re right in line with that
ruffian.”

Buzby Biggs leaped fully a foot in air, and with a gasp flashed his head
about and stared at the point whence the dreadful voice had come. Then
his spiky hair seemed to rise on end and lift his dilapidated hat to a
height of several inches.

“Shall I wing him, Mike?” asked the doctor, with the weapon still at a
level.

“Folly yer own plisure in that regard; I don’t begrudge ye the
enj’yment, as Mrs. O’Flaherty remarked whin she refoosed to fire at the
bear that was chasing her husband.”

At that instant, Biggs emitted a howl, and with what was left of his
fragmentary hat fluttering to the ground, dashed in a headlong panic
through the wood and undergrowth toward the lake.

The sharp crack of the Smith and Wesson rang out, and the fugitive made
another bound in air, as if he felt the sting of the bullet, and dived
out of sight.

“I missed him on purpose,” remarked the doctor; “he isn’t worth a
cartridge, but I’m undecided about you.”

As he spoke he shifted his aim to Saxy Hutt, who was a-tremble with
fear.

“I—I—I’ve got an engagement,” he stuttered, beginning to shamble in
the direction taken by his companion; “I’ll bid you good day.”

“Hold on!” sharply commanded his master; “wait till I decide what’s best
to do with you.”

“Why—why, boss, I haven’t done anything.”

And too weak to stand in his excessive terror, Saxy sagged back and sat
down heavily on the log. Mike could not help pitying him.

“It was t’other spalpeen that meant to rob me, docther.”

“One is as bad as the other; this one would have helped had it been
necessary.”

“Oh, doctor,” protested the aggrieved Saxy, “how can yer think such a
crool thing of a gentleman like me? I was just going to stop Buzby when
yer spoke up.”

The physician lowered his weapon with a laugh.

“Off with you! I hope never to see the face of yourself or Buzby again.
You may drink your coffee if you wish before you leave.”

But the tramp had lost his thirst as well as his appetite for the time.
He came unsteadily to his feet, and began moving gingerly over the trail
of his companion.

“I say, doctor,” he said, pausing a few steps away, “if you feel like
firing off that little thing in your hand, please p’int t’other way.”

“I shall take your request into consideration, but don’t advise you to
bank on my granting it.”

Saxy increased his pace until it equalled that of him who had gone
before. Dr. Spellman extended his hand to Mike.

“I hope that is the last of them. I supposed they left the neighborhood,
but they will do so now.”

“Why do ye think that, docther?”

“Heretofore we had nothing positive to bring against them. Now I can
bear witness that they tried to rob you. They know it and have no wish
to go to jail while the weather is so pleasant outside. Let’s sit down
on this log for a wee bit, before going to my house. Tell me how you
came to be in this place.”

“I was on me way from Uncle Elk’s cabin whin the smoke of this camp
caused me to turn aside, wid the result that I’d been mixed up in the
biggest shindy of me life if ye hadn’t took it in yer head to spoil the
picnic.”

“It was mighty lucky for you that I did so, Mike. Did Uncle Elk send any
message to me?”

“He did that,” gravely replied Mike, who thereupon told his friend of
the assertion of the hermit that he and the physician must not meet.

“I had begun to suspect some such feeling on his part, though not to the
degree he shows. I have called there twice, the last time with my wife,
who insists that the old man was in his cabin at the time and purposely
kept out of our sight. He can depend upon it that I shall not put myself
in his way, though I am wholly at a loss to understand his enmity. But
we may as well go to the house, Mike.”

As he spoke, the doctor rose to his feet, and the two began threading
their way through the wood to the point where Mike had left his canoe.



                   CHAPTER III — A Strange Occurrence


It was not far to the edge of the lake, and, as you will remember, there
was abundant undergrowth, but the fleeing tramps had left a trail of
broken and twisted branches which it would have been easy to follow,
even with greater distance and more uncertainty of direction. Mike kept
a few paces in the lead, and soon caught the shimmer of water, but when
he glanced around saw nothing of his craft. He stood perplexed when Dr.
Spellman stepped beside him.

“Where’s the canoe?” asked the man.

“That’s what meself would like to know.”

“Is this the spot where you stepped ashore?”

Mike moved farther until his shoes touched the water. He recognized the
projecting limb of a beech which had attracted his notice when he came
ashore.

“There’s no mistake about the same. Now, docther, that boat can’t hev a
habit of sneakin’ off whin ye’re not watching—what’s the matter?”

His companion touched his arm and pointed over the water.

“There’s the answer to your question.”

“It beats me, as the drum said to the drum stick.”

Some two hundred yards out on Gosling Lake was the canoe heading toward
the western end of the sheet of water. In it were seated Biggs and Hutt,
the two rascally tramps, their appearance suggesting that they were
owners of the graceful craft in which they were making a pleasure
excursion. Their backs were toward the two on shore, but Hutt who sat
near the stern turned his head. Observing the indignant couple, he waved
his hand in salutation and grinned so broadly that the gleam of his
yellow teeth showed.

Neither Mike nor the doctor spoke for a moment or two. Then the youth
solemnly extended his hand.

“Docther, would ye mind shaking?”

“Certainly not, but what is the idea, Mike?”

“’Cause I can’t think of anything ilse to do, as the p’liceman said whin
he prosaaded to break his club over the head of ivery one in sight.”

“Were there ever two such pests? The next time I get a chance I won’t
kill them, but I’ll give each something he’ll remember.”

“Where’s your boat?”

“At the foot of the path leading to the house; the distance is so short
that I did not use it, but strolled to this point.”

“Let’s jump into the same and make fur these spalpeens.”

The physician was so angry that he did not hesitate. They hurried
through the wood to the spot where the other craft lay as it had been
left by its owner. It has been shown that from this spot the house was
not visible and therefore the wife and daughter knew nothing of what was
afoot, which perhaps was best. The doctor, being the most skilful with
the paddle, took up the implement, and headed after the other craft,
which was making good progress toward the farther end of the lake.

Each of our friends had asked himself the question as to what Biggs and
Hutt meant by their act and what they were likely to do. It could not be
seen that the vagrants had anything to gain, for they must soon abandon
the canoe and continue their flight on foot. They knew the medical man
carried a deadly weapon, and did not seem backward in using it, because
of which they certainly could not desire another meeting with him.

Moreover, a third canoe was involved. It seemed to have disappeared for
the time, but must be somewhere near the western end of the lake, which
being the case, the tramps were likely to find themselves between two
fires, though it was not to be supposed that they had any cause to fear
the unarmed Boy Scouts in the invisible boat.

The flight and pursuit had lasted only a few minutes when an unpleasant
truth impressed itself upon Mike and the doctor:—Buzby Biggs, who swung
the other paddle, did it so deftly that his boat steadily drew away from
the pursuer despite the utmost efforts of Dr. Spellman. In a
straightaway race the tramps were sure to win, but the course had
bounds, and in the end they must be pocketed, a fact so apparent that
they themselves saw it from the first. They had the choice of keeping
directly on until they reached the western margin so far in advance of
their pursuers that they need give them no thought, or they could take
the shorter course to the northern shore, opposite the bungalow. It
looked as if they had decided upon the former plan, which would indicate
that they knew or suspected nothing of the third canoe, nestling
somewhere under the overhanging limbs along shore.

Such undoubtedly would have been the action of the tramps, had not it
changed so abruptly and inexplicably that the astounded doctor ceased
paddling and stared without speaking a word.

Since our friends sat with their faces toward the backs of Biggs and
Hutt, they saw their every movement no matter how slight. Hutt was idle,
with a grimy hand resting on either gunwale of the canoe. Now and then
he glanced back and when he saw the pursuers steadily falling behind,
had the impudence to reach out one hand and beckon them to move faster.
The other, knowing he could not be overtaken, showed little interest in
those who were striving to come up with him. Something far in advance
seemed to hold his attention.

Such was the situation, and the forward boat was within a furlong of the
western shore when Biggs suddenly held his paddle suspended as if he had
caught sight of some object that startled him. The next moment he flung
aside the implement, uttered a cry of terror and dived overboard. Hutt
was not five seconds behind him. Both stayed so long under water that
our friends suspected they were drowned, but the frowsy heads, one
without a hat, bobbed up at some distance from the boat, and they were
seen swimming furiously toward the northern bank, which was not far off.

They had not taken a dozen strokes when they dived again and went as far
under the surface as before. Thus diving, swimming and working
desperately, they quickly reached land, scrambled out, plunged in among
the trees and vanished as if Death himself were nipping at their heels.
Never was greater panic shown.

Doctor Spellman sat mute and motionless until the tramps had
disappeared. Then he turned his head:

“What do you make of that, Mike?”

The occasion was one of the rare ones when the Irish youth had nothing
to say. He sighed and shook his head; he couldn’t do justice to the
theme.

“Something scared both of them out of their wits. It couldn’t have been
on the shore ahead, for that’s too far off, nor on their right, for they
tried with might and main to reach land there.”

“Could it have been at the rear?” ventured Mike.

“That is toward us. _We_ couldn’t have caused them such alarm.”

“Mr. Hutt may have looked around and catched the frown on me brow; I’m
towld I have a tumble exprission when I’m mad.”

“It must be true to cause them thus to leap into clear spring water,
knowing it meant the coldest kind of a bath. No, Mike,” added the doctor
gravely, “they saw something _in the water_ that threw them into fits.
What could it be?”

This was the only theory possible and yet it simply deepened the
mystery. What could there be in the clear cool waters of Gosling Lake,
besides the different species of ordinary fishes that are taken with
hook and line? To Mike and the doctor the puzzle was more inexplainable
than before.

One conclusion, however, was warranted by what had occurred: if the
tramps had seen something which terrified them beyond imagination, what
was to prevent the man and youth from gaining a sight of the same
frightful object whatever it might be?

Now, while it cannot be denied that Dr. Spellman and Mike Murphy were
more than ordinarily brave, yet they felt a shrinking in stealing up to
the spot where the tramps had dived from the other canoe. It was their
ignorance of the character of the peril which affected them more than
any tangible danger could have done.

The doctor dipped his paddle in the water and gently swayed it. The boat
moved slowly toward the other canoe, drifting like an eggshell over the
placid surface. In leaping overboard, Buzby Biggs had flung the paddle
from him and it was seen floating a couple of rods distant from the
boat. Very slowly the doctor advanced until Mike leaned over and lifted
the implement into their craft. Then the man sheered his boat beside the
other and Mike, tossing the paddle into it, held it steady, and sat
down.

“Now, docther, we can manage it, I’m thinking,” remarked the youth,
looking up into the face that it seemed to him had gone a little pale.

“Can you find anything to explain the fright of the tramps, Mike?”

Both peered into the clear water, whose depth was too great for them to
see the bottom, but nothing rewarded their piercing scrutiny. And right
here a fact must be admitted which was not discreditable to either of
them. The breath of air that sighed over the lake had swept the empty
canoe fully a hundred feet from whence it was at the moment Buzby Biggs
dived overboard. It followed, therefore, that when Mike and the doctor
peered into the pellucid depths, it was not at the spot where the tramps
had descried something which unnerved them. Moreover, each of the
pursuers knew such was the case, but did not try to correct it nor did
either drop a hint of his knowledge until some time afterward.

It may be added that had the doctor and his young friend paddled a
little farther in the proper direction they would have solved the
mystery and been overcome probably by the same panic that had driven the
tramps overboard.

“Well,” said the physician, “there is nothing to be gained by staying
here. Let’s go to my home, have supper and spend the evening. I know my
wife will be glad to have you, and I suspect that Stubby feels a little
that way herself.”

“I hope so,” replied Mike feelingly; “I may as well confess that my main
purpose in going thither is to meet Sunbeam, as the callers used to say
regarding mesilf whin they purtended they wanted to see dad and mither.”

Paddling at a leisurely rate, they soon drew the two canoes up the bank
and stepped out. Mike paused and looked back.

“Can there be any fear of thim spalpeens poking round here while we’re
not in sight?”

“It seems unlikely; since they tried that sort of thing they have been
scared so fearfully that I think they will avoid us.”

“Docther, what could it have been that made them jump out of their boat
and swim and dive like two crazy persons?”

“I should give a good deal to be able to answer that question, but I
have no more idea than you. Let us try to content ourselves with the
belief that like the cause of Uncle Elk’s resentment toward me, it will
be made clear sooner or later.”

Before leaving the landing, as it may be called, they scanned the
surface of the lake. The doctor generally carried his binoculars and he
traced the margin clear around from their right back again to their
left. There stood the bungalow with the flag idly drooping from the
staff and several of the Scouts were seen lounging at the front. In no
other direction was a sign of life discerned.

“I cannot discover the other canoe,” remarked Dr. Spellman, passing the
glass to Mike at his side. “If the boys had returned, the boat would be
in sight by the bungalow; whoever used it, they are still absent.”

“They have landed and gone into the woods to look after birds or to
trace out other kinds of trees. They will be back before the set of
sun.”

“No doubt, unless,” added the doctor half in earnest, “they should
receive the same shock that struck Biggs and Hutt.”

“In that evint, they will be home still earlier.”

“Come on; I’m beginning to feel hungry.”

“And I’m wid ye there.”



                 CHAPTER IV — Curious Sights And Doings


One of the incidents which made that night memorable in the life of Mike
Murphy was that it brought him a compliment, the equal of which he had
never received before, nor in the years to come can any similar words so
touch his heart.

Ruth Spellman, or “Sunbeam” as she was coming to be called, was so
interested in his fairy stories that when the time arrived for her to go
to bed she was restless and the mother feared it was something in the
nature of a fever that disturbed her. The father, however, assured his
wife that it was due to mental excitement and would soon pass away. When
Ruth had said her prayers, kissed each good night and lain down on her
cot, with the thin blanket spread over her, she still fidgeted. From the
next room the three heard her tossing as children will do when sleep
fails to soothe them.

Suddenly they heard her pleading voice:

“Cousin Mike, won’t you please sing to me?”

“I’ll do my bist,” he replied with a laugh, as he walked back and sat on
a camp stool beside her couch, where only a small portion of the light
from the front apartment reached them. He began the baby song with which
his mother had often lulled him to slumber in infancy. Its exquisite
sweetness was beyond description, the parents sat motionless and
listening as much enthralled as the little one for whose benefit it was
sung. They were almost holding their breath when Sunbeam murmured during
one of the slight pauses:

“I think one of the angels you told me about, mamma, is singing.”

“I don’t wonder,” whispered the father; “I never heard anything like
it.”

Five minutes later the child had drifted away into dreamland and Mike
came forward and joined the two on the outside. They sat silent for a
few minutes. Neither referred to the wonderful treat they had enjoyed,
for it would have grated when compared with the simple words of Sunbeam.
Nor did Mike speak of it, but, as has been said, his heart had been
touched as never before.

It was comparatively early in the evening when he bade his friends
good-by, having declined their invitation to stay over night, and walked
down to the water, accompanied by the doctor.

“When you next see Uncle Elk, assure him that his wishes shall be
respected by me; I shall not call at the bungalow in the evening unless
you signal for me, nor do I intend to go near his home.”

Mike promised to carry out the doctor’s wishes and turned the prow of
the boat south, which was the most direct course home. He glanced back,
and observing that his friend had gone up the path, made a change of
direction, his action showing that he did not wish the doctor to notice
it.

The truth was that Mike was obsessed with what he had witnessed that
afternoon. There must be an explanation of the fright of the two tramps,
but he could not frame any theory that would stand for a moment.

“And I’ll niver be able to do it,” he muttered, “till I larn a good deal
more than I know now, which isn’t anything at all, as Ted Ryan replied
whin his taycher asked him what he knowed about his lesson.”

Now, as that which terrified Biggs and Hutt seemed to have appeared in
the lake near them, it would seem that there was the spot to look for
the solution of the mystery, and yet it was impossible to hit upon the
precise place. He and the doctor had come pretty near it some hours
before, without any result.

“We agraad that what the spalpeens saw was _in the water_, but that
couldn’t be. It must have been on the land and that’s where I’ll hunt
for the same.”

There were just as strong objections to this supposition, the chief of
which was that the vagrants when they went overboard swam with frantic
energy toward the shore; in other words, they made for the point where
the terror was awaiting them. Moreover, their actions in diving
repeatedly and glancing back proved that what they dreaded was behind
them.

It was useless to theorize, for the more Mike tried it, the more puzzled
he became. He decided to paddle slowly and silently to the point where
the tramps had landed and make his investigations there. Using his eyes
and ears to the utmost, he ought to learn something, provided always
there was something to learn. He certainly displayed “nerve,” but no
more than he had done on other occasions.

It has been shown that the youth was only an amateur in handing a canoe,
but by slowly and carefully moving the paddle, he caused scarcely a
ripple and was sure no one could detect him through the sense of
hearing. There was no moon, but the sky was clear and studded with stars
whose brilliancy enabled him dimly to see objects at a distance of a
hundred yards or so. From the first, he kept so close inshore that the
undergrowth and wood were in sight and served him as a guide. Even an
expert in the circumstances would not have been able to decide precisely
where Biggs and Hutt left the water, but Mike was sure he was not far
from the spot when he ceased plying his paddle.

He decided not to land, at least not for the present, but to halt where
the bow of the canoe rested directly under the dipping branches. Thus,
should it become necessary, he could slip out of sight under the leafy
screen, or could retreat if it should prove advisable to do so.

An overhanging bough rested on the prow of the craft and held it
motionless, a very slight force serving as an anchor in the case of so
delicately poised a craft. First, with his heart beating a little faster
than usual, he peered round in the gloom that shut him in on every hand.
To the southward he saw the lights of the bungalow twinkling like stars,
one of the windows throwing the rays well out on the lake, but in no
other direction could be noted a sign of life.

“Every one of the byes, not forgitting Scout Master Hall, are there, for
the ones that wint out in t’other canoe must have gone back while I was
at the docther’s. They know where I wint so they won’t be worrying about
me, which they wouldn’t be likely to do annyhow,” he added with a touch
of his natural whimsicality, “if they didn’t know anything about me at
all, at all.”

No sound reached the intently listening ears, except that deep almost
inaudible murmur which is never absent in a stretch of forest or near
the ocean.

“I’ll try it awhile, but if Mike Murphy knows his own heart, which he
thinks he do, he isn’t going to sit in this steamboat many
more—whisht!”

From a point not fifty feet distant shot out a canoe, like an arrow
driven from a bow. In it a single man was seated and vigorously swinging
the paddle. He had emerged from under the overhanging limbs and sped
southward, absolutely without any noise at all. Mike was so startled by
the apparition that he stared breathless for a minute, nor did his wits
fully come back until the craft and its occupant were swallowed up in
the gloom.

Not only was the unexpected appearance of the canoe startling, but the
recognition of the Master of Woodcraft who drove the boat forward like a
skimming swallow, added to the amazement of Mike. Beyond a doubt he was
Uncle Elk. He was so near when he first darted in view that there was no
possibility of mistake.

“I wonder ef I’m Mike Murphy or a big fool or jest both,” muttered the
youth, when able to pull himself together. “I lift Uncle Elk in his
cabin studying his primer or spelling book, and now he is in _this_ part
of the world.”

After a moment’s reflection the youth added:

“Which the same may be said of mesilf, so that don’t count. It looked to
me as if he was heading for the bungalow and an interisting question
comes before me: being that I obsarved him, did he return the compliment
and obsarve _me_?”

After turning the question over in his mind, Mike said to himself:

“If I kaap at this much longer I’ll go clean daft, as Jimmy Hagan did
whin he tried to whirl his two hands in opposite directions at the same
time. Can it be I’m mistook?”

He sniffed the air several times and was convinced that he caught the
odor of a burning cigar which could not be far off, else the nose would
not have detected it when no wind was blowing.

“Uncle Elk doesn’t smoke, leastways I niver obsarved him doing the same,
and if he did he ain’t here, so the perfume can’t be projuiced by him.”

He now ventured to draw his canoe nearer shore, by gently pulling the
overhanging bough. It was blankly dark all around him, the foliage
shutting out the star gleam, so that he had literally to feel his way.
Suddenly there was a slight jar, proving that the bow had touched shore.
He paused to consider whether anything was likely to be gained by
leaving the craft. While it seemed almost certain that Uncle Elk had
come to this lonely spot to meet some one, there was no obvious way by
which Mike could assure himself on the point.

He still noted the aroma of the cigar, which he judged to be a pretty
fair specimen of the weed, though he was so accustomed to the pipe of
his father that he was a poor judge.

“The spalpeen can’t be fur off,” concluded Mike still gently sniffing,
“and begorra! he isn’t!”

The exclamation was caused by the sound of a voice, not in speaking, but
in chortling, as if pleased over something. The sound was so near that
had there been the least illumination Mike must have seen the one from
whom it came. Then a second person—as the peculiar sound proved—joined
in the ebullition, the two so near together that otherwise the listener
would have thought the laugh came from one.

“It’s them tramps!” was the thought of the startled Mike; “though one of
’em wouldn’t be smoking a cigar unless he stole it or Uncle Elk had give
the same to him.”

It was unpleasant thus to associate the hermit with the pestiferous
vagrants with whom the youth had had much trouble already. He waited for
the strangers to speak, but they did not seem to care to do so. Once he
thought he saw the glowing end of the cigar, but was probably mistaken,
for a second look failed to reveal it, nor did either of the men laugh
again.

With a feeling akin to disgust, Mike stealthily worked his canoe from
under the overhanging boughs and set out on his return to the clubhouse.



             CHAPTER V — Concerning Certain American Trees


As Mike Murphy approached the landing he saw the second canoe drawn up
the beach, which was proof that his friends had returned from their
excursion to the western end of the lake. The bright light from the main
room of the clubhouse showed that the Boy Scouts were gathered there and
he decided to go in.

The night was so mild that no fire burned on the broad hearth, but the
suspended lamp filled the apartment with a soft illumination which
served almost as well as midday. Jack Crandall, the hero of the broken
leg, sat in his invalid chair in front of the fireplace and at his side
was Uncle Elk. Jack had been listening to the reports of his young
friends who had been investigating trees, but were mostly interested in
bird lore. The comments which Jack made on the written notes as read to
him showed that he was the best informed of any of the Scouts concerning
birds. He cleared up many doubts and answered questions so intelligently
that the venerable Instructor in Woodcraft complimented him.

Mike came through the open door so silently that none of the boys
noticed him. No chair being available, he sat down on the floor, as the
majority had already done. He was near the entrance and aimed to avoid
observation, but as Uncle Elk from his position faced him it was
probable he noticed the lad, as did Jack Crandall, who also fronted that
direction.

The reports and the comments thereon having been finished, the old man
was speaking:

“To make satisfactory progress in acquiring knowledge,” said he in his
low, musical voice to which all listened with alert interest, “you must
do so systematically. In our tramp through the woods the other day we
picked up a good deal of information, but it was haphazard. We talked of
trees as we came across them, but it was fragmentary and ten times as
much was left unlearned as was learned. I am glad to know that your
Scout Master has followed the right course in directing your study of
our native trees, not alone in Maine but as far north as Canada,
westward to the Rockies and down to the northern boundaries of the
Southern States. The subject is too vast for us to cover in one evening
or in a dozen evenings. Let us rather summarize. We shall put our wits
together and see how many families we can name, without giving the
different species under each. The first is the magnolia family, of which
there are four varieties, while under the custard apple there is but
one, the papaw. Now let me hear from you.”

Nearly an hour was spent during which scarcely a boy in the room kept
silent. The pleased old man nodded his head and finally raised his hand
for quiet.

“I believe you have mentioned about all. Now, while Isaac jots down the
names at the table, let’s try to evolve something like order therefrom.
Are you ready?”

Isaac Rothstein nodded and held his lead pencil over the paper. Here is
the list upon which all finally agreed:

Magnolia, custard-apple, linden, rue, ailantus, holly, staff-tree,
buckthorn, rose, pea, sumach, maple, horse chestnut, heath, honeysuckle,
dogwood, ginseng, witch hazel, ebony, olive, begonia, laurel, mulberry,
elm, plane-tree, walnut, birch, beech, willow, pine, yew and oak.

“None of you has seen all of these,” continued the old man, “but I hope
you will have the opportunity of studying their peculiarities sometime.
To illustrate what a rich treat is before you, we shall give a few
minutes’ attention to the oak family, concerning which you may think I
had considerable to say the other day. Let me show you how much was left
unsaid.

“Most persons think of the oak as a slow grower. This is true of two or
three species but not of the family. The majority need a hundred years
to attain perfection and they rarely bear acorns until twenty years old.
The acorn requires no protection in order to mature, and those that are
not eaten by wild animals or trodden under foot do their work well. The
_quercus_ is one of the longest-lived trees.”

“What is the greatest age that they attain, Uncle Elk?” asked Scout
Master Hall, one of the most interested in the audience.

“It is impossible to say, but there is little doubt that many of them
flourish for a thousand years. There are vigorous oaks to-day in England
that were old in the time of William the Conqueror. The famous White Oak
of Hartford, in which Captain Wadsworth hid the charter two hundred and
twenty-five years ago, was several centuries old at the time, and it was
not until the summer of 1856 that a windstorm brought it to the ground.
While it is one of the most valuable of the family, the white oak is in
danger of extinction, because of its value as timber and on account of
the sweetness of its nuts, which makes it a favorite with wild creatures
that will not eat the bitter acorns of other oaks. You know the white
oak is so called because of the color of its bark, which however is
generally an ashen gray. Can any of you tell me the name of the oak that
is fifty feet or slightly more in height, grows in Texas, has a
fine-checked bark nearly the color of the white oak, with an awkward
form and has shoots along the whole length of its branches, with the
leaves coarse and rough on both sides? I shall not wait for you to guess
the name, which is the post oak.

“The bur oak grows to a height of a hundred and fifty feet and ranges
south to Texas and from the foothills of the Rockies to the Atlantic
coast, being most abundant in Kansas and Nebraska. One of J. Fenimore
Cooper’s most pleasing tales is ‘The Oak Openings,’ a name applied to
the scattered forests of Minnesota. Now, you may know that the cork of
commerce is the outer bark of an oak growing in southern Europe. The bur
oak seems to be striving to produce the same thing and probably will
succeed after awhile.

“The chestnut oak sometimes reaches a height of a hundred feet, but the
trunk divides into large limbs a few feet above the ground. It is found
in this State, westward through Ohio and as far south as Kentucky. It
has many features in common with the yellow oak, whose range is somewhat
different.

“The dwarf chinkapin, or scrub chestnut oak, is a shrub rarely more than
a dozen feet high and grows on sandy or rocky soil. We do not meet with
it north of Massachusetts. In Missouri and Kansas, it acquires
dimensions more like a tree.

“The swamp white oak grows to a height of more than a hundred feet, and
is fond of the borders of swamps. The top is narrow and round and the
branches pendulous. You know about the red oak, which is a rapid grower
and ranges from this State to Georgia and westward to Kansas, but
attains its finest development north of the Ohio.

“To continue, I should add the names of the scarlet oak, the black and
the yellow oak, the pin oak, the swamp Spanish, the bear, the scrub, the
black jack, the barren, the shingle, the laurel, and the willow.

“You have noticed that I have done little more than mention the names of
the different species. You have learned very little, for it is necessary
that you should know the range of each, the height to which it grows,
the characteristics of the bark, the wood, the leaves, the flowers and
acorns. In conclusion, I shall say that the willow oak is one of the
most interesting of trees. Its leaves resemble those of the willow, as
do the straight slender shoots. It grows on the wet borders of swamps,
but keeps away from the sea coast. Its acorns are very small, with a
kernel so bitter that you would never bite into it a second time.

“My object this evening,” said Uncle Elk, “has been rather to awaken a
desire on your part to study systematically our common American trees
than to give you actual information. Let us dismiss the subject, for in
dropping a matter of that kind we should follow the rule in eating,
which is to stop before the appetite is cloyed. Suppose to-morrow night
we have a little talk about American birds.”

There was general nodding of heads and the old man rose to his feet. He
was so pleased with his listeners that he said:

“If we get through that subject in time, I’ll promise to tell you a
story, provided you would like to hear one from me.”

He could be seen smiling behind his abundant gray beard.

“Boys will be boys always. Nothing suits them better than a story. So I
shall bid you good night for the present, hoping nothing will interfere
with our meeting again to-morrow evening.”

“The better plan,” suggested Scout Master Hall, “is for you to take
supper with us, for I foresee that there will be much for you to tell
us. We don’t want to miss the talk about birds, and I am as eager as the
boys to hear your story, which I know will be a good one.”

All crowded around the Instructor in Woodcraft, shaking hands, thanking
him and urging him so warmly to accept the invitation that he could not
refuse. The last one with whom he clasped hands was Jack Crandall, who
straightened up in his easy chair and declared he was receiving more
benefit than a dozen doctors could impart.

Mike Murphy had risen to his feet at the close of the old man’s talk,
but kept his place by the door until Uncle Elk came opposite. A nod of
the hermit’s head told Mike that he wished to speak with him alone. The
signal was observed by several who stayed behind as the two passed out
and down the porch to the beach. Uncle Elk did not speak until they were
beyond the hearing of the others. Then he halted and looked into the
face of the youth.

“Well, Michael, what word do you bring me?”

“I told the docther what ye said and he is agreeable. He will not come
to the bungalow in the evening unless we signal for him, which the same
doesn’t seem to be likely.”

“That is what I wanted to know, and I thank you for your service. Well,
my son, did you learn anything to-night?”

The youth was not sure of the scope of the question.

“If ye ask whither I larned anything from your words to the byes, I may
say I picked up a good deal more than I iver knowed, which wasn’t much.”

“I refer to what you did after leaving the home of Dr. Spellman and
paddling to the upper side of the lake.”

“Did ye obsarve me?” asked the astonished Mike.

“How could I help it, when I passed within a few feet of you in my own
boat?”

“I didn’t notice it whin I came ashore.”

“I landed a little way up the beach, where my boat now awaits me. You
haven’t told me whether you learned anything through your scouting.”

“I saan no one but yersilf, but I heerd them two tramps laughing over
something and I smelled the cigar that one of them was smoking.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I don’t catch yer maaning, Uncle Elk,” said the mystified Mike; “I
sartinly sniffed a cigar and heerd two men chuckling to thimsilves.”

“I haven’t denied that, but they were not the tramps you have in mind.”

“How can ye know the same for sartin?”

“I went to that spot on the shore to meet those men; they are old
acquaintances and the name of neither is Biggs nor Hutt.”

“Who are they?”

“It would be useless to name them, since they are strangers to you.”

“Why didn’t ye stay and inthrodooce me?”

“I may do so one of these days, but I gave you a chance to find out
things for yourself.”

“And mighty little I larned,” remarked Mike disgustedly; “if ye don’t
mind, would ye tell me what the mischief scared thim two tramps to the
extint that they jumped out of the canoe they had stole and took a bath
in Gosling Lake?”

Uncle Elk was distinctly heard to chuckle.

“I had a talk with my two friends regarding the incident and I don’t
wonder that they laughed even after I had left them.”

“I faal like laughing mesilf, Uncle Elk, and if ye’ll give me the same
cause I’ll laugh so hard that it will wake the docther’s daughter on
t’other side of the lake.”

“Have patience, Michael, and don’t think I am trifling with you, but I
am under a promise not to reveal this little secret until I have
permission. Good night.”

Mike stood gazing after the old man until he passed from sight in the
obscurity and he heard him launching his canoe. Then the youth strolled
thoughtfully back.

“I’m getting mixed,” he muttered with a sigh, “as Jerry Lanagan said
whin they run him through a thrashing machine.”



                     CHAPTER VI — A Patriot Martyr


The next day brought a marked coolness in the temperature. In
preparation for the evening’s instructive entertainment, nearly all the
boys spent the time in roaming through the woods, taking notes and
brushing up their knowledge of birds, which were met with only in
moderate numbers.

Mike Murphy told Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes of his singular
experience the night before, and asked their help in solving the puzzle.

“I wish we could aid you,” replied Alvin, “but it is as much a mystery
to us as it is to you. Gordon Calhoun went with us in the other canoe to
the western end of the lake, where we found so romantic a spot that we
ate our lunch there and did not return until after dark.”

“And ye didn’t obsarve anything of thim tramps and their dive
overboord?”

“We must have been deep in the woods when that took place and, of
course, we noticed nothing strange when we paddled back.”

“I’ve tried to pump Uncle Elk, but the valves won’t work. I’m going to
kaap at it till I larn the truth or break a trace.”

“Count us in to give all the help we can,” Alvin assured him.

That evening when the Boy Scouts gathered in the large room of the
bungalow and disposed themselves in their free and easy fashion, a
moderate fire was burning on the hearth and all were on the tiptoe of
expectancy.

“My friends,” said Uncle Elk, “I am going to ask your permission to
reverse the order which I laid out last night. Most of us old persons
are apt to forget that the knowledge which interests us may not be
equally interesting to everyone else. Although I cut short my talk about
American trees, it was still dry in some respects. Now if I should start
in concerning birds you would by and by become weary. Oh, you needn’t
shake your heads. I don’t forget when I was a boy myself. So I have
decided to say nothing about our little brothers of the air until
to-morrow night, when we shall consider nothing else. The time now at my
disposal is to be given to the story I have in mind. If any one has an
objection to make let him do so now or forever after hold his peace.”

He looked around in the bright faces as if he really expected a protest
instead of a general series of smiles. Then with the prefatory remark
that the narrative which he was about to give was true in every respect,
he spoke as follows:

“The cause of American independence never looked more gloomy than in the
summer and autumn of 1776. Washington with his famishing army was in the
city of New York, preparing for the attack that he knew would soon be
made by the British fleet and land forces. The American fortifications
extended from the ferry station of Brooklyn and Gowanus Bay to Wallabout
Bay (now Brooklyn Navy Yard), less than a mile and a half in length.
Generals Sullivan and Stirling were in command, with five thousand
miserably equipped troops. Unfortunately that fine officer General
Greene was ill with a violent fever, and the boastful Sullivan assumed
charge, but Washington soon replaced him with General Putnam. By a fatal
oversight, one of the three roads over any of which the enemy could
advance if it was unguarded, was left invitingly open. Through this the
British soldiers rushed and drove the Americans pell-mell out of their
intrenchments.

“Had Howe flung off his natural indolence, he would have captured the
whole patriot army, including Washington and his officers, but certain
of soon doing so, he wished to save the lives of his men. The Americans
had several hundred killed and lost a thousand prisoners, among the
latter being Generals Sullivan and Stirling. The leading officers were
soon exchanged, but the privates suffered horribly in the hideous Sugar
House and rotten hulks at Wallabout.

“A strange providence saved the Continental army. The fleet was checked
by adverse winds, and a dense fog settled over Brooklyn, but did not
touch the other shore. Thus hidden from sight, the Americans stole back
to New York, unseen by the enemy.

“But, as I said, the outlook could not have been more gloomy. The
situation was critical to the last degree. The army was so demoralized
that little discipline remained; whole companies deserted; the few
recruits who came into camp met double their number going out; those who
stayed clamored for their pay, and the money chest was as empty as an
egg shell. Winter was coming on, and more than once it looked as if the
army would dwindle to nothing. The fourteen thousand troops declared fit
for duty were strung the whole length of Manhattan Island.

“The crisis was imminent and Washington called a council of war
September 7th, to decide whether New York should be abandoned or
defended. The commander, seeing the dread necessity coming, had asked
Congress if he should not burn the city rather than allow it to serve as
the winter quarters of the invaders. He was ordered to use special care
to prevent any damage being done, because that body was sure the place
would soon be recovered. The first council of war decided to stay and
defend New York.

“A few days later, however, another council agreed that the only course
possible was to leave the city and take position on Harlem Heights. The
public stores were to be sent to Dobbs Ferry and the sick carried across
to New Jersey. The main army would march northward and General Putnam
would stay in New York with four thousand troops. If he found his
position untenable, he was to follow Washington.

“At this council the commander-in-chief said:

“‘I know absolutely nothing of the intentions of the enemy. Two
ships-of-war have gone up the East River and others will follow. Their
troops are active everywhere, but I cannot even guess what they mean to
do. Until I have knowledge on that point, I am helpless.’

“In his distressful dilemma, Washington wrote to General Heath at
Kingsbridge, entreating him and General Clinton to aid in securing the
indispensable information. He told them to spare no expense or pains,
adding that not since the beginning of the war had he been so uneasy.

“Shortly after, Washington called his officers together again. He told
them he was still without the least knowledge of the plans of the enemy.
Only one recourse remained to him:—that was to send a spy into the
British lines in quest of the information. Such a man must be
clear-headed, cool, tactful, a good draughtsman and of undaunted
courage. He appealed to Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton (soon to die the
death of a patriot) to find him the person. Knowlton laid the request
before a conference of his officers, and asked whether any one was
willing to volunteer.

“A spy is very different from a scout and in the eyes of most people is
the most contemptible of creatures, for the essence of his duty is
treachery. To succeed he must play the hypocrite and betray confidence
at every turn. In such scorn is a spy held by civilized nations that he
is not permitted to die the death of a soldier, but is hanged like the
worst of felons.

“The request of Knowlton was succeeded by an indignant hush. The bronzed
faces flushed as if under the sting of an insult, and the officers dared
not trust themselves to reply. In the midst of the strained silence, a
clear voice spoke:

“‘I will go!’

“Every eye was turned in astonishment on the speaker. He was a young man
of athletic figure and handsome face, whose paleness was due to a severe
illness from which he was hardly yet recovered. He wore the uniform of a
captain, and in the whole army there was not a braver or more beloved
officer than he. His words caused a painful shock to his comrades, who,
believing a disgraceful death was certain to follow his mad attempt,
closed around him and protested in the most forceful language at their
command. To all their appeals he smiled and shook his head.

“‘Gentlemen, it is useless. I am touched by your friendship, but all the
arguments you bring forward have already been considered by me. A spy is
looked upon with loathing, but the necessity of one’s country makes
every kind of service honorable. I am not seeking promotion or pecuniary
reward. I go to serve our cause, for which I am ready at any time to
give my life.’

“It was not the words alone, but their emphasis which silenced his
comrades. They saw it was useless to appeal to one whose patriotism
throbbed and burned through his entire being, and inspired every
thought, word and deed.

“And who was the young officer who thus took his life in his hands that
he might serve the cause of liberty?

“He was Captain Nathan Hale, born in Connecticut, in 1755, the sixth
child among twelve, of the strictest Puritan parents. His mental and
athletic gifts were wonderful. None of his playmates could approach him
in running, leaping, swimming, throwing, wrestling and the feats of
strength and agility so much admired by all rugged American youths. Many
a time he would place a row of empty barrels beside one another and with
little effort spring out of one into the other until he had completed
the series. Standing beside a fence whose top rail touched his chin, he
would rest one hand lightly on it and vault over as easily as a deer.
One day, while a student at Yale, in a contest with his friends, he made
so prodigious a leap that the bounds were carefully marked and preserved
for years, the admiration and despair of all subsequent students.

“But, extraordinary as was Nathan Hale’s athletic skill, his mental
powers were more brilliant, while his social qualities made him a
favorite with all. His simplicity, unfailing good nature and readiness
to help others, no matter whom, justified the remark: ‘Every man, woman
and child who knew him were his friends and among them not one was ever
an enemy.’

“He entered Yale College when fifteen years old and was graduated in due
course with the highest honors. This fact attests his scholarship and
ability. He was easily the most popular student, not only with his
classmates, but with the tutors and the faculty of the college and the
best families in New Haven.

“Hale left college in 1773 and engaged in teaching. In 1774, he was made
preceptor in the Union Grammar School at New London. The building is
carefully preserved and is well worth a visit. The institution was of a
high order, and its students were not only grounded thoroughly in an
English education, but were prepared for college. Hale was its first
preceptor, and his success was pronounced from the beginning. Boys like
you have admired and always will admire physical prowess, and there was
never one among them all who could approach their instructor in that
respect. What a star football player he would have made in these later
days! Added to this ability, his mental and social gifts and his
profound religious nature explain his marked success among the youth of
New London.

“On the 21st of April, 1775, a rider dashed into the little town upon
his foaming horse and shouted the news of Lexington and Concord. Pausing
only long enough to rest his panting steed and to snatch a bit of food,
he thundered away for New York with his momentous tidings.

“Instantly New London flamed with excitement. The bells were rung and a
‘town meeting,’ the inalienable recourse of all New Englanders, was
called at the court house for early candle light. Seemingly the whole
town crowded thither. There were burning speeches and Hale’s was the
most impassioned of all.

“The talking being over, he wrote down his name as a volunteer. Others
caught the contagion and elbowed one another in their eagerness to be
among the first to enlist. The next morning, when the boys came together
at the call of the school bell, their teacher offered up an earnest
prayer for the success of the great struggle that had opened, commended
his pupils to the care of their Heavenly Father, shook the hands of each
lad in turn, uttered a few words of advice, and set out for Cambridge.
Some time later, he came back to New London and resumed his duties in
the school.

“The young patriot, however, could not remain idle so long as his
beloved country needed her sons. He enlisted as a lieutenant in Colonel
Charles Webb’s regiment, which had been raised by order of the General
Assembly of Connecticut for home defense and, if needed, for national
protection. In September, the regiment marched to Cambridge and took
part in the siege of Boston. Upon the departure of the British for
Halifax, the American army went to New York. Some months later, when the
team of his company’s enlistment expired, Hale offered to give the men
his month’s pay if they would stay a little while longer.

“The Continentals had been in New York but a short time when Hale became
the hero of a daring exploit. A British supply vessel lay in the East
River under the protection of a frigate of sixty-four guns. He obtained
permission to attempt the capture of the sloop. Selecting a few men as
brave as himself, they stepped into a whale boat, rowed silently out
late at night and drew up beside the vessel undetected by the watch.
Like so many phantoms, the boarders climbed over the side, seized the
sentinel, fastened the crew below the hatches, lifted anchor and took
the prize into Coenties Slip, without raising the slightest alarm. Day
was breaking when Hale, holding the helm, was recognized by his friends,
who received him with hurrahs. For once at least his comrades enjoyed a
‘square meal.’

“In May, 1776, he became captain of a company of Continental Rangers
attached to Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton’s regiment, called ‘Congress’
Own.’ The young officer’s company was the best drilled and disciplined
of all. Little is known of his actions during those eventful days, but
it cannot be doubted that he did his duty well. Illness kept him in New
York at the time the British invaded Long Island, and still weak and
pale, he joined the troops who retreated toward Harlem Heights early in
September.

“This brings me back to the day when Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton walked
into the quarters of General Washington and introduced Captain Hale as
the officer who had volunteered to serve him as a spy. The commander
looked admiringly into the blue eyes of the handsome young athlete and
took his hand. The great man was moved and feelingly thanked him for the
inestimable service he hoped he would render his country. He saw without
questioning that Hale was the ideal actor for so perilous a rôle. He
gave him minute instructions, with a written order to the owners of all
American vessels in Long Island Sound to take him to any point on Long
Island where he might wish to go.

“Captain Hale left camp the same evening. He took with him Sergeant
Stephen Hempstead, a member of his company, who was devoted to the
officer, and a servant, Ansel Wright. They had to walk fifty miles to
Norwalk before they found a safe place to cross the Sound, because of
the British cruisers that were ever moving to and fro. At this place,
Hale took off his regimentals and donned a brown cloth suit and a
broad-brimmed hat. He assumed the character of a Quaker school teacher,
who had wearied of the society of the rebels in New York and had started
out to find a situation among more congenial folk.

“The captain instructed his companions to wait at Norwalk until the
20th, upon which day he expected to come back. They were to send a boat
for him on that morning. He left with them his uniform, his commission
and all other papers that might betray his identity. He crossed the
Sound in a sloop and went ashore on the point of Great Neck in
Huntingdon Bay, being rowed thither in a yawl. He landed near a place
called ‘The Cedars,’ not far from a tavern kept by a widow named
Chichester. She was a spiteful Tory and the inn was a lounging place for
those of her neighbors who were of the same mind. In the gray light of
early morning Hale walked past without being noticed. A mile beyond, he
stopped at the farm house of William Johnson, and obtained breakfast and
a bed for several hours’ rest. Thence he went directly into the nearest
British lines, where he was received without suspicion. He was gone for
about two weeks, but what he did, where he went, what adventures befell
him and the various means he used to escape detection can never be
known. It is certain that he visited all the enemy’s encampments near
Brooklyn and twice passed their lines. He made drawings and notes of
what he saw and learned; he went from Brooklyn, then only a ferry
station, to New York City, which the British captured after his
departure, and was equally thorough in every place. The drawings and
memoranda, the latter written in Latin, were hidden under the loose
inner soles of his shoes.

“Having finished his work in New York, Hale recrossed to Brooklyn and
threaded his way through the lines to Huntingdon. By this time he felt
so secure in his disguise that he entered without hesitation the tavern
of Widow Chichester and sat down among a group of loungers, with whom he
talked in his character of a Quaker school teacher. He was happy over
the thought that his dangerous work was over and the important knowledge
he had gained would soon be in the hands of General Washington.

“Among the strangers in the place was one whose face seemed familiar to
Hale, but he could not recall where he had ever met the man. He decided
that the resemblance was one of those accidental ones that are
occasionally seen, and he gave the matter no further thought. By and by
the fellow, who silently studied the beaming young Quaker, slipped out
of doors and did not return.

“Ah, why did Hale fail to see the sinister meaning of all this? After
escaping so many perils, why did he not continue alert and suspicious
until safe within his own lines? Sad to say, not a single misgiving
entered his thoughts, and after awhile he bade the company good night
and went to his room.

“The next morning at dawn he walked to the bay to meet the boat that was
to come for him. With a thrill of delighted expectancy, he saw a craft
containing several men approaching. He sprang lightly down the bank and
then suddenly stopped in consternation. The boat was filled with British
marines under command of an officer!

“He whirled about to flee. Had he discovered his peril sooner and gained
a few minutes’ start, no pursuer could have overtaken him. But six
muskets were leveled, and he was ordered to surrender under threat of
instant death. He paused, came down the bank again and stepped into the
boat, which was rowed out to the British ship _Halifax_. There he was
searched and the fatal papers were found on him.

“The tradition is that the man in the tavern who betrayed Hale was a
distant Tory relative who recognized him as soon as he entered the
place. Upon leaving the inn, he went to a British naval officer in
Huntingdon Bay with the news.

“Captain Hale was taken to New York on the 21st and brought before Lord
Howe, who read the documents that had been captured with the prisoner.
It was useless to try to conceal the truth and Hale denied nothing. He
said he wished no court-martial and was ready to meet his fate.

“Howe was naturally a kind-hearted man, but just then he was greatly
irritated over a fire which had destroyed several hundred houses in New
York, and which he believed had been started by the Americans to prevent
his use of them. He condemned Hale to be hanged at daylight the next
morning and placed him in the custody of William Cunningham, Provost
Marshal and one of the most brutal wretches that ever lived. It is some
consolation to know that this miscreant was hanged himself some years
later for scores of confessed murders to which he had been accessory. He
thrust Hale into a prison cell, and would not have unpinioned him except
for the intercession of a British officer. When the prisoner asked for
the presence of a chaplain, it was refused with curses, as was his
request for a Bible. The same friendly officer obtained permission for
Hale to write letters to his mother, sisters and the girl to whom he was
betrothed. The missives were handed to Cunningham to be forwarded. With
a leer he read each and then tore them up and flung the fragments on the
floor. Hale looked scornfully at him but did not speak.

“The next morning he was led to the gallows, which was the limb of an
apple tree, exactly where is not known. In accordance with the military
custom of those days, a ladder was placed under the branch. The prisoner
climbed two or three rounds, when at a signal the support was turned and
he was left dangling in the air. A moment before, he had looked down in
the faces of the hushed spectators and uttered his last noble words:

“‘I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country!’

“No one knows where the martyr was buried. On November 25, 1893, a
statue to his memory was unveiled in City Hall Park, in the presence of
a vast assemblage and amid impressive ceremonies.”



           CHAPTER VII — Concerning Certain New England Birds


“One reason why I deferred our talk about birds,” said Uncle Elk,
addressing the troop of Boy Scouts who had gathered in the large room of
the bungalow the next evening, “is that you might have more opportunity
to brighten up your knowledge on the subject. Scout Master Hall tells me
that when you learned you were to spend your vacation in southern Maine,
you started in to inform yourselves about the birds which are to be
found in New England. It is impossible under the circumstances that you
should see them all, for the season is not the most favorable and not
even a majority are to be found in this section. Instead of dealing out
a lot of facts, I am going to ask you do it for me. Secretary Rothstein
has given me a list of all the Boy Scouts who are present. There are too
many of you for me to identify separately, so I shall call upon you at
random. I think,” he added with a sly glance at the invalid on his
right, “that I shall except Jack, since he seems to know all about our
feathered inhabitants and would be simply taking my place.

“Starting with Mr. Hall’s Patrol I call upon his leader, Charles A.
Chase, to name the first order as it is generally accepted.”

The alert young man promptly arose and said:

“It is the raptores, which means robbers.”

“What does it include?”

“The falcons proper, hawks, buzzard-hawks, eagles, horned owls, gray
owls and day owls.”

“Very good. Corporal George Robe will name the second order.”

The plump little fellow blushed but did not hesitate.

“Scansores or climbers, which takes in cuckoos and woodpeckers.”

“The third order is so numerous that I can hardly expect any one to
remember the complete list. Will Kenneth Henke name the third order?”

“Insessores or perchers.”

“I will ask Kenneth Mitchell, Robert Snow and Ernest Oberlander to help
you in making out a complete catalogue.”

While these boys did well, they would not have succeeded but for the aid
of Colgate Craig and Robert Rice. Even then Uncle Elk had to supply
several names, for the long list included humming birds, goatsuckers,
screamers, kingfishers, flycatchers, singers, thrushes, mocking birds,
wrens, warblers, tanagers, swallows, shrikes, skylarks, sparrows,
orioles, blackbirds, crows, jays and some others less known.

Alvin Landon had an easy task with the rasores or scratchers, which
embrace the doves, game birds such as the Canada grouse, spruce
partridge, pinnated grouse, ruffed grouse improperly called the
partridge, Virginia partridge, quail and Bob White.

Chester Haynes gave the fifth order as grallatores or waders, which with
its herons, shore birds, plovers, snipes, sandpipers and others are
known to every one.

The sixth and last order as named by Hubert Wood was the natores or
swimmers, with the principal of which every American boy is familiar.
Hubert, with the assistance of Harold Hopkins, named swans, geese,
several kinds of ducks, gulls, terns, divers, loons and grebes.

“That is a pretty full list,” commented Uncle Elk, “but it may be that
Michael has some other waders in mind.”

“That I hev,” responded the Irish youth springing to his feet; “the
first time Alvin and Chester tried to paddle a canoe it tipped over wid
’em—they lacking the sense I showed—and the water not being deep the
same was waders for the time.”

Mike did not smile as he resumed his seat on the floor, though every one
else did.

“Let me remind you,” added Uncle Elk, “that we have simply named the six
orders, without any attempt to particularize. To illustrate will you
name a bird?”

Some one called:

“Let’s talk about the thrush.”

“Very well; its head is a clear cinnamon brown, the under parts white,
sometimes tinged with buff on the breast and thickly marked beneath
except on the chin and throat. The sides of the head are a dark brown,
streaked with white, with maxillary streaks on each side of the throat.
It is a trifle over eight inches long, the wings being a little more
than half of that, and the eggs are usually four in number, of a uniform
light-blue color, without spots and showing a slight tint of green.

“The song thrush is common in Rhode Island, Connecticut and
Massachusetts, but is not often seen in the other New England States. I
have had persons say they saw and heard them in this section, when it
was either the hermit or olive-backed thrush. You may look for their
return from the South about the tenth of May, the two sexes coming at
the same time.

“The great charm of the thrush is its wonderful voice. Hardly has it
arrived when you hear the sweet notes of the male at early dawn or when
twilight is coming on. Very rarely is it heard in the middle of the day,
unless the sky is overcast. The best description of that which cannot be
described is by Nuttall, which so impressed me when I first read it that
I have never forgotten the words. He says:

“‘The prelude to this song resembles almost the double-tonguing of the
flute, blended with a tinkling, shrill, and solemn warble, which
re-echoes from his solitary retreat like the dirge of some recluse, who
shuns the busy haunts of life. The whole air consists usually of four
parts, or bars, which succeed in deliberate tune, finally blending
together in impressive and soothing harmony, becoming more mellow and
sweet at every repetition. Rival performers seem to challenge each other
from various parts of the wood, vying for the favor of their mates with
sympathetic responses and softer tones. And some, waging a jealous
strife, terminate the warm dispute by an appeal to combat and violence.
Like the robin and the thresher, in dark and gloomy weather when other
birds are sheltered and silent, the clear notes of the wood thrush are
heard through the dripping woods from dawn to dusk; so that the sweeter
and more constant is his song. His clear and interrupted whistle is
likewise often nearly the only voice of melody heard by the traveler to
midday, in the heat of summer, as he traverses the silent, dark and
wooded wilderness, remote from the haunts of men.’

“You have all been charmed by the music of this bird and will agree that
this description, while it falls short of the reality, cannot be
excelled. Now, in your rambles you have seen birds with gorgeous
plumage; which one do you consider the most beautiful of all?”

After some discussion, the majority pronounced in favor of the scarlet
tanager.

“Most persons will agree with you, but my preference is for what is
popularly known as the wood duck, which builds its nests in trees and in
size and habits resembles the common duck. The colors shown in the
feathers of this bird to my mind are simply bewildering in their beauty.

“But to return to the tanager. He is found in all parts of New England
but more frequently in the southern portions. A noticeable fact about
this tanager is that it seems to be extending its range. I hear that it
has been seen for the first time in sections where those familiar with
its habits never expected to find it. Will Arthur Mitchell tell me when
it arrives from the South and about its nesting?”

The lad appealed to rose and replied:

“It comes north about the middle of May, looks around for two weeks or
so and then begins building its nest. It prefers oak groves situated
near swamps. The nest is placed on the horizontal limb of a tree not
more than twenty feet above ground.”

“What of the eggs?”

“They vary from three to five in number, and are of a light greenish
blue with spatters of purplish brown. It belongs to the order of
perehers.”

“Is the tanager a useful bird?”

“It is; the males destroy thousands of insects and though the song isn’t
noteworthy, it is pleasant to hear.”

“Will Gordon Calhoun give a general description of this bird?”

“The wings and tail of the male are like black silk velvet, but the main
color is a brilliant blood red. The female wears a more sober dress.”

When the rambling talk had continued for some time longer, Scout Master
Hall asked Uncle Elk to tell them something about bird migration.

“That is an interesting subject over which I with thousands have
speculated and theorized without learning much. It is easy to understand
why the geese from the extreme north hike south with the approach of the
arctic winter, and why many others in more temperate latitudes do the
same, coming north with the return of spring, but some of the migrations
are beyond explanation. I should like to ask what birds make the longest
flights?”

Scout Master Hall and Jack Crandall expressed their views, but the old
man shook his head.

“Since all of you did no more than guess, it was a waste of time. Now
follow me closely. We have no large maps here to place on the wall for
you to study, but you have a fair knowledge of geography and can draw a
mental map that will serve. Picture a map of the western hemisphere.
Have you done so?”

A general nodding of heads.

“You didn’t nod, Mr. Hall.”

“I have the map before my mind’s eye,” replied the Scout Master; “I am
following you.”

“Since the discovery of the North Pole, you have all become familiar
with the contour of the polar regions. Locate the Arctic Islands in, say
seventy-five degrees north latitude; then draw an imaginary line from
those islands down along the coast of Labrador, across to Newfoundland,
and down to Nova Scotia, then over the Atlantic to the Lesser Antilles
in the West Indies, from there to Brazil and across Argentina and end
your line in Patagonia at the extremity of South America.

“You have mentally swept over a tremendous stretch of country and water,
but are not yet through. Push on westward to the Pacific, northward up
the coast, then across Central America and up the Mississippi Valley,
through central Canada and back to the Arctic Islands from which you
started. Truly a long journey and yet it is the yearly itinerary of the
American golden plover, which, measured in miles, is three-fifths of the
distance round the world.”

“You have mentioned one of the most remarkable facts in natural
history,” commented Mr. Hall, who, like every listener, was deeply
impressed.

“Quite true,” replied Uncle Elk, “though there are many equally
inexplicable. I have sometimes fancied that birds resemble men in their
longing for travel. With means of locomotion at their command still far
beyond the skill of our best aviators, what wonder that our little
brothers of the air are impelled to gather the best that can be secured?

“This, however, is a fanciful theory which the naturalists will not
accept. It must be remembered that the majority of golden plovers who
start on this long journey never complete it, for almost every mile is
attended with danger. They are dazzled by the vivid electric lights of
the cities, and confused by the tall buildings, telephone and telegraph
wires, especially on dark nights when the birds fly low. Thousands are
thus killed, besides which adverse gales blow many out to sea, and
blizzards and snowstorms destroy myriads.

“Perhaps we have talked enough about birds,” said Uncle Elk, “but I
shall be glad to answer any questions that may occur to you.”

After a moment’s silence, Mike Murphy rose to his feet. His face, as
usual, was serious even when about to indulge in some of his waggeries,
but this time he was in earnest.

“Maybe it’s mesilf that knows mighty little about birds excipt them as
is met with in Ireland, which isn’t many. There is one that I once heerd
of that belongs to anither counthry.”

“Describe it, Michael,” remarked the old man indulgently.

“It has the bill of a duck, webbed feet, lays eggs, has a furry body and
I belave is what is called a mammal. It’s a mighty qu’ar bird that I’d
like to know the name of.”

In answer to the general smiles Uncle Elk asked:

“Have you ever seen one of the creatures, Michael?”

“Not that I know of, though I have often made search for ’em.”

“Michael has described no fancy creation. Such a thing exists. Can any
one tell me its name?”

Isaac Rothstein replied:

“It is the ornithorhynchus or water mole of Australia, but it is not
classed as a bird.”

“No, although there seems to be some reason why it should be. You see
what a limitless field opens before you when you leave the American
continent to make investigations elsewhere. For a long time to come we
shall find our hands full in our own country.”

“What about the birds that are called _Indians_?” gravely asked Mike.

“There are some facts regarding Maine Indians which are worth
remembering. In 1612, they numbered 38,000. At the close of the French
and Indian War this number had been reduced to a thousand, which is the
aboriginal population to-day. The decrease was due to the fierce wars
which the tribes waged among themselves. The Indians in Maine were four
times as numerous as those in Massachusetts. The Pine Tree State was the
‘dark and bloody ground’ of colonial days.

“In a general way the tribes bore the same names as rivers. Those west
of the Penobscot were of the Abnaki group, and those to the east into
New Brunswick called themselves Etechemins. All belonged to the
Algonquin nation. When King Philip’s War broke out in 1675, the Maine
Indians numbered about 12,000. This was twice the white population and
sufficient to wipe out the settlements nearly to the New Hampshire
border. Finally, in 1759, the Indians in Maine did not number more than
a thousand. They were mainly Penobscots and Passamaquoddies. They
remained faithful to the Americans throughout the Revolution. It is a
curious fact that while the Passamaquoddies have decreased in number
during the last ninety years, the Penobscots have increased to the
extent of seven, the former being slightly more numerous. Both keep up
their tribal conditions, and the Penobscots live in the same village
site that their forefathers occupied before the white men set foot on
the continent.”



                    CHAPTER VIII — A Council of War


That night, after Uncle Elk had left the bungalow, Alvin Landon, Chester
Haynes and Mike Murphy held what Alvin called a council of war.

Sauntering a little way from the building, they sat down in the silent
depths of the woods where no one could overhear what was said by them.
Not that a Boy Scout would be guilty of eavesdropping, but it was best
that no inkling of what was in the air should become accidentally known
to others.

Without quoting all the conversation, let me make clear its substance.
The three were so mystified by the incidents already told that they
determined not to cease their efforts until the puzzle was solved. They
were the only Boy Scouts who knew the particulars, and it was natural
that their friends should give their chief interest to fishing, rambling
in the forest, studying trees, picking up what they could of natural
history, and laying in unnecessary stores of health and strength.

One thing was certain: Uncle Elk knew the secret and he wouldn’t tell.
More than that, Chester Haynes startled his chums by the declaration:

“So does Mr. Hall,—at least I am pretty sure he does.”

“What reason have you for thinking that?” asked the astonished Alvin.

“I have seen them more than once whispering in a way that showed they
were keenly interested.”

“Did you hear anything that either said?”

“Not a word.”

“How do you know then to what they were referring?”

“I don’t; I’m only guessing.”

“I belave ye’re right,” added Mike; “I obsarved the same thing and had
the same ’spicion, and would have spoke of it if Chest hadn’t got ahead
of me. But I’m thinking that if Mr. Hall knows it all, why the mischief
doesn’t he tell us afore we bust?”

“For the simple reason that Uncle Elk has bound him to secrecy. No; what
we find out must be done without the help of either.”

“And we’ll doot!” exclaimed Mike, “or we’ll break a trace trying.”

“How shall we go about it?” asked Alvin. “Whatever we do must be done
without either of them, especially Uncle Elk, knowing it.”

“And there’s the rub.”

Bring three bright-witted boys together and let them concentrate their
mental energies upon the solution of a problem, and even if they don’t
succeed, they are sure to evolve something worth while.

“It is useless to apply to Mr. Hall,” said Alvin, “for nothing could
induce him to violate the confidence of another. But Uncle Elk holds the
master key and can speak when he chooses.”

“Which the same is the rule with most folks,” commented Mike.

“Now, see here,” put in Chester; “he has shown a fondness for you——”

“Can ye name any one of me acquaintances that hasn’t?” interrupted the
wag.

“Why can’t you set to work and coax it out of him?”

“Begorra! haven’t I tried more than once. I’ve hinted and asked him
straight out until I’m in the fix of Phil Rafferty.”

“What was that?”

“Phil took a notion that he could butt ivery other admirer of Bridget
Mulrooney off the track. He kipt at it till one day he towld me he had a
dim ’spicion that Bridget and her big brother Tarn and her dad of the
same name, not forgitting Bridget her-silf, weren’t as fond of him as
they oughter be. They had dropped purty plain hints and the last time
Phil called, Bridget remarked sorter off-hand like, that she niver
wanted to see his ugly mug agin. Her brother kicked him off the porch
and flung him over the fence and the owld gintleman set their dog on
him, which the same nearly choked in trying to swaller the seat of his
pants. Phil said he was beginnin’ to ’spicion that the family took as a
whole, didn’t love him as they oughter. It’s the same wid Uncle Elk and
me. He’s riddy to talk on anything excipt the raison them two tramps was
scared into taking a bath, and he won’t throw any light on that p’int.”

“Then there is no use of either of us trying.”

“I could hev towld ye that long ago.”

Once more it was Chester who showed the most subtlety.

“Uncle Elk knows that Mike is doing all he can to solve the puzzle; he
knows he’ll not stop trying till he learns the truth; if Alvin and I
keep him company, he will understand that we have joined forces. It will
be as easy for him to baffle us three when we are together as to defeat
any one of us. Therefore we ought to separate and each push the hunt for
himself.”

“Ye’ve hit it!” exclaimed Mike, “and to encourage ye in good works and
to show ye the honor ye oughter hev, I offers ye me hand.”

He gravely extended his palm in the gloom and it was warmly shaken.

Let a party of boys engage in some plot—and the same is true of
adults—and their chief fear is that it will be discovered and defeated
by someone else more or less interested. No precaution must be
neglected. It was agreed by our friends that no one of them should drop
a word in the hearing of others that could rouse curiosity, and not to
show by their manner that anything unusual was on their minds.

One question considered was whether Dr. Spellman should be taken into
their confidence. He had witnessed the panic of the tramps and was as
curious as the boys to learn its cause. Alvin disposed of the matter.

“I don’t see how he can be of any help and he doesn’t wish to leave his
home too long since the trouble he had with the bums. Uncle Elk, for
some reason, hates the doctor; the two would be pretty sure to meet if
the doctor joined forces with us, and the consequences would be bad. Say
what you please, Uncle Elk has a queer twist in his brain, and I dread
doing anything that will excite him. Let us work independently of every
one else.”

“I’m wid ye,” assented Mike, and Chester agreed.

This much decided upon, the particulars of the plan remained to be
arranged. Mike proposed that he should saunter off alone to the western
end of the lake, near where Alvin and Chester had gone in the canoe
during the day, and there with no companion should set himself to learn
what he could. The others would take the opposite course, which would
lead them to the home of Uncle Elk. They had no intention of questioning
the old man or even letting him know what they had in mind, but would
employ their wits as opportunity offered.

Nothing would have been more pleasing than for Mike to use the canoe to
reach the western end of the lake, but he decided that the safest course
was for all three to let the boats alone. The hermit would doubtless be
on the watch and would know the errand of the lads.

“Do we need to have signals?” asked Chester.

“What for?” inquired Alvin in turn.

“If one of us finds out something, he will want to tell the others.”

“I don’t see how the plan can work, for we shall be so far apart that
any call we make will be heard by some of the Scouts and may give the
whole thing away. Whatever comes to light can wait till we meet here
after supper to-night.”

Mike, who had been thoughtful for a minute or two, now spoke:

“We thought that being Mr. Hall’s lips are closed, Uncle Elk is the only
one that can ixplain the queer actions of Biggs and Hutt, but Uncle Elk
isn’t the only one.”

“Who else can do so?”

“Biggs and Hutt.”

“That is true,” said Alvin, “but I don’t believe they would show any
more willingness than Uncle Elk. Besides, after such a fright as they
got yesterday, they are probably miles away at this minute and still
running.”

“Which doesn’t signify that they won’t come back again. One would think
they would have taken the warning Dr. Spellman gave them, but they
didn’t. I believe there is going to be more trouble with those two
scamps,” said Chester impressively.

“They’ve got to behave thimselves,” added Mike with more feeling than he
had yet shown, “or I’ll git Mr. Hall to lead the whole troop agin ’em.”

“You know the Boy Scouts are opposed to all violence.”

“And so’m I, excipt whin it’s yer dooty to lambaste the ither chap, as
whin he drops a hint that he doesn’t think ye’re able to doot. If Biggs
and Hutt go to stealing or stepping too hard on us, do ye ixpect we’re
going to grin and bear it?”

“Without answering that question,” remarked Alvin, “let me suggest that
if any one of us happens to meet either or both the hoboes, he does his
best to get an explanation from them. If you don’t succeed, no harm will
be done.”

“Good counsel,” commented Chester, “but I don’t believe it will bring
any result.”

“We mustn’t neglect anything——”

“Whisht!” interrupted Mike, suddenly laying his hand on the arm of this
comrade.

All three became silent, and each distinctly heard faint footfalls from
a point deeper in the wood.

“Some one has been listening,” whispered Alvin, “but he couldn’t have
heard anything.”

“And what if he did?” asked Chester; “we have no enemies in this part of
the world.”

Mike had started in the direction of the suspicious sound. He did not
take time to soften the noise of his feet, and the stranger thus warned
hurried away. Evidently he was a better woodman than his pursuer, for he
got over the ground faster. Mike caught a glimpse of him in the
star-gleam, as he emerged on the beach and ran off. A few minutes later
the Irish youth rejoined his friends.

“Do you know who it was?” asked Alvin.

“No; he didn’t spake nor look back. I thought it best to return to ye.”

“Why?”

“I hadn’t me shillaleh wid me, and I was in too much danger of
overhauling the spalpeen.”



                    CHAPTER IX — An Unwelcome Guest


What may be called a minor mystery was settled within a few minutes
after Alvin, Chester and Mike came out of the wood and sat down for a
brief while on the porch. Most of the other Boy Scouts had gone inside
for the night, though the murmur of voices showed the majority were
awake. The laugh of Scout Master Hall was heard in response to some
jest, he being, as has been said, as much of a youngster as the most
youthful of the troop.

A tall form loomed to view in the starlight, and coming up the steps sat
down beside Mike with a greeting to all three. He was recognized as Hoke
Butler, a member of the Stag Patrol.

“If you had run a little faster,” he remarked with a loud laugh, “you
surely would have overtaken me, Mike.”

“Why didn’t ye slack up and give me the chance? Me legs ain’t as long as
yours.”

“I did put on the brakes, but you turned back.”

“I’d come to the belaif that if ye didn’t want me company, I shouldn’t
force mine upon ye, so I quit. What were ye doing in the wood behind
us?”

“I was strolling behind the bungalow when I heard voices and was
stealing up to learn who you were when you heard me, and for the fun of
it I darted off as if I was scared half to death.”

“What did ye think of the views of mesilf and Alvin and Chester as
regards the nixt Prisident?”

It was a shrewd question and brought the desired answer.

“You talked so low I couldn’t catch a word. Don’t you know that when
Americans talk politics they yell and generally end in a fight?”

“We hadn’t got that fur; ye oughter kept still a little while longer and
ye might hev took part in the shindy.”

So the eavesdropping amounted to nothing, and so far no one besides the
three knew of the plan which they had formed. A half hour later every
Boy Scout in the bungalow, including Jack Crandall, was asleep.

The morning dawned clear, bright and sunny. Jack would not permit any
one to stay with him, so his chair was wheeled out on the front porch,
where he became absorbed in a work on ornithology, while his friends
broke into small groups and wandered into the woods as fancy prompted
them. Scout Master Hall strolled off with several members of his Patrol,
the understanding being that it was to be another day in which each
should do as he pleased.

Let twenty men, boys or girls be thrown together in close companionship
for weeks, and likes and dislikes are sure to develop. There may be
nothing in the nature of hatred, nor even an impatient word uttered.
Naturally affiliations spring up, while others avoid one another,
without suspecting there is a cause for the mild repulsion.

Alvin Landon, Chester Haynes and Mike Murphy were chums from the first
and were nearly always together. Mike was popular with all because of
his many fine qualities, aside from the marvelous treats he occasionally
gave in singing. One boy formed so marked a fancy for him that Mike did
not like it because he could not respond. This was Hoke Butler,—he who
had tried to play the eavesdropper the night before. Something about him
which could not be defined repelled Mike, and caused him to avoid or at
least to try to avoid his company. Perhaps it was Butler’s habit of
boisterous laughter when no one else saw any cause for mirth, his
disposition to slap the knee or shoulder of the boy nearest him, and his
greediness at meals. Be that as it may, Mike did not like him, though
too considerate to hurt his feelings by showing his sentiments.

Alvin and Chester were pleased, when they supposed all the boys had left
the bungalow, to see Butler come up the steps, take his place beside
Mike and give his knee a resounding slap.

“Hello, old chap! what are you going to do to-day?” he asked in his
boisterous manner.

“I’m thinking of doing as the ither byes do,—stroll through the woods
on the lookout fur ostriches, kangaroos, monkeys or anything that turns
up.”

“Good! that’s me; I’ll go with you!”

“Who said ye would?” asked the disgusted Mike, as Alvin winked at
Chester.

“I did; didn’t you hear me?”

“But ye don’t know where I’m going.”

“That makes no difference; I’m with you straight through.”

The chance was too good for Alvin and Chester to let slip. The face of
the former brightened with hypocritical comradeship.

“Now isn’t that fine? Mike, you’re in luck.”

“As Larry Bergen remarked whin he found he had one finger lift after the
pistol busted in his hand.”

“How nice it will be to have Butler with you the whole day!” Chester was
mean enough to add.

“Aren’t you three going together?” asked the surprised interloper.

“We are particular as to our company,” said Alvin; “Chester and I travel
together while Mike goes alone,—that is to say he would do so if you
had not come along in time.”

“That’s me! I’m always glad to oblige.”

“Thim chaps,” said Mike, who was too game to wince though none the less
resolved to baffle his chums, “are two babes in the wood; it will be
mighty kind of ye, Butler, to go along and kaap an eye on ’em.”

“Now, don’t you see there are two of them, and it will be the same with
you and me, which is the right way to divide up? Just the idea, old
chap!” And Butler whacked the knee of Mike, who made a grimace at the
grinning Alvin and Chester. “Tell you what, Mike, I took a shine to you
from the first; we must be pals.”

“You’ve hit it, Butler; we shall be glad to loan you Mike whenever you
want him.”

“That will be all the time,” roared the interloper, “won’t it, Mike?”

“It begins to look that way,” was the lugubrious response of the victim.

Alvin and Chester rose to their feet, the former remarking:

“We’ll see you at supper. Take good care of Mike, who is so innocent
that he is sure to run into trouble unless you hold him back. Mike, be
sure to obey him just as you do us.”

And the two stepped from the porch and set off in the direction of the
cabin of Uncle Elk, looking back in time to see their friend shake his
fist at them.

“It looks as if I was catched,” mused Mike, “as the man said whin he
stepped into a bear trap, but I’ll aven up matters wid thim before
they’re much older.”

“Isn’t it time we started?” asked Butler, after the others had
disappeared.

“Yis,” replied Mike standing up, “but I can’t depart widout me buckthorn
cane. Bide here till I go into the house and git the same.”

“I know where you left it leaning against the wall; I’ll fetch it.”

And before he could be anticipated, Butler darted through the open door
and brought out the heavy stick.

“Always ready to do what I can for you, Mike; anything else?”

“Yis; I’ll be obleeged if ye’ll chase after thim spalpeens and ask Alvin
Landon to send me that five dollars he borrered yesterday.”

“Of course; they haven’t got far and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

“Don’t let him sneak out of it, but hang on till he coughs up.”

“You bet I will!”

The obliging youth scooted off the porch and after the couple who had
disappeared only a few moments before. Mike waited only until he was
beyond sight, when he hurried in the opposite direction and dived among
the trees, as if he were a criminal fleeing from an officer of the law.

Meanwhile the obliging Butler made haste to do as requested. He was
fleet of foot, and had no trouble in overtaking Alvin and Chester, who
were walking at a moderate pace, made still more moderate by their
merriment over the clever way in which they had gotten the best of Mike.

“It isn’t often we can do it,” said Alvin, “but we caught him fair that
time. Hoke will stick like a leech to him—hello! what’s up now?”
exclaimed the lad, as the sound of footsteps caused both to look around.

“Gracious!” gasped Chester, “it can’t be Mike has persuaded him to go
with _us_!”

“Hold on a minute!” called Butler.

The two halted and Alvin asked reproachfully:

“Why have you deserted Mike, when he wants you so badly?”

“I haven’t deserted him; he and I are going to have a day’s ramble
together.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“He asked me to run after you and get the five dollars he loaned you
yesterday.”

“Chest, have you got any money with you?” asked the astonished Alvin; “I
have only a Canadian quarter.”

“I haven’t even that. I did the same as you, and left all my funds in
the house.”

“You see what Mike is up to; it’s a trick of his to get rid of this
fellow.”

Addressing the latter, Alvin added:

“That’s what I call a low down piece of business; why didn’t he ask us
when we were at the house?”

“I reckon he didn’t think of it; hurry up, please; I don’t want to keep
him waiting.”

“Well, you can’t help it, for we haven’t a dollar between us. Hurry back
to him and say for us that we shall settle with him to-night when you
and he come back.”

“Honest now, is that the best you can do?”

“It certainly is; if you don’t hurry Mike will grow tired of waiting for
you.”

Alarmed at the probability, Butler dashed away like a deer, while Alvin
and Chester hurried in the other direction with a view of being out of
reach should the young man return.

But Hoke did not come back. He had set his heart on rejoining his chosen
friend and bent his energies to that end.

After walking briskly for a half mile, Alvin and Chester slowed down and
took matters more easily. They were so deep in the woods that they could
see nothing of the lake, but they had become familiar with the route and
were in no fear of going astray. When quite near the cabin of Uncle Elk,
they saw three other Boy Scouts wandering among the trees, one of them
with note book in hand. He was making entries and all were so engaged in
the pleasant task that it was easy for Alvin and Chester to avoid being
seen as they changed their course. Soon after they came in sight of the
log structure where their old friend made his home. Halting while still
among the trees, their position gave them a view of the front of the
building and the upper part of the path which wound its way down to the
lake. The latch-string was hanging outside the door with everything as
still and motionless as the tomb.

“Well, now that we have arrived,” remarked Alvin in an undertone, “what
are we going to do?”

“I don’t see that anything is to be gained by calling upon Uncle Elk,
but, if he catches sight of us, we shall have to drop in on him. He is
sure to treat us well.”

“Hello! we are not the only ones,” said Chester, as he and his chum
stepped back behind the trunk of a large white oak.

The heads and shoulders of two men came into sight as they walked slowly
up the path from the landing which they had evidently reached in a boat.
A few paces brought them into plain sight, one directly behind the other
and approaching the door of the cabin.

The first thought of the boys was that they were the tramps who had been
making nuisances of themselves in the neighborhood for the last few
days, but a second look made it clear they were not, for nothing in
their appearance suggested the wandering vagrant. The striking fact
about them was they were so similar in looks that it was evident they
were twin brothers. The similarity extended to their clothing. They wore
straw hats set well back on their heads, coarse shirts without tie or
waistcoat, and dark trousers whose bottoms were tucked into a pair of
boots that did not quite reach their knees. The two were of sandy
complexion and each had a tuft of yellow whiskers on his chin, which was
of the retreating order.

“They must be the men Mike heard chuckling together last night, though
he did not see them,” was the conclusion of Chester, and his companion
agreed with him.

“And they seem as much pleased as ever.”

Both wore a broad grin, and the one in front, half turning his head,
said something which caused the other to laugh out loud.

Before the visitors reached the door, it was drawn inward by Uncle Elk,
who appeared, staff in hand, as if about to start on a tramp through the
woods. At sight of the young men, he paused and called:

“I am glad to see you, Asa and Bige; I was about to hunt you up, but
this saves me the trouble; come in.”

He shook the hand of each in turn and the three passed from sight, the
host closing the door behind them.

“And now what shall we do?” asked the perplexed Alvin; “we have seen two
strangers go into the cabin and they are talking together, but we can’t
hear a word that is said nor learn a thing.”

“That remains to be seen; let’s follow them, as we have the right to do
so long as the latchstring hangs outside.”

This proposal would have been carried out had not the necessity been
removed by the persons in whom they were interested. The door
unexpectedly opened and the trio came out, Uncle Elk leading, staff in
hand, and the others following in Indian file. They passed down the path
toward the lake and were soon shut from sight by the intervening trees
and undergrowth.

Alvin and Chester were sure their presence had not been noted, and they
held back until safe against being seen. Then they moved stealthily down
the trail to a point where they had a clear view of the smooth sheet of
water. A hundred yards away, a small canoe was gliding at moderate speed
toward the other side, its course such that it would reach shore—unless
the direction was changed—some distance west of Dr. Spellman’s home. In
the boat were seated Uncle Elk and the couple whom he had addressed as
Asa and Bige, one of them swinging the paddle with the grace of a
professional.

Keeping out of sight, the two youths watched the course of the boat,
which gradually veered to the left.

“Uncle Elk has left his own canoe on the shore and we can use it if we
wish to follow them,” said Alvin.

“I don’t think anything would be more foolish. In fact, Al, it strikes
me that so far our part of the business is a failure. Those folks are
going into the territory of Mike and I hope he will have better success
than we. He can’t have less.”

All the lads could do for the present was to watch and wait. The canoe
grew smaller as it receded, and finally disappeared under the
overhanging limbs and vegetation at a spot which the boys agreed was
either where Mike Murphy had heard Asa and Bige laughing the night
before, or very near the spot. And, admitting that such was the fact,
what did it all amount to?



                    CHAPTER X — A Sudden Separation


When Mike Murphy hurried off the opposite end of the porch of the
bungalow, his single purpose was to rid himself of Hoke Butler, who had
set his heart upon keeping him company for the day. It was a happy
thought thus to send the youth to collect an imaginary debt from Alvin
Landon, and it would seem could scarcely fail of accomplishing the end
in view.

“The spalpeen can thravel a good deal faster then mesilf, owing to the
lingth of his legs, but I’ve got too good a start for him to find me
among the traas.”

Mike still walked fast, often glancing behind and more and more relieved
that he failed to gain sight of a living person, or rather of him whom
he dreaded to see.

“Hello, Mike, where are you?”

The youth appealed to almost leaped from the ground, for the familiar
voice sounded much too near for comfort.

“I’m here just now,” muttered Mike, “but I don’t intind to stay. Worrah,
worrah, is there no way of shaking ye loose?”

The shout was repeated twice and then ceased. It looked as if Hoke
believed he was too far separated from his friend to reach him by
calling, though he was not likely to give up the search for some time to
come. Mike changed his course and in doing so came near losing himself.
It was impossible in the circumstances to go far astray, but he was
likely to waste a good deal of time.

Coming to a halt he took his bearings. He knew he was well to the
westward of the bungalow and not far from the lake. He was sure also,
after noting the position of the sun, of the course he should follow to
reach the body of water. His plan was to keep along shore until he came
to the western end of the lake, around which he would make his way if
necessary, returning by the northern bank which would take him past the
home of Dr. Spellman. The conviction, however, was strong with the young
man that he would not be called upon to travel that far before gaining
the knowledge which was drawing him onward as the steel draws the
magnet.

When he had traveled far enough to bring him to the lake and still
failed to catch the gleam of its surface, he halted once more and stared
around.

“If I’m lost agin I’ll hire some of the byes to lead me about by the
hand, fur I ain’t fit to travel alone—hello! there’s one of ’em, that
I’ll question without letting him know I’m a stray lamb.”

He had a glimpse of a moving body almost directly ahead, and knowing it
was one of the scouts he called:

“I wish to remark, me friend, that it’s a foine day; if ye agraa wid me
I shall be plaised to have ye signerfy the same.”

“Why, Mike, I’m so glad to see you again; you ain’t mad because I got
lost?”

“Oh, not a bit, as Jim O’Toole said whin the sheriff apologized for
shooting him on the wing.”

And Mike extended his hand to Hoke Butler as he came grinningly forward.

“How was it ye missed me?” asked Mike innocently.

“I’ll be hanged if I can tell; I hurried back after talking to Alvin and
ought to have found you, but somehow or other I didn’t.”

“Why didn’t ye holler?”

“I nearly split my throat calling to you.”

“Strange! I wonder if I’m getting deaf.”

“Gracious! I hope not; don’t say that or you’ll worry me awfully.”

“Did Alvin hand ye the five dollars?”

“Not a bit of it. Say, Mike, they must be blamed poor, for they had only
a Canadian quarter between them. I don’t think they amount to much.”

Mike couldn’t stand this slur upon his chums.

“Let me tell ye something that will make ye open yer eyes. Alvin
Landon’s father is one of the richest men in New York, and Chester’s is
almost as wealthy. They are worth millions upon millions of dollars, and
the byes have all the money they want, but they are not such fules as
you and me and don’t throw it away, though they give a good deal of it
to poor folks. So ye may rist aisy on that score, friend Hoke.”

“Gee! I never suspected that. They don’t put on any more airs than the
poorest of the Boy Scouts.”

“Which the same shows their sinse; they’ve always been that way and
always will be. But this isn’t tending to bus’ness. Do ye wish to keep
company wid me till night?”

“You bet! I’m going to stick to you like a burr; I hope you haven’t any
hard feelings on account of my losing you for a little while. I really
didn’t mean it.”

“It’s mesilf that has no hard feelings, but I was thinking that if we
don’t get back to the clubhouse till night ye will be obliged to lose
your dinner.”

“I don’t like that much, but I’ll stand it for your sake. I’ll even
things up at the supper table. A Boy Scout should learn to suffer when
it can’t be helped.”

“I’ve found out the same,” replied Mike with a significance which his
companion did not catch; “I hope we shan’t starve to death.”

“No danger of that,” remarked Hoke, not absolutely certain that some
such calamity did not threaten them.

Mike Murphy like a philosopher made up his mind to accept the
inevitable. It seemed to be decreed by fate that he should have this
young man as a companion throughout at least this day, so what was the
use of kicking against it? Besides, it was not impossible that where
there was so much eagerness on the part of Hoke to help, he might be
able to do so in the strange task Mike had laid out for himself.

One pleasing fact about the intruder was that he never lost his way. He
pointed out the direction in which the lake lay and Mike took care not
to let him know he himself had believed that an altogether different
course led to it. Pausing on the shore they looked out upon one of the
most beautiful and romantic bodies of water to be found in a region
which abounds with them. Both saw the canoe laden deeply with three men
which was heading for a point to the westward of Dr. Spellman’s home.
The boys studied it closely, but the distance was too great to identify
the old man, and his companions were strangers.

Mike had told young Butler nothing of his experience of the day before,
nor did he do so now. Whatever Hoke was able to do in the way of aid he
could accomplish as well while ignorant as if he knew everything.

“Would it be too far, Hoke, for ye to walk wid me round the end of the
lake to the spot where the canoe wint from sight?”

“It’s a pretty good walk, Mike, but it’s nothing so long as I am with
_you_. I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t do to please you.”

“I could, but I’ll not mintion it,” grinned Mike as they resumed their
course with Hoke in the lead.

The forenoon was half gone when they came to the western end of the lake
and changed their course so as to follow the curvature that would take
them to the northern shore. All the time they were in sight of the
water, which they examined at intervals in quest of other boats. While
the home of Dr. Spellman, as we remember, was invisible from the lake,
it was easy to locate it by the thin wisp of smoke which filtered
through the tree-tops. The same could have been said of Uncle Elk’s
cabin had there been any fire burning.

“I am thinking, Mike,” remarked Hoke some time later, “that if you
intend to go clean round the lake we haven’t any time to throw away.”

“We kin take all day and the night, should the same be nicissary, but
there’s no call to hurry and if ye find yersilf growing weary, ye have
me permission to turn back whin the notion takes ye.”

“We have gone so far that I don’t see much choice in taking either
direction. I say, Mike, isn’t that something queer ahead of us?”

“I’d like to know where ye could be without something qua’ar being ahead
of ye,—begora! I belave ye are right,” added Mike in surprise. An
object loomed up which he had not seen before nor had he heard any one
speak of it, though he and others had been in the neighborhood more than
once.

At a point where the undergrowth was plentiful and less than a hundred
yards back from the shore, were the ruins of what probably had once been
a fisherman or hunter’s cabin. Long before the present time, some party
had erected these rude quarters as a refuge during cold or stormy
weather only to abandon them for more inviting protection. The ruins
were simply four walls of logs hardly a dozen feet square and less than
half as high. If there had once been a roof, it had disappeared long
since. No door was visible from where the boys stood.

“It reminds me of the Castle of Donleigh, which I niver obsarved,”
remarked Mike after they had stood for some minutes.

“I think some one started to put up a cabin such as Uncle Elk did, but
changed his mind before he built a roof. Maybe it was Uncle Elk
himself.”

“Aither him or somebody ilse; let’s look further.”

Instead of going nearer, the two slowly circled the ruins, keeping a
little way from them. When the circuit was completed the surprising fact
became known that nothing in the nature of a door had been made by those
who laid the logs. Manifestly the structure had been abandoned before it
was half finished.

“It’s easy to raise yourself high enough to look inside,” suddenly
remarked Hoke; “I’m going to have a peep. Wait here till I come back.”

He ran to the side of the pile, with Mike slowly following. The latter
gripped his shillaleh firmly, but was moving so slowly that he had not
passed a third of the distance when Hoke inserted the toe of one foot in
a lower crevice, sprang lightly upward and seized the topmost log with
both hands. This raised his head above the barrier, and in the same
minute Mike saw a hand thrust forward from the inside, grasp the collar
of his companion’s coat and violently yank him out of sight.



                CHAPTER XI — An Unsatisfactory Interview


Mike Murphy was never more astounded in his life.

“He oughter said good-bye before he took that dive,” exclaimed the
youth, who was not the one to stand idle when a companion, even one whom
he did not specially fancy, was in danger. Mike’s chivalry was roused,
and with no thought of the consequences to himself, he ran to the help
of the other lad. His shillaleh was firmly grasped in his left hand, and
held ready for instant use, for nothing seemed more probable than that
the weapon would be quickly needed.

Mike was sure that if he imitated Hoke, he would be seized in the same
way. He therefore hurried lightly to the opposite side of the pile,
where as silently as he could, he thrust the toe of his shoe into the
crevice between the lower logs, gave a spring, caught hold of the upper
tier, and drew himself upward.

Buzby Biggs, one of the tramps whom we have met, was sitting on the
ground inside the crude cabin and punching his stubby forefinger into
the bowl of his corncob pipe, with a view of tamping the tobacco and
making it ready to light, when the sound of voices outside caused him to
suspend operations. He rose to his feet, intending to peep through a
small opening of which he knew when he heard the scratching made by
Hoke’s shoes as he climbed the low wall. Angered by the intrusion upon
his privacy, he waited until the head of the lad rose to view, when he
proceeded to act as has been described.

Hoke was too startled to make any outcry or resistance. The violence of
his debut caused him to sprawl forward on his hands and knees and his
hat fell off. He instinctively picked it up and replaced it on his head.

“What do yer mean by butting into a gentleman’s private residence
without ringing the bell or sending in your card?” demanded Biggs, who
finding himself confronted by only one lad, could feel no misgiving as
to his own safety.

“Gee! I didn’t know _you_ were here,” replied Hoke, alarmed over the
strange situation in which he was caught.

“That don’t make no difference,” replied the hobo, who seemed to be
trying to work himself into a passion; “yer showed yer ain’t used to
perlite sassiety and I allers makes a feller pay for the privilege of
coming into the castle of the Duke de Sassy.”

Poor Hoke was scared almost out of his wits. He began fumbling in his
pockets.

“How much is the charge? I haven’t got more’n two or three dollars with
me.”

“In that case, it will take all and that ere watch which I persoom is
tied to t’other end of the chain dangling in front.”

“Why that would be robbery!” exclaimed the lad, indignant at the
impending outrage.

“I wouldn’t call it that, younker; rayther it’s the toll yer hef to pay
for crossin’ this bridge. So yer may as well shell out first as last.”

As Hoke stood, his back was against the side of the wooden wall over
which he had just tumbled, with the tramp scowling and malignant, facing
him. Thus, as will be noted, Biggs was on the side of the structure up
which Mike Murphy had climbed so silently that no one heard him. Hoke in
fact began to rally from his panic and was on the point of shouting for
help when he saw the end of Mike’s buckthorn cane, gripped in his left
hand, slide up into view, instantly followed by the hat and red,
freckled countenance of the Irish youth, who remained motionless for a
moment, while he peered at the curious picture below him.

Before Hoke could utter the glad words on his tongue, Mike shook his
head as a warning for him to hold his peace. The other caught on and did
not look directly at his friend, but straight into the face of the
tousled scamp. Mike was so clearly in his field of vision that Hoke saw
every movement and even the expression of the face which was never more
welcome.

The next instant one knee of Mike rested on the topmost log, then the
foot slid over and he perched firmly on the top with his shillaleh
transferred to his right hand.

The sight of his friend heartened Hoke.

“You can’t have my watch and chain, and I sha’n’t give you a penny! You
have no more right here than I, and you daresen’t lay a hand on me.”

“What’s that? what’s that?” demanded the other, taking a step forward
and thrusting out his ugly visage; “I guess it’s time I teached you
something.”

“Aisy there, Misther Biggs; I think it’s mesilf will hev something to
say ’bout this.”

The hobo whirled about and confronted the Irish lad, seated on the top
of the wall and grasping his heavy cane.

“Where did _yer_ come from?” growled the tramp, who ought not to have
been frightened by the presence of two sturdy youths.

Mike made the Boy Scout salute.

“From Tipperary, county of Tipperary, Ireland. Would ye be kind enough
to exchange cards wid me?” and he pretended to search in his pocket for
that which he never carried. “Clarence, me noble friend,” added Mike,
addressing Hoke Butler, “ye may as well withdraw from this palatial
residence, as me friends used to say when laving our shanty at home.”

Hoke was instant to seize the opportunity thus presented. He clambered
up the logs with the vivacity of a monkey, scooted over the wall,
dropped to the ground and then made off at the highest bent of his
speed. He did not seem to think he was deserting a friend in extremity
and after that friend had been quick to rush to his relief.

A glance behind told Mike the truth, whereat he was displeased, though
he did not show it by his manner. It was not so bad, however, as at
first appeared. Hoke had run only a little way when the cowardice of
what he was doing halted him as abruptly as he had started.

And then it was that an inspiration seized him. Questioning the wisdom
of him and Mike bearding, as may be said, the lion in his den, Hoke made
a pretence that help was near. He shouted at the top of his voice:

“Dr. Spellman! Here we are! Why don’t you hurry up?”

It was pure good fortune that led Hoke thus to appeal to the only person
whom the hobo held in dread, for the youth knew nothing of what had
occurred previously. He was doubtful about calling upon Uncle Elk, and
another Boy Scout did not seem a formidable enough reinforcement. Scout
Master Hall would have served, but Hoke did not think of him.

Mr. Buzby Biggs heard the shouted words and could not forget that the
physician was the owner of firearms and did not seem reluctant to use
them. Although the two vagrants had been spared, it was doubtful whether
mercy would be shown them again. Despite his attempt to bluff, the tramp
could not repress a tremor in his voice.

“What’s he calling that ’ere doctor fur?”

“I think he remarked a remark about telling him to hurry up. Av coorse
ye will be glad to meet the docther agin.”

“Not by a blamed sight; him and me don’t speak as we pass by.”

“He prefers to spake wid his revolver, I belave.”

Mike had been instant to read the trick of Hoke, and he helped all he
could. Biggs was in such a fright he could not hide it. The last person
in the world whom he wished to meet was the medical man. He turned to
imitate the action of Hoke Butler.

“Howld on! None of that!” commanded Mike in such a peremptory voice that
Biggs with hands on the logs in front and one foot raised, checked
himself and looked around.

“What do yer want?” he growled; “hain’t I a right to leave my home when
I please?”

“Which is what Jimmy Jones said when the sheriff stopped him as he was
breaking-jail. You don’t want to bump up agin the docther whin he has
that pill box in his hand. See here, Biggs, I’ll let you go on one
condition.”

“What’s that?” growled the other.

“Yesterday when ye and t’other scamp was paddling off in the canoe ye
stole, ye made a sudden dive overboord and swum fur shore; by yer manner
I knowed ye wouldn’t run the risk of taking a bath if ye hadn’t been
scared out of what little wits ye had.”

“It would have been the same with yer, if yer’d seen what we did.”

“If ye’ll tell me what ye obsarved, ye may lave whin you choose and I’ll
give ye me pledge that Docther Spellman won’t harm ye.”

“All right; I’ll tell yer as soon as I git outside this place.”

“You can’t wait till then; ye must give me the sacret while ye are
standing there. If ye don’t I won’t interfare wid the docther working
his will.”

An expression of dread passed over the repulsive face and the man
actually shivered.

“Wai, whin me and Saxy was going along in the canoe we borrered wid me
paddling, I happened to look down into the clear water and my eyes
rested upon—_the devil himself_!”

Mike Murphy was taken aback for the moment by this amazing reply. His
first thought was that the hobo was trifling with him, but, if so, his
acting could not have been better. Astounding as was his declaration the
man believed his own words which conveyed no meaning to the youth.

“Worra now, don’t ye understand it?”

“No; do yer?”

“That clear water sarves like a looking glass. Whin ye looked down ye
obsarved yer own image and I don’t wonder ye took it for owld Nick.”

“But Saxy seed the same as I did,” replied the man, impressed by the not
complimentary explanation of the lad who was perched on top of the log
wall.

“It was his picter that he saan and aich of ye luks more like t’other
than he does like himsilf.”

Biggs shook his head. This wouldn’t do.

“It wasn’t like a man at all.”

“What did it luk like?”

Mike was excited. He felt he was on the eve of clearing up the mystery
which had baffled him and others, though not Uncle Elk, who would say
nothing.

Instead of giving an intelligent reply to the question for a further
bill of particulars, the tramp shuddered as before. There was a whine in
his voice when he spoke:

“Didn’t I answer yer as I agreed? What are yer kicking about?”

“Ye’ve got to do more than that afore I asks the docther not to p’int
his gun this way and pull the trigger.”

“Have yer ever seed the devil?”

“Not afore I looked upon yersilf.”

“Then how do yer expict me to describe him? He was there right under the
canoe and almost close enough to grab us.”

“Did he hev horns and a spiked tail?”

Mike had heard the sound of footsteps behind him on the leaves. Some one
was approaching and he was sure it was Hoke Butler coming back to his
help.

Biggs made no reply to the frivolous question of the youth seated above
him. The taint of superstition in his nature resented such treatment of
a theme which had nothing but terror to him. Mike, certain that he
commanded the situation and was about to learn that which he yearned to
know, felt that he need not haste.

“Ye’ll hev to do better than that, Signor Biggs, but as ye saam to
prefer that the docther should take ye in hand I’ll turn ye over to
him.”

And Mike turned to wink at Hoke Butler, but to his dismay, discovered in
the same moment that his friend was not in sight, and the one who had
come up behind him was Saxy Hutt, the other tramp.



                 CHAPTER XII — Groping After the Truth


Mike Murphy’s ready wit did not desert him at the moment when, as may be
said, he discovered he was caught between two fires. One of the tramps
was standing on the ground in front or below him, while the second was
approaching from the rear or only a few paces farther off. And Hoke
Butler, who should have been instant to rush to the help of his friend,
was nowhere in sight.

“I say, docther, why don’t ye hurry up?” shouted Mike, as if calling
over the head of the grinning hobo, whose eyes were fixed upon him with
a dangerous expression, as if he had decided to even up matters for
previous humiliations.

The peremptory manner of the lad produced its effect, and Saxy Hutt
paused and looked up at him. A scratching, rattling noise caused Mike to
turn his head. Biggs was furiously climbing the logs on the other side.
Grasping the topmost one, he dived over, sprawling upon his hands and
knees, instantly leaping to his feet, and making off at the speed he had
shown in his former flight. He evidently believed in the near approach
of the man whom he dreaded.

Mike swung around on his perch, so that his feet hung outside, and gazed
calmly down upon the repulsive face.

“The top of the morning to ye, Saxy,” greeted the lad; “I hope ye are
well.”

“Huh! yer needn’t try that bluff on us,” growled the scamp; “it won’t
work; thar ain’t no doctor round these parts and I wouldn’t care a hang
if there was. I owe you one, younker, and I’m going to take it out of
your hide.”

To tell the truth, Mike was pleased to hear this declaration. Biggs,
whom he regarded as the worst of the couple, had taken himself off and
need not be considered further, so that it was one against one, and the
youngster had a firm grip on his shillaleh. With a fair field and no
favor Mike was content to let the best man win.

The tramp came nearer, clenched his fists and glared upward at the
youth.

“Come down out of that and I’ll wring your neck fur yer.”

“Step a little closer, so I can reach ye wid a single jump.”

Mike was actually gathering his muscles for a leap that would have
brought on a fight as vicious as that of two wildcats, when the tense
stillness was broken by the words:

“Right this way, doctor; you’ll find them both here, your shots can’t
miss.”

Now the peculiarity of this remark was that although plainly heard, it
sounded as if the speaker meant that only the man at his side should
catch his words. And it was at this juncture that Hoke Butler did a
thing so clever that it won the everlasting admiration of Mike Murphy.
The former dropped his voice several notes, so that one unacquainted
with the facts, would have been certain it was another who was speaking.

“Show me a sight of them—just for a minute: that’s all I ask!”

Mike heard and understood. Saxy heard and misunderstood,—that is he
believed it was the physician who was looking for him with a loaded
weapon in hand. He muttered an exclamation which it will never do to
print, plunged around the log structure, and disappeared with a speed
that must have quickly overhauled the other tramp.

Mike dropped lightly to the ground and confronted the chuckling Hoke.

“Worra! but ye did that well. Where is the docther?”

“How should I know? I suppose he’s at his home.”

“What put it into yer head to make believe he was near us?”

“I don’t know except he was the first person I thought of.”

“Ye couldn’t have done better if ye had took a month. I don’t understand
why thim tramps hang round so much whin they know what they’re likely to
git from Dr. Spellman.”

Mike now told Hoke of the surprising incidents of the preceding day,
when the hobos received the scare of their lives.

“This one who calls himsilf Biggs told me that whin he looked over the
side of the canoe, he found himsilf face to face wid the devil.”

“Do you think he did, Mike?”

“I have me doubts, as Jerry Jinks said whin Father MacMahon declared he
was an honest man. Anyhow I haven’t larned what I wanted to know, and
we’ve got to look farther.”

It was decided to pass around the western end of the lake, circling back
in the direction of Dr. Spellman’s home, past the cabin of Uncle Elk and
go on to the bungalow. This was likely to take most of the day, even if
they were not delayed by some unexpected occurrence. Moreover, this
course would take them by the spot where Mike had heard voices the night
before, and where the hermit darted out from under the overhanging
vegetation on his return, going so near the startled Mike that the two
saw each other. The old man and his visitors appeared to have gone
thither, and it would seem that something ought to be doing.

“Would you like to know what _my_ idea is?” asked Hoke, when they
resumed their tramping on the line that has been indicated.

“I’m that anxious to know that I won’t take anither step till ye
ixplains the same.”

And Mike, who was a few paces in advance, halted abruptly, wheeled about
and faced his companion, who grinningly responded:

“It is that we keep going till we reach Dr. Spellman’s house and accept
his invitation to dinner.”

“Suppose we don’t get the invitation,” suggested Mike.

“I should like to see him avoid giving it, even if the dinner hour is
past, which it is likely to be before we can reach his place.”

Mike’s rugged health and sturdy strength gave him as keen an appetite as
that of his companion, and a good meal would be as welcome to him-as to
Hoke. Moreover, the situation was such that they could hardly hope to
reach the clubhouse before nightfall. He therefore inclined to the plan
of calling at the house where they were sure of welcome, but it will be
borne in mind that in order to do this, they would have to give over or
at least postpone the investigation they had intended to make at the
point where Mike had heard voices and seen Uncle Elk the night before,
since this lay to the westward of the physician’s camp.

Accordingly the youths turned deeper into the wood, going well beyond
sight of the lake, intending to approach their destination by a
circuitous course. Not wishing to run against Uncle Elk and the
strangers, they made sure of not doing so.

You need not be reminded that one of the easiest things in the world is
to lose your way in a wilderness. Mike Murphy seemed peculiarly subject
to this misfortune, as has been shown in the previous pages. He kept in
the lead, as he had done from the first, his friend quietly following
and paying no attention to his own footsteps. By and by it struck Hoke
that it was time they reached the doctor’s dwelling. He looked
searchingly ahead and around, but saw nothing except the tall,
column-like trunks, with considerable undergrowth here and there. Naught
that resembled the most primitive dwelling was in sight, nor was there a
sign of any person having passed that way.

“Hold on, Mike!” he called abruptly to his friend, and the latter halted
and looked back.

“I’m doing that, and what is it ye want of me?”

“Where are we?” asked the puzzled fellow.

“I’m thinking we’re here, as I remarked whin I fell off the house. What
do _ye_ think?”

“Of course we are somewhere near Gosling Lake, but I believe we have
strayed off and are lost.”

“It’s mesilf that don’t see how that can be, though I can beat any
gentleman that walks on two legs in going the wrong way. The first time
I started to go upstairs, I opened the cellar dure and bumped all the
way to the bottom, and when I was faaling me way fur the cellar dure, I
tumbled out the parlor windy. Then mither sent me on an errand to Widow
Mulligan’s and instead of stepping onto the porch, I put my fut over the
well curb and didn’t find out the difference till I hit the bottom of
the well. So you see, Hoke, that that wakeness is my strongest p’int.”

“Where do you think the lake lies?”

“I’m not as far gone as that; head that way and you’ll walk straight
onto the same.” Mike pointed his shillaleh to the left, whereupon his
friend laughed.

“Just what I expected; you’re away off.”

“What do _ye_ make it,—since you saam to think you can make no
mistake?”

“I never lose my bearings,—you can depend on me. _That_ direction leads
to the lake.”

The joke of it was that Hoke instead of deviating more or less from the
course pointed out by Mike, chose one that was the opposite.

“Are ye in airnest?” asked Mike.

“Never more so.”

“I’m glad to larn that, for I don’t like such jokes, as Jim O’Hara said
whin the policeman broke his club over his head. Ye are wrong.”

“I’m positive I am not.”

“And I’m positive ye are,—and the only way to sittle the question
according to common sinse is to toss up. What do ye say?”

“I don’t see how that can settle any question; but have it your own
way.”

Mike took a Lincoln penny from his pocket and balanced it in his hand.

“If it comes down a hid, ye take my course; if a tail, yours.”

Hoke nodded to signify he agreed, and the other flipped the coin aloft,
each watching as it turned over rapidly and fell upon the leaves between
them, but lo! it rested on its edge, being supported vertically against
a pine cone. In other words it was neither a head nor tail, but a
“cock.”

Usage requires that in such a case a new toss must be made, but when
Mike picked up the penny he shoved it into his pocket and shook his
head.

“The maaning of that,” he explained, “is that we are both wrong.”

“How then shall we find the true course?”

“Make a guess, as I used to do in answering the taycher’s
questions—Hist!”

Before the experiment could be made, they were startled by hearing the
report of a gun or a pistol from some point not far off, though the
direction was different from either that had been indicated.

As they listened, a second, third and fourth report rang through the
forest arches, followed quickly by two more, and all was still.

There might be several explanations of the incident, but it was idle to
spend time in guessing, when it was easy to learn the truth. Mike,
followed by his friend, walked rapidly toward the point whence the
reports had come, and a few minutes later everything was clear.

Dr. Spellman was standing in a space free from undergrowth and
practising with his revolver. With his knife he had gashed the bark off
a sapling several feet above the ground, so as to show a white spot the
size of a dollar. Standing a dozen or more paces distant, he aimed
carefully and put the whole six bullets within a spot not more than two
inches in diameter, three of them being bull’s eyes.

“I couldn’t do better mesilf!” exclaimed Mike, when he understood the
feat.

“You can’t tell till you try; I am not sure you are not an expert.”

“Nor am I, though I have me doubts.”

Having reloaded the weapon the doctor handed it to Mike, who slowly
raised his arm to a level, shut one eye, and squinted some seconds over
the short barrel, while the doctor and Hoke, standing a foot or two to
the rear, kept their eyes upon the little white spot in the distance.
Then a sharp crack sounded and the marksman lowered the pistol.

“Did ye obsarve where me shot landed?” he asked of his friends.

“I think it nipped the leaves somewhere overhead,” replied Hoke.

“I scorn to notice yer slur: what do ye say, docther?”

The physician said nothing, but walked to the sapling, the others
trailing after him. Taking out his pocket knife, he began digging with
the blade into the soft wood. From the very center of the white spot, he
gouged out a pellet of lead, and held it out to Mike.

“That is yours; you made a perfect bull’s eye.”

“Av course; did ye doubt I would do the same?”

“Hooh! all chance! you can’t do it again,” called Hoke, uttering a truth
that was as apparent to Mike as to the others.

“It’s yer turn,” replied the hero of the exploit; “do ye make the
attempt yersilf; if ye can equal me, then I’ll take me turn again.”



             CHAPTER XIII — The Committee of Investigation


Lightning seldom strikes twice in the same place, though I have known it
to do so, and Mike Murphy was too wise to try a second shot, when there
was not one chance in a million of repeating his feat. With his loftiest
air he proposed that he and Hoke should take turns in displaying their
skill.

“I’ve made a bull’s eye,—do the same or betther and I’ll take a whack
and beat _that_,—and so it will go. Am I corrict, dochther, in me
sintiments?”

“Undoubtedly; you can’t refuse Mike’s offer, Hoke.”

The latter saw he was caught and accepted the weapon as if eager for the
test, though it need not be said it was otherwise. A vague hope stirred
him that the same exceptional success might reward his effort. He aimed
with the care and deliberation shown by Mike, and then pulled the
trigger five times in rapid succession.

“One of the bullets will be sure to land,” was his sustaining thought,
but nothing of the kind took place. Close examination by the three
showed that Hoke had not so much as grazed the trunk of the sapling.

Neither Mike nor the doctor laughed, restrained from doing so by a
chivalrous sympathy, for Hoke could not wholly hide his chagrin. Mike
went so far as to say:

“Hoke, it was a chance shot on me part, and I couldn’t do it agin in my
life time.”

“And now let us adjourn to dinner,” said the doctor; “it is later than
usual, but the folks will wait for me.”

No words could be more welcome, but the fun of the proceeding was that
the direction taken by the man showed that Hoke and Mike were both
wrong—as the former had intimated—in locating the lake. The former
grinned and the latter answered with a wink. The theme was one
concerning which it was best to say nothing.

The call at the forest home of Dr. Spellman was so similar to what has
been described that it need not be dwelt upon. Sunbeam showed her
preference for the genial Irish youth, who certainly reciprocated her
affection, as he did in the case of Nora Friestone, whom he had met the
preceding summer farther up the Kennebec. The mother was always gracious
and won the good opinion of every one with whom she was brought in
contact.

When the meal was finished, and while mother and child were busy setting
things to rights, the doctor talked with his guests. Mike made known all
that had occurred since his previous meeting with the physician. The
latter was much interested in the experience of that forenoon.

“I never saw that pile of logs, which is doubtless the remains of some
fisherman or hunter’s cabin that either was never finished or has been
allowed to fall into decay. I must add one thing, however,” said the
doctor gravely; “I don’t like the way those tramps are acting.”

“It strikes me that about the only thing they are doing is getting
scared half to death or swimming or running for life.”

“But why do they stay in this neighborhood? The hobo doesn’t take to the
woods for long, though he may hide there when the officers make it too
hot for him. What can there be in this part of the world that attracts
them?”

“They may be looking for a chance to steal from the Boy Scouts,”
suggested Hoke.

“The last persons two hobos would tackle. What chance would they have
against twenty vigorous, active, fearless youths, who despite their
peaceful principles are yearning for stirring adventure?”

“Then it must be you, doctor, that they have designs upon.”

“I half suspect as much; I have been considerate to them despite their
insolence, more so than I shall be again if they annoy us further.”

Turning upon the youths, Dr. Spellman asked a question that fairly took
away the breath of the two Boy Scouts.

“Has either of you seen Uncle Elk and those tramps together?”

Hoke was not sure he understood the question. Mike was shocked.

“Why should they be togither, docther, unless the spalpeens called at
his cabin for food? Ye know his latchstring is always out, but I’ve
niver known of their being in his company.”

“Didn’t you hear them laughing or talking last night, along shore, and
not far from this spot?”

“Be the same token I heerd two men, but they were not the tramps.”

“How do you know that?”

“Uncle Elk told me so.”

There was reproof in Mike’s tones, for he resented the slightest
reflection upon the hermit, whom he held in high regard. The doctor made
no reply to the words of the youth, but smoked his cigar hard and seemed
to be turning over something in his mind that was of a displeasing
nature.

Mike knew of course of the unaccountable antipathy that Uncle Elk showed
toward the physician who was spending his outing in this part of Maine.
Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes were as much mystified as the Irish
youth, and the doctor himself claimed to have no theory that would
account for it. The last remark of the medical man sounded as if he
reciprocated the dislike of the hermit. Not only that but doubtless he
mistrusted him.

“You don’t seem any nearer the solution of the tramps’ behavior
yesterday than you were at the time, and it looks to me as if you will
have to wait until Uncle Elk is ready to tell you.”

“There saams no ither ch’ice, docther, though I’m riddy to make another
try for the same. Will ye jine us?”

“No; there will be danger of Uncle Elk and me meeting, and I am no more
anxious for it than he is. I don’t believe you will learn anything.”

“We sha’n’t by standing here, as Mickey Lanigan said whin the bull was
charging down upon him—whisht! what have we now?”

Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes walked out of the wood and smilingly
made the Boy Scout salute.

“Just in time not to be too late for dinner,” was the warm greeting of
Dr. Spellman, as he shook hands with the lads. They protested that they
could not permit his wife to bother with preparing a meal, when the
regular one had been finished a short time before, but the hospitable
host would not listen, and I am compelled to say the objections of the
guests were not very vigorous. All entered and crowded themselves as
best they could into the limited space.

As the two ate, Mike and Hoke told them of their experience at the
western end of the lake earlier in the day, while the new arrivals had
their own interesting story to relate. They had seen two strangers enter
Uncle Elk’s cabin, only to depart soon after in his company, as the
canoe was paddled away. The rather curious feature of this proceeding
was that neither Mike nor Hoke, who had scanned the lake more than once,
caught sight of the craft, and Dr. Spellman heard of it for the first
time, though of necessity the canoe passed quite close to his home.

Whatever the thoughts of the physician may have been he kept them to
himself. He had already expressed his distrust of Uncle Elk to Mike
Murphy, who was quick to resent it, and it would be the same with Alvin
and Chester, for they held the old man in too much esteem to listen with
patience to anything in the way of censure of him.

It might have been difficult for the doctor to convince any unprejudiced
person that there was the slightest understanding between the recluse or
the vagrants. In fact, the only foundation for such a charge, not taking
into account the mutual antipathy, was the knowledge which Uncle Elk
showed of the cause of the hobos’ panic. And yet there was a reasonable
explanation of such knowledge, which would have acquitted the old man of
any improper motive, and it was singular that it did not occur to Dr.
Spellman.

The explorers, as they may be called, now numbered four. With warm
thanks to the members of the family they bade them good-bye and set out
to continue their quest.

It will be borne in mind that the spot which they were to visit lay
quite a little way to the westward of Dr. Spellman’s home. It was there
that Mike Murphy had passed under the overhanging vegetation from which
Uncle Elk soon afterward emerged, and where the Irish youth had detected
the odor of a cigar and heard chuckling laughter. Mike and Hoke by
pushing into the woods, and partly losing their way, had left this
locality so far to one side that they saw nothing of it. The four now
intended to make their way thither.

“Couldn’t it be that Uncle Elk wint back, while ye were thramping to the
docther’s house?” asked Mike, as they straggled forward.

“There wasn’t fifteen minutes at a time that we were out of sight of the
lake,” replied Alvin; “we surely should have seen him.”

“He might have come back through the woods.”

“That is true,” said Chester, “but I see no reason why he should do so.”

“Doesn’t the same gintleman do lots of things for which we see no
raison?”

“Far more than we can understand. Now I have been wondering whether he
won’t be offended by our trying to pry into matters which should not
concern us.”

“I think it is the other way,” said Alvin; “he is amused by our
curiosity, and doesn’t tell us the secret because he enjoys our efforts
to discover it for ourselves.”

“And there’s no saying how long his fun will last,” commented Mike, who
because of his previous visit to this section took upon himself the part
of guide.

They had tramped less than half an hour when Mike halted and looked
about him with a puzzled air.

“We oughter to be there,” he remarked, “but it saams we’re somewhere
ilse.”

Alvin pointed to where the undergrowth, a short distance in advance, was
less abundant than in other places.

“There seems to be a wagon track that has been traveled lately.”

Hurrying over the few paces, they found the supposition correct. There
were the ruts made by wagon wheels and the deep impression of horses’
hoofs. The greatest wonder was how any team could drag a vehicle through
such an unbroken forest. Trees stood so close together that there seemed
hardly room for a wheelbarrow to be shoved between, and yet a heavily
laden wagon had plunged ahead, crushing down bushes and even small
saplings, with the hubs scraping off the bark from large trunks, but
ever moving undeviatingly in the direction of Gosling Lake.

“It’s the trail of the chuck wagon!” exclaimed Chester; “it brings our
supplies that are taken across to the bungalow.”

“And this is the day for it,” added Alvin, who had scarcely uttered the
words when a threshing of the wood was heard, accompanied by the sharp
cracking of a whip and a resounding voice:

“Gee up! Consarn you, what’s the matter with you? You’re purty near
there!”

Two powerful horses, tugging at a ponderous open wagon piled high with
boxes of supplies, labored into sight, while the driver, a lean,
sandy-haired man perched on the high seat, snapped his whip, jerked the
lines, clucked and urged the animals to do their best, which they
certainly did.

The boys stepped aside out of the way of the team, and saluted the
driver as he came opposite and looked down upon them. He nodded, but
nothing more, for his animals required his attention. Our young friends
fell in or followed the wagon to the edge of the lake only a brief
distance away, where the driver flung his reins to the ground and leaped
down. He was bony, stoop-shouldered, without coat or waistcoat, and had
his trousers tucked into the tops of his cowhide boots.

“Say, I see by your dress you b’long to the Boy Scouts,” he remarked,
addressing the whole party.

“We are proud to say we do,” replied Alvin.

“And the Boy Scouts be proud to have us belong to ’em,” added Mike.

“I should think they would be blamed proud of _you_,” said the man with
a grin.

“Your perciption of the truth is wonderful, as me mither exclaimed whin
Father Meagher said I was the purtiest baby in Tipperary.”

“And you chaps believe in doing a good turn every day to some person?”

“Right again.”

“What good turn have you done anybody to-day?”

“Modesty kaaps our lips mute,” replied Mike, who for the life of him
could not recall a single incident of the nature named.

“Wal, would you like to do _me_ a good turn?”

“We certainly shall be glad,” Alvin took upon himself to reply.

“Help me unload this wagon; the stuff is for the Boy Scouts, so you’ll
be helping yourselves.”



                   CHAPTER XIV — The Men Who Laughed


Before the party fell to work, the driver walked to the edge of the lake
and tied his white handkerchief to the limb of a tree, which projected
over the water. There was enough breeze to make it flutter, and the
background of emerald brought it out with vivid distinctness. It was the
signal to the bungalow that the chuck wagon, as they called it, had
arrived, and the two canoes were to be sent across the lake for the
supplies. Since it was expected at a certain time, our friends were on
the watch for it. Within ten minutes after the piece of linen was
fastened in place, the large canoes, each containing two persons, one of
whom was Scout Master Hall, were seen heading for the spot where the
provisions were awaiting them. It does not take a man and four lusty
boys long to prepare a wagon load of such freight for shipment by water,
and the cargo was ready a good while before the arrival of the craft.

The driver, who announced that he was “Jake,” sat on one of the boxes,
lighted a corncob pipe and talked with the lads. Although he was rough
of speech and at times inclined to profanity, the young men treated him
with respect, and by their unvarying courtesy won his good will. He
asked many questions and told them a good deal about himself; in short,
they became quite chummy.

The two canoes had passed most of the distance when Jake abruptly asked:

“Have you seen anything of Asa and Bige Carter?”

“Who are they?” asked Alvin in turn, although he had heard the names
before.

“I thought everybody knowed Asa and Bige; they’re twin brothers, and two
of the darndest chaps that ever lived.”

This description, so far as it went, was not enlightening. Chester said:

“Those must have been the two men that called on Uncle Elk this morning
and went off with him in their canoe. So far as we could see they look
exactly alike.”

“That’s them,” replied Jake with a nod of his head. “Did the three come
this way in their canoe?”

“They seemed to be heading for this place.”

“That settles it; they was Asa and Bige. I expected them to meet me
here,” and Jake peered around in the wood, but without seeing anything
of his friends.

“What might ye maan by spaking of them as two of the darndest chaps that
ever lived?” asked Mike, who, as did his companions, hoped they had
struck a lead that might yield them something worth while.

“Why, they’re just like a couple of Irishmen.”

“Arrah now, but what model gintlemen they must be! It will be an honor
for us to make their acquaintance.”

Jake’s reply to this was to snatch off his straw hat, throw back his
head and roar with laughter. Determined to probe farther, Alvin asked:

“What is there peculiar about the twin brothers?”

“Now, you jist wait till you meet ’em and you’ll find out. I’ll only
warn you to keep your eyes wide open, or they’ll close ’em for you. Wal,
the folks have about arriv.”

All rose to their feet and greeted their friends who were now within a
short distance. The water was so deep that the light craft were able to
lie broadside against the bank. It required skill and hard labor to get
a portion of the freight aboard, but in due time it was accomplished.

“We are pretty heavily loaded,” remarked Scout Master Hall, “but the
lake is smooth and we can easily make two or three trips. We can divide
you four between us.”

“It’s blamed risky,” commented Jake, “but I guess it can be did if
you’re all mighty keerful.”

Mr. Hall insisted that he and his three companions should change places
with the others, but this arrangement would have defeated the scheme
Alvin and his chums had in mind. Without revealing their object, they
begged off and secured a compromise by which Hoke Butler was to return
in one of the canoes, while the trio would walk home. In truth, Hoke was
so tired from his long tramp that he was pleased by the plan.

“But I won’t go, Mike, if you’re going to feel bad about it,” he
remarked before sitting down in the boat that was about to shove off.

“Av coorse me heart is nearly broke,” said Mike, “but it’s yer own
comfort I’m thinking of, as Larry McWhymper said whin he put a brick in
the bag for the cat he was drowning to set on and pass away comfortable.
But I’m cheered by the hope of maating ye at supper time. Good luck to
ye!”

The two craft, sunk almost to their gunwales, moved slowly across the
mirror-like lake, reaching their destination without mishap, and
returning for the last loads.

Jake looked at the three youths.

“You’ve got a mighty hard tramp afore you; if there was a road I’d take
you home in my wagon.”

“We don’t mind it,” was the cheery reply of Alvin.

“Besides, if we feel like resting our legs and using our arms, we can
borrow Dr. Spellman’s boat; his home isn’t far off. Do you go back at
once?”

“I’ve a great mind to; it would serve Asa and Bige right if I did, but
I’ll hang round a half hour or so and not a blamed bit longer, for I
must git home afore dark.”

“Then we shall bid you good bye,” said Alvin shaking hands with the
countryman, as did the others, all expressing the hope of soon meeting
him again. Since it was he who regularly brought the supplies to this
point, there seemed to be no reason why the mutual wish should not be
gratified. Jake refilled and relighted his pipe, sitting on a fallen
tree and showing by his vigorous puffs that he was not in the most
patient of moods.

The three boys did not speak until sure they were beyond sight of Jake.
Then they halted.

“Do you think he suspects anything?” asked Alvin, unconsciously lowering
his voice.

“Why should he?” asked Chester.

“He suspicts we’re thramping for home,” remarked Mike, “which the same
is what we wish him to belave.”

It will be understood that our young friends were resolute to learn all
that was possible about the mystery that had tantalized them for the
past day or two. Beyond a doubt the twin brothers were connected with
it, and since Jake was awaiting their coming, it looked as if the boys
had a fair chance of learning something.

They separated, and each began an approach to the driver and his team
that was meant to be so cautious that Jake would not detect them. The
very care used by each well nigh defeated its purpose. It fell to Alvin
to catch the first enlightening glimpse of the countryman and that which
he saw astonished him.

The Carter brothers must have been waiting near at hand for the
departure of the boys, for in the brief interval since then they had
come forward, loaded something in the wagon and covered it with a big
sheet of soiled canvas. Whatever it was, its size was such that it
filled the whole interior, and crowded against the seat in front. It
towered several feet above the sides and suggested a load of hay,
protected against a drenching rain.

“What can it be?” Alvin muttered, “and why are they so particular with
it?” which questions were self asked by Chester and Mike, with none able
to frame an answer.

Having loaded the wagon, the brothers proceeded carefully to tuck in the
precious burden as if afraid jealous eyes might see it. Finally all was
satisfactory and the three men climbed to the front seat. They had to
sit snugly, but there was enough room. Jake was on the extreme right,
where he could crack his whip without hindrance.

He glanced behind him, as if to make sure everything was right, jerked
the reins, circled the whip lash which gave out an explosion like that
of a fire cracker, and the sturdy horses bent to their task of dragging
the wagon and its contents through the woods into the more open country,
where the smoother highway made the task easy.

All three men crowded on the front seat were smoking. Jake stuck to his
corncob pipe, but each brother sported a cigar, which by a special
arrangement with Porter, the druggist in Boothbay Harbor, they bought
for two cents apiece,—far in excess of their worth, as any one would
decide who tested them, or even caught their odor. With all puffing
vigorously, one might fancy that they instead of the horses supplied the
motive power.

From where Alvin Landon stood behind the trunk of a large tree and
peeped out, he saw that the brothers were doing a good deal of laughing,
as if they recalled some humorous incident. Bige gave the particulars to
Jake, who was so pleased that he threw back his head and made the forest
ring with his laughter.

Since the backs of the men were turned toward the boys, the latter did
not fear to come together to discuss their next step.

“I don’t see that we have learned more than we knew before,” remarked
Alvin disgustedly; “what do you suppose they have covered up in that
wagon?”

“I have no idea,” replied Chester.

“Let’s folly the team till it gets back to Bovil or wherever the same
may be going. Better still,” added Mike, “we can slip up behind, lift
the lid, and get a peep at the cratur himself.”

“How do you know what it may be?”

“I don’t, which is why I want to find out, and the same is thrue of
yersilves.”

They gave over the plan for more than one reason. There was no saying
how many miles they would have to tramp, and they could not go far
without being discovered by the men. Then the situation, to say the
least, would become embarrassing.

“I have the belief that we are near the solution,” said Alvin, “and we
can afford to wait a day or two longer. We have several miles ahead and
may as well place them behind us before nightfall. Come on.”

Good taste suggested that having called upon Dr. Spellman so recently
they should pass him by on their return to the bungalow. This was done
and they reached home without further incident.

Meanwhile, the wagon with its mysterious load was lurching and plunging
over the primitive road, the three men on the front seat retaining their
places with no little difficulty, but they were used to such traveling
and no mishap followed.

Shortly after reaching the smoother highway, Bige Carter with another
laugh exclaimed:

“By jingo! there they be!”

“You’re right; that’s them,” added his brother.

The two tramps, who have already figured to some extent in these pages,
were descried as the team turned a corner, walking in the middle of the
road. He who had lost his hat had managed in some way to secure another.
Half of the rim was missing and his frowsy hair showed through the
crown. As the rattle of wheels reached their ears, he who was known as
Biggs looked around. Immediately the paths of the two diverged, one
going to the right and the other to the left of the highway. Both limped
as if the act of walking was painful. Naturally the team soon overtook
them. Jake, who had been talking the matter over with his friends,
stopped his horses.

“Whoa! wouldn’t you gentlemen like me to give you a lift?”

“Now ye’re shouting, boss,” replied Biggs as he and his companion each
approached a front wagon wheel, “but where are yer going to put us?”

“You won’t mind setting on the bottom of the wagon in front of the stuff
piled there?”

“Not a bit, boss; ye’re a trump.”

Resting one ragged shoe on a hub, the hobos clambered in and sat down
behind the three men, who said nothing but tried to restrain their
chuckling. They knew what was coming.

Biggs and Hutt drew up their legs and compressed themselves as much as
possible. Still, with the best they could do they were cramped. It
seemed to Biggs that a slight shifting of the freight behind them would
help matters. He hesitated for a minute or two and then stealthily
raised one corner of the canvas covering, his companion watching him.

Thus it came about that the revelation burst upon the two in the same
instant. A howl of terror rang out from each, as they bounded to their
feet and dived over the side of the wagon. They forgot their lameness,
and ran in the direction of Gosling Lake as if they were contestants at
Stockholm for the Marathon prize. That single peep under the canvas had
shown the same appalling thing that drove them headlong from the canoe.
It was actually near enough to touch them, and the wonder was that they
were not smitten with a mortal dread.

As Jake and Bige and Asa rode on they were so convulsed with merriment
that they surely would have fallen from their seats had not the highway
been smooth and the pace of the horses a slow walk.



          CHAPTER XV — The True Story of a Famous Sea Serpent


“It is over thirty years ago,” said Uncle Elk that evening to the
listening Boy Scouts who were gathered in the bungalow, “that the whole
country was thrown into excitement by accounts of a stupendous sea
serpent which was repeatedly seen off the Isle of Shoals. You know that
returning mariners have brought home stories of encounters in distant
seas with similar monstrous reptiles. The reputation of many of these
men for truthfulness, and the fact that more than one of them insisted
that their eyes had not deceived them, led a good many to believe what
they told. Nor am I prepared to say that some of the accounts were not
founded on fact. In the remote past the land and sea were inhabited by
creatures of such vast size that our largest quadrupeds are pygmies in
comparison. While the land giants became extinct ages ago, it is not
unreasonable to think that the oceans which cover three-fourths of the
earth’s surface still hold inhabitants of tremendous growth.

“But leaving all this discussion for the present, I am now about to tell
you the true story of one of the greatest fakes that ever astounded
thousands of persons and amused the dozen or so who were in the secret.
In the summer of 1879—perhaps a year earlier or later—people
everywhere became interested in the reports that an enormous sea serpent
had been seen off the Isle of Shoals. These stories were repeated so
often and so circumstantially that it was evident there was something in
them. General attention was drawn to that famous resort, and hundreds of
guests visited the Appledore Hotel for the first time and remained for
weeks. The serpent was said to be fifty or seventy feet long, its
tapering neck, tail and general conformation were so natural in
appearance that there could be no doubt of its reality. It was black in
color and moved through the water just as a creature of its kind might
be supposed to do. The newspapers sent their reporters thither and some
of them saw it. You may be sure that they did justice to the theme. No
one dared approach the monster near enough to make a photograph, for
none had the temerity to run the risk of rousing the ire of the monster.
Excursion steamers from Boston were crowded with thousands eager to get
a glimpse of the terrifying creature without incurring any peril, for
whoever heard of a sea serpent attacking a ship? It may crush a small
boat in its prodigious jaws, as the hippopotamus of the upper Nile has
been known to do,—but a steamer is beyond its capacity. Many of the
passengers carried revolvers, and a number had rifles. They begged the
captain to take them close enough to give a chance for bagging such
royal game, and he was more than willing to oblige, but somehow or other
the opportunity did not offer. It was said that so many craft cruising
about his haunts scared him off, and he did not show himself for days.
Then, when the search grew less ardent, he would reappear and the
excitement would be greater than ever.

“Picture the piazza of the hotel, the upper windows, and even the roof
swarming with people, nearly all with small or large glasses pointed out
over the water, searching and waiting minute after minute for a sight of
the terrific creature. Maybe after the scrutiny had lasted for hours
some one would shout:

“‘_I see him! Yonder he is!_’

“And every glass would be focussed upon the point a half mile or more
away, and wild exclamations would follow. The serpent was in plain sight
of every eye. The fore part was upreared three or four feet, and the
most powerful binoculars revealed the enormous eyes and vast mouth,
while at varying distances to the rear could be seen bulging curvings of
the stupendous body, as thick as a cask. Its hideous head slowly circled
about on the neck as if the creature enjoyed the sensation he created.
Then he dropped lower in the water, and seemed to be reposing,
occasionally disporting himself lazily, but often displaying his
terrifying convolutions.

“Meanwhile the news had been telegraphed far and near, and thousands of
eager people hurried to the Isle of Shoals for a sight which they would
remember all their lives. If they arrived before darkness set in they
probably were gratified, for the serpent appeared to be fond of showing
itself by daylight, but it invariably vanished before morning and
probably would not be seen again for a week, when the former scenes
would be repeated.

“Scores took up quarters at the hotel, which they had never visited
before, and stayed until the close of the season. Most of these were
rewarded by a glimpse or two of the serpent, though a few were
disappointed and in their resentment declared there was no such thing.

“Not the papers alone, but many of the magazines contained disquisitions
on the bogy of the sea. Startling pictures based on the numerous
descriptions were given, and caused many a shudder among those who had
to depend upon such sources of information.

“One day a dudish youth loudly announced that any man was a fool who was
afraid of a sea serpent. He intended to row out in a boat and to go nigh
enough to empty his revolver into the frightful head. Incidentally he
let it fall that he had a record as a pistol expert, and he invited any
one who had the ‘sand’ to go with him for a near view of his fight with
the creature that was making a deuced bore of itself.

“To the breathless amazement of the awe-smitten listeners, two young
women, pretty of feature and with mischievous eyes, volunteered. He
warned them of the risk they ran, but they replied that they were not
afraid of anything that failed to alarm him, and any way they didn’t
believe the horrid creature would get a chance to harm them before their
escort would pierce its brain with several bullets. This tribute to the
young man’s skill and bravery caused him to set his hat at a greater
angle and thrust out his chest still more. Many of the spectators
thought it their duty to protest, but the girls would not be dissuaded,
and a few minutes later the boat put off with its three occupants, while
every glass or unaided eye followed the movements of the craft.

“This was one of the times when the serpent was in plain sight a half
mile away, and the young hero headed directly toward it. The girls
laughed and chatted and were sure it was the greatest lark in which they
had ever engaged.

“They noticed that as they drew near the creature their escort showed
lees enthusiasm and kept looking over his shoulder. It is not to be
supposed they were free from a few tremors themselves, but, if so, they
did not allow him to see it. They kept up their laughter and commented
freely upon the timidity of the thousands who remained upon the hotel
porch and watched the sea serpent from afar.

“More slowly the oars swayed until probably a couple of hundred yards
separated the boat from that awful undulating monster. The young man
ceased toiling and laid his hand upon the revolver in his hip pocket.

“‘You are not near enough to reach him,’ said one of the misses.

“‘I am best on long shots,’ he replied with another glance at that
fearful head.

“‘Why, he has seen us! He is looking this way!’ exclaimed the other.

“‘Are you sure of that?’ he asked with chattering teeth.

“‘Yes; he’s coming toward us! Isn’t that splendid? All you will have to
do is to wait until he is near enough and then shoot the horrid thing
through the head as you said you would.’

“But the young man had heard enough. He whirled the boat around and
rowed with might and main, never pausing until he reached the wharf,
when he sprang out, and amid the laughter and jeers of the spectators
rushed to his room, which he kept until the time came for him to leave
the hotel.

“The sea serpent was seen at intervals all through the summer. It did
not make itself too cheap, and a week or more would pass without its
showing itself. It was observed late in the season, but finally
disappeared for good. The Appledore House was crowded as never before,
and ran to its fullest capacity for the two following summers because of
the general expectation that the sea serpent would show up again, but it
never did, and in due time became only a memory or was forgotten
entirely.

“When you land at the dock at Boothbay Harbor and come up the slope to
Commercial Street, turn to the left, walk only a little way and you will
come to the large grocery store of Simpson and Perkins. In the upper
hall of that store, as it used to be, the sea serpent of which I have
been telling you was born and attained its full growth, preliminary to
its removal to the Isle of Shoals.

“The author of its being was William Wilson, who died about ten years
ago. He was an English sailor, who in middle life gave up the sea and
settled in Boothbay Harbor, where for years he was the only rigger in
the little town. He possessed great natural mechanical ability, and it
was said of him that he could make anything. He was unusually skilful in
plain and fancy sewing and in constructing all sorts of knickknacks. He
turned his attention to house painting and in that developed real
artistic taste. In short, he was a Jack-of-all-trades and good in each.

“One day a stranger who had heard of Wilson’s versatility came to him
with a proposition that he should construct him a sea serpent, for which
he was willing to pay two hundred dollars. He explained its purpose and
impressed upon the artist the necessity of keeping the thing an absolute
secret,—since the discovery that it was a fake would defeat the very
object of its being, which was to build up business for the hotel at the
Isle of Shoals.

“Wilson agreed to construct the sea serpent in accordance with his own
ideas of what it should be. His employer was quite willing to accept
this proviso, for he knew the man’s ingenuity and so the verbal contract
was made.

“Wilson had a partner in the work, a Swede named Robert Alson, who is
still living. These two used to saunter upstairs into the long hall
which was their workshop, lock the door and devote themselves to the
task, upon which they spent their spare hours throughout the winter.
Like a true artist, Wilson would not hurry, and gave careful attention
to the smaller details,—a fact which accounts for the perfect success
of the extraordinary fraud.

“The sea serpent was exactly thirty-five feet long, and for convenience
of shipment was made in three sections, which overlapped and could be
readily sewn together. The material was strong canvas, painted a black
color, with proper proportions. The tail tapered, as did the neck, the
largest part of the body being about two feet in diameter. The head,
eyes and mouth were not exaggerated, as would have been the fact with
almost any amateur at the job. It was stuffed with cork and oak
shavings, so nicely adjusted that it would float partly on or just below
the surface, with the curving neck lifting the hideous head two or three
feet above the water. The small waves gave a lifelike motion to the
thing, which made it seem to be moving slowly through the water, when in
fact it never progressed forward or backward, for its position was held
immovably by an anchor.

“When the serpent was at last completed it was securely boxed and
shipped to Portsmouth, six miles from the Isle of Shoals. Then it was
towed at night to the right place, anchored and left to do its duty,
which, as I have told you, it succeeded in doing to perfection. It is
strange that the imposture was kept up for month after-month, and that
it was seen and inspected by thousands, and yet no one really penetrated
the clever deception. It was towed to the anchorage at night, and taken
away again the next night to a secure hiding place. Those who had it in
charge were too shrewd to overdo the trick. When the attention of the
crowds threatened to become too warm, the serpent disappeared and was
not again seen for a week or more. The general belief was that it had
gone out to sea, but after a time some strange attraction drew it back
into the field of vision of the swarms of visitors to the Appledore
Hotel. As I said, the sea serpent disappeared for good in the autumn and
this particular one was never seen again—that is, in its native
element. I do not know what ultimately became of it.”

At this point in the narrative Uncle Elk paused, and it could be seen
that he was smiling behind his beard.

“I now want to say something to you in confidence. You must be sure not
to repeat it in the hearing of others. I gave you the names of the two
men who built the sea serpent, but I have good reason to believe a third
person had a hand in it. If you will question Keyes H. Richards, the
proprietor of the Samoset House on Mouse Island, you will find that he
knows all about it. I once asked him point blank if he did not have
something to do with its construction, but I could not draw a direct
answer from him. Therefore, I retain my suspicions.

“Last spring the twin brothers, Asa and Bige Carter of Boothbay,
persuaded themselves that they could make a tidy sum of money by
introducing a new sea serpent to the public. After they had completed
it, they decided to make a preliminary test by bringing it to Gosling
Lake and trying it on you Boy Scouts. They let me into the secret, and
though much interested, I discouraged it. They lacked the artistic
cleverness of Wilson and the trick was sure to be detected and quickly
exposed. I met them on the shore of the lake and saw them tow it out a
little way, and anchor it. It was not properly balanced, and while the
body sank, the head rose to within a foot of the surface, but would not
come any higher. When those two tramps happened to look over the edge of
their canoe, you may perhaps imagine their terror at sight of the gently
swaying monstrosity that seemed on the point of crushing the boat or
them in its jaws. Never again will they be so overcome with blind panic.

“This incident, together with my earnest persuasions, induced the Carter
boys to give up their scheme and to take away their sea serpent and
consign it to oblivion.”



                           CHAPTER XVI — Zip


On the evening succeeding the interesting story told by Uncle Elk of the
once famous sea serpent, the majority of the Boy Scouts were seated on
the porch of the bungalow exchanging the day’s experiences. The half
dozen detailed to prepare supper were as busy as they could be, for they
like their waiting companions were exceedingly a-hungered. Some had
spent hours in fishing for perch, bass, salmon, pickerel and lake trout;
others had strolled through the fragrant, resinous woods, studying trees
and bird life, and all had added to their splendid reserve of rugged
health, exuberant animal spirits, and that genuine happiness which comes
only with an upright life, clean habits and the constant seeking of an
opportunity to do others a “good turn.”

The day had been an ideal one, overflowing with radiant sunshine,
surcharged with ozone and with a sky of a crystalline clearness which
Italy throughout all its historic centuries has never surpassed. The
summer was drawing to a close; the nights were perceptibly longer, and
there was a crisp coolness which increased after sunset and told of the
coming of autumn and winter.

Scout Master Hall sat among his boys looking out upon the placid lake,
the conversation rambling and not important enough to call for record.
The chair in which Jack Crandall reclined while he talked had been
carried inside by two of the Scouts, Doctor Spellman having advised that
this should be done now that the weather was growing chilly.

Suddenly, Gerald Hume, of the Stag Patrol, who sat nearest to the end of
the porch, said:

“Hello? we have a visitor.”

A general turning of heads followed. Coming along the beach from the
direction of Uncle Elk’s home was a boy, probably fifteen or sixteen
years old, rather tall for his age, dressed in khaki, with leggings, a
close-fitting cap and short coat with belt around the waist. While his
attire resembled in some respects that of the Boy Scouts, it was not the
same. He swung a swagger or short cane in his right hand, and advanced
with the elastic grace of an athlete. As he drew nearer it was seen that
he had a pleasing face, with regular features, dark eyes and hair, and
that air which while it cannot be described, yet reveals the polish and
culture of the true gentleman.

Glancing aside at the boys who were busy with their culinary duties, he
stepped lightly upon the porch and with a military salute called out:

“Good evening, boys; I am glad to meet you.”

Scout Master Hall and every youth sprang to their feet and made the
regulation salute, the leader advancing and offering his hand.

“And I assure you we are all pleased to welcome you. You are in time to
join us at supper and of course will stay over night. Are you alone?”

“I am; my name is George Burton and my home is in the city of New York.
I am spending a week or two at the Hotel Samoset on Mouse Island, but
must soon leave to meet my folks on their return from the other side.”

“Did you come from Mouse Island to-day?” inquired Scout Master Hall.

“I left there early this morning; crossed to Boothbay Harbor and then
struck on foot, just as my brother and I did last summer in tramping
through Switzerland. A farmer gave me a ride of several miles, when I
resorted to shanks-mare again. Then I caught another ride—not quite so
long as the former—until I came to the half-broken track through the
woods, over which I believe the wagon labors that brings your supplies.
I had heard that a party of Boy Scouts were stopping at the clubhouse,
which I saw from the other side of the lake, so I skirted the sheet of
water to this point.”

“That makes a pretty good tramp for one day,” remarked the Scout Master.

“I have done a good deal better, and I am sure it would not tax any one
of you. You asked me a few minutes ago if I were alone; I am, but I
expect soon to be joined by a friend.”

Young Burton laughed at the surprised looks turned toward him.

“He is my dog, named Zip.”

“He will be as welcome as his master,” said Mr. Hall.

“I know that and I thank you for us both.”

“It’s mesilf that is wondering why ye don’t kaap company,” said Mike
Murphy; “me dad explained to Father Hoogan, as his rason for taking me
wid him whereiver he wint, that he liked to have a pup at his heels whin
he wandered round the country.”

The visitor smiled at the Irish lad’s drollery, and was on the point of
answering the query, when the Scouts in charge of the dinner
preparations announced that the meal was ready.

“We are all curious to hear your story, which we know is interesting,”
remarked the Scout Master as he and the boys rose to their feet, “but
nothing can be so attractive just now as the meal to which we have just
been summoned.”

“I am of your opinion,” replied Burton, moving off with the others to
the table.

“May I ask when you look for the arrival of your friend Zip?”

The guest took out his watch and glanced at its face.

“It is now half-past six; he ought to be here by seven; I must allow him
some margin.”

Every one was puzzled, but made no comment. As the Scout Master had
remarked, the question of satisfying their hunger dominated all others
for the time.

Needless to say the whole party partook of the food with the satisfying
enjoyment which waits on sound health and exuberant spirits. As Scout
Master Hall quoted, all “ate like horses when you hear them eat,” the
feast enlivened by continuous chatter, jest and merriment. Jack
Crandall’s chair was wheeled to the table, and with a little help from
his friends he did his part well. Less than half an hour thus passed,
when the company adjourned to the front porch, the only absent ones
being the half dozen who had to clean up and leave things ready for the
morning meal. This work did not take long, and all were soon gathered
together, the Scouts much interested in their guest, and what he told
them about his dog Zip.

“He is a bloodhound,” he explained, “not quite two years old. The breed
is not specially noted for its intelligence, but its delicacy or power
of scent would be unbelievable had it not been proved over and over
again. I hope to give you some demonstrations by my own dog, who is of
pure breed, and with more brains than the generality of his kind.”

“Are you sure he will trail you to this place?” asked Scout Master Hall.

“There is not a particle of doubt about it. He has performed more
difficult feats than that; in fact, I am trying to find something he
cannot do, but so far haven’t succeeded.”

“Will you tell us the particulars of his present task?”

“I left Mouse Island this morning about seven o’clock on the _Norman
II_, run by Captain Pinkham. Having made my arrangements with Manager
Dodge, I explained to my friend Chester Greenleaf that Zip would be at
the dock and board the boat at twenty minutes to two for the roundabout
trip to Boothbay Harbor. I advised Greenleaf not to try to collect a
ticket from Zip, as he might resent it, and the young man promised to
bear the counsel in mind. All that was to be done was to take the pup to
the wharf at Boothbay and leave him to do the rest.

“Zip didn’t like the idea of being left behind at Mouse, but he knew
what was expected of him, and stood quietly on the dock as with a
lugubrious expression he watched me go. I waved my hand at him, and he
wagged his tail in return, as much as to say I couldn’t lose him in that
fashion.

“Now,” said Burton animatedly, “consider what Zip has had to do. He left
Mouse Island at twenty minutes to two o’clock this afternoon and reached
Boothbay Harbor at about half past two, which was fully seven hours
behind me. I’ll warrant he was the first one ashore, and in a twinkling
picked up my trail and was speeding northward from the town. Two miles
out he lost it for the time because I had a lift from a farmer, but Zip
knew what that meant, and he loped on up the road, certain of
discovering when I left the vehicle.”

“Is it possible,” asked Scout Master Hall, “that he could keep your
scent while you were riding in a wagon?”

“I am not prepared to deny it, incredible as it may sound. A bloodhound
has been known to trot twenty feet to one side of a trail along a broad
highway, and not lose it for miles. Zip is so familiar with my scent
that he may have detected it from the first. Be that as it may, he lost
no time in nosing about the road, but detected the very spot where my
foot again touched ground, and was after me like a thunderbolt. I had a
second ride—not quite so long as the first—which brought me to the
rough unbroken track over which your supply wagon brings your
provisions. It was a long tramp to this place, and, as you know, the
afternoon was gone when I arrived.”

“Did you make any attempts to throw him off your track?”

“No, for it was useless. Had a canoe been at hand I might have crossed
the lake in it, but that would have been unfair, for of course no trail
can be followed through water, since in the nature of things none can be
made.

“Since I have been specially interested in this breed of dogs,” young
Burton modestly added, “I may have picked up a few points that are not
familiar to all of you.”

“There is no question as to that,” replied Scout Master Hall, “you have
already proved it; you are telling us facts that are not only new to us
but of special interest. All the boys feel as I do.”

A general murmur of assent followed.

“You are more complimentary than I deserve. While the bloodhound is not
the most common breed of dogs in this country, I suppose most of you are
familiar with his looks and history. They were once used in Cuba to
track escaping prisoners and runaway slaves, and probably served the
same purpose in some parts of the South before the Civil War, but in our
country they were employed simply to track the negroes and were trained
not to harm them, for, aside from the cruelty of the act, it was against
the interests of the slave owner to injure his own property. In Cuba,
the bloodhounds were like ravening tigers. The poor wretch in threshing
through the thickets and swamps heard the horrible baying fast drawing
nearer. His only escape was to leap among the limbs of a tree, and climb
beyond reach of the brutes. If he was tardy in doing so, the black
terror that burst through the undergrowth buried his fangs in his throat
the next instant and never let go, no matter how desperately the man
fought.”

“How was it when the poor fellow reached a perch?”

“The dogs sat down and waited until the pursuers came up and claimed the
prisoner.”

“Suppose the slave took to water?”

“He was pretty sure to do that sooner or later, but it rarely availed
against the marvelous scent of his enemies. After a time the man had to
leave the creek or river, as it might be, and with two or three or more
bloodhounds trotting along the bank with their muzzle to the ground,
they were certain to pick up the scent with little or no loss of time.

“This peculiarly Spanish product became famous during the war with the
Seminole Indians of Florida some seventy years ago. You know that those
redskins retreated into the swamps and everglades where our soldiers
could not follow them, or, if they followed, could not find them. The
war dragged on year after year until the patience of the government was
worn out. In its perplexity a number of Cuban bloodhounds were imported;
and, although our officers took pains to declare that the dogs would be
used to track and not to rend the Seminoles, an indignant protest went
up against the barbarity of the act.

“But,” added young Burton with a laugh, “the crime, if it were such,
worked its own remedy. Somehow or other the Indians learned to make
friends with the black brutes which came to them in the swamps, and they
trained them with so much skill that they used them to hunt down the
stray soldiers and former owners. The use of bloodhounds in the Seminole
war proved a farce.”

The guest suddenly ceased talking for a moment and said:

“It is time I heard from Zip.”

“Some accident may have befallen him or perhaps he has gone astray.”

“Both are improbable—listen!”



                     CHAPTER XVII — Wonderful Work


Absolute hush followed the exclamation of young Burton and, as all were
intently listening, there sounded through the soft stillness of the
night a strange, piercing cry,—the baying of a bloodhound following the
trail of a person. It was neither a bark nor a growl, but a mixture of
the two,—a deep howl that might well fill a fleeing fugitive with
shivering fear.

“That’s Zip,” said his pleased owner; “he will be here in a few
minutes.”

“He has a remarkable voice,” said Scout Master Hall; “I never heard the
like.”

Mike Murphy, who had been one of the most absorbed of listeners and was
seated near the guest, rose to his feet and emitted a cry which, so far
as the listeners could tell, was an absolutely perfect imitation of that
of the dog.

“That’s wonderful!” exclaimed Burton; “it would deceive any one except
the dog himself.”

“And why not him?” asked Alvin Landon.

“Because he does not answer—there he comes!”

In the dim moonlight, as every eye was turned in the direction of the
beach leading toward Uncle Elk’s cabin, the Scouts saw a black, medium
sized dog approaching at full speed, his sturdy figure rapidly assuming
definite form. It was to be noted that Burton had come through the wood
itself, whereas the animal was traversing the beach, where the way was
more open, yet he was keeping to the trail as unerringly as an arrow
driven from the bow.

“Hide yourself,” whispered Mr. Hall.

“There is no place where I can hide from him.”

The next instant the hound with undiminished speed bounded up the steps
at the end of the porch, dashed between the boys, and impinged with such
force against his standing master that he was knocked backward for a
pace or two. Bending over, Burton patted the big head, and Zip in his
excess of delight bounded round the youth and wagged his tail so hard
that it swayed his haunches correspondingly, and it really seemed an
instance of the tail wagging the dog.

“Don’t you think Zip will appreciate something in the form of a meal?”
asked Mr. Hall.

“He certainly will; a dog is always hungry, and more than half a day has
passed since he ate; nothing suits him better than raw meat.”

“We have a supply, and he shall feast to his heart’s content.”

So he did, the food being brought out and placed in front of the canine
guest, who would have eaten a good deal more had his master permitted.
Meekly accepting the decision, Zip lay down at young Burton’s feet,
contented and happy throughout the remainder of the evening, and glad to
stay outside until the youth rejoined him in the morning.

“You know what matchless policemen the Belgian dogs make in that
country, in France, and in New York and other cities. Some three years
ago Long Island became so pestered by thieves that Robert E. Kerkham,
superintendent of the railway police, saw that something drastic had to
be done. The thieves dynamited station safes, burglarized private
dwellings and more than once killed and injured railway policemen while
they were trying to arrest the criminals. Those men used fleet horses
and automobiles, and despite everything that could be done, grew bolder
and more successful.

“Superintendent Kerkham, finding that his patrolmen were powerless,
decided to call in the help of dogs, with whose striking success abroad
and at home he was familiar, but he made a new departure by taking
bloodhounds instead of the usual police dogs, for the former would not
only guard property but would track the thieves. He bought a pair from
the stock imported from England more than twenty years ago. These are of
the purest blood, and superior to all others. Zip is from the same
stock. A peculiarity of this dog is that in no circumstances will he
take up a doubtful trail, but will pick up the true scent, no matter how
faint, and never abandon it so long as it actually exists. They know not
the meaning of fear, and will stick to their work so long as they can
move or breathe. Some of those dogs have pedigrees that reach backward
to the time of William the Conqueror.

“The couple which Mr. Kerkham purchased are named Bob and Nellie. They
had to be trained, but they learned fast. They will take the scent from
any article that has been lately handled by the person they are after.”

“How old a trail will serve them?” asked the Scout Master.

“Of course the freshest scent is the best. Zip was all of seven hours
behind me to-day. I have tested him on double that time and he seemed to
have little or no difficulty. They have taken a trail twenty-four hours
old, and precisely what it is that guides them in such a case is more
than any one can understand. A man is known to have left a house at a
certain time, and twenty hours later it is decided to pursue him with
the aid of a bloodhound. A glove, or hat, or shoe that he is known to
have worn is held in front of the dog; he sniffs at it, dashes out of
doors, circles back and forth and around the grounds until he strikes
the corresponding scent; up goes his head, his tail wags and he bays his
pleasure. A hundred yards farther, and he drops his nose to the ground
to make sure he has not lost his clue.

“Perhaps the scent grows faint or disappears. In that case he runs back
and circles about until he picks it up again, when he is off once more.
You must remember that while all this is going on there is a man tugging
at the leash, for this is necessary to protect the thief. As the trail
grows fresher, the fierce eagerness of the hound increases; he knows he
is close upon his quarry and sharp words and powerful pulling are
necessary to prevent him from bounding straight at the throat of the
cowering wretch. Should he start to run it is almost impossible to
restrain the dog, but when he sees the criminal is under arrest, he is
satisfied, becomes quiet, and is ready to tackle the next job.”

“Will you tell us of some of the exploits of Bob and Nellie, who you say
are perfect specimens of their kind?”

“I cannot recall a quarter of them. One thing that Bob did was
astonishing because it was at the beginning of his training and the
scent was fourteen hours old. He caught it from a bag which the thieves
had used to wrap about their hands in breaking a window. As true as the
needle to the pole, Bob led his master through alleys and side streets,
across vacant lots, along the purlieus of a straggling village to a
house near the highway. This was circled once, and then he dashed to a
barn at the rear, through the open door, and sprang at a young man who
was engaged in skinning a muskrat he had trapped.

“The fellow was indignant and denied all knowledge of the crime,
declaring that he did not know where the freight house was located, but
Bob’s trainer was certain the dog was right, and searched the place. All
the missing property was found in a trunk, and the thief is now in Sing
Sing, convicted on the testimony of the dog.

“Last summer a farmer in Kansas was murdered and a pack of hounds were
put on the trail. They led the trainers and officers through a broken
country for six miles, never hesitating or turning aside for a minute,
until they reached a house where a man lived who had never been
suspected. He was arrested, corroborative evidence obtained, and he was
convicted by the Supreme Court of the state and executed.

“One night the safe of the Hicksville station on the Long Island
Railroad was blown open and the contents stolen. Three of the dogs were
brought up the next day a little before noon and put on the trail, about
twelve hours after the robbery had been committed.”

“It seems to me,” remarked Scout Master Hall, “that in all such cases
the hounds are very liable to blunder.”

“Why?”

“There must be a good many tracks about the premises; how can they
differentiate those of the thieves?”

“They took the scent without the least difficulty from the window
through which the robbers had entered and from the articles they had
handled. Tugging at their leashes, the hounds led their masters up the
railway track for an eighth of a mile, and then turned off across the
open country to the trolley track, which they followed to the next stop,
where the trail ended. Inquiries brought out the fact that the car had
stopped there about midnight,—something which it rarely did. Having
boarded it, the thieves made their escape, and that became one of the
few instances in which the skill of the bloodhounds came to naught.

“But the dogs were not allowed to rust for want of work. Long Island
gave them plenty to do, and continues to do so. When word came to
headquarters that the station at Warwick Street on the Atlantic Division
of the railway had been broken into and robbed, the dogs were put on the
job with the least possible delay. They found the trail without trouble,
and skurried down Atlantic Avenue to Logan Street, where the canines
halted for consultation, since they had to face new conditions.

“These wonderful brutes had been instant to detect that two thieves were
concerned in the crime. At the point named, the trail divided, and of
course the pursuers did the same. Our old friend Bob trotted along until
he reached No. 129, where he sat down, threw up his head and began
howling. Jim, the other dog, kept on to No. 219, where he joined in the
dismal chorus. The two were on the same side of the street, not very far
apart, and must have made a striking picture, as from their different
stations they serenaded some persons within. I can’t help wondering,”
added young Burton with a laugh, “whether the thieves noticed that
howling, and peeping out of the windows suspected what it meant.

“The trainers thought it possible a mistake had been made, and the dogs
were taken back to the station and given the scent again. They followed
it as unerringly as before, but oddly enough when they came to the
forking of the trail, Bob and Jim changed places. It was as if one had
proposed the shift to the other, who accepted it offhand.

“Doubting no longer, the officers arrested a schoolboy in each house,
whom the dogs identified. They confessed their guilt, and one was sent
to the Juvenile Asylum at Dobbs Ferry and the other to the Elmira
Reformatory.

“Now,” said Burton, whose enthusiasm was natural, “can any one
understand what it is that guides the bloodhound? Of course it is some
sort of emanation, but how subtle it must be, and how fine the sense
that can identify it among scores of others! In the incident I have just
related, the trail led through busy streets, where hundreds of men,
women and animals had trodden upon the invisible footprints, each with
his or her peculiar odor, which lingered for hours, and was as distinct
to the dogs as the call of a megaphone is to us. It is beyond my
comprehension.”

“It is beyond the comprehension of any one,” added Mr. Hall. “Bertillon
has proved that the thumb prints of no two persons are the same, and so
the scent of every one has a peculiarity of its own, but that doesn’t
lessen our wonder.

“There is no end to the proofs that have been given of their miraculous
power.”

“The dogs, I suppose, seem to enjoy tracking a criminal?”

“It is their delight. Although not credited with a high order of
intelligence, they know as well as their trainers what is expected of
them, and enter into it with as much gusto as you boys do your
vacation.”

“Is a criminal when overtaken by the dogs in danger of being hurt by
them?”

“It depends upon himself. If he continues to run and puts up a fight
they will attack him. If he quietly submits, they will mount guard and
hold him unharmed until their master comes up and takes the criminal
into custody. Then the dogs, seeing that that particular task is
finished, show by their behavior that they are as eager as ever for
their next job. But, for safety’s sake, they are generally held in
leash, master and dog keeping company.”

“How is it with Zip?”

“He always runs free, and will not harm a fugitive unless ordered to do
so. You understand that he and I are chums, and I have never used him to
chase a criminal. He roams through the country, and I keep him on edge
by such tests as to-day. He is so familiar with my scent that he will
pick it up instantly, without first sniffing articles I have worn. The
other day I played a mean trick on him. I left him at the Samoset House
on Mouse Island and started for Boothbay Harbor on the steamer
_Wiwurna_, but instead of getting off at the wharf, I slipped over the
gunwale at the rear, and Captain Free McKown took me on board his motor
boat _Edith_ which was lying near, and started back to Mouse Island with
me. Just before reaching the dock I met the _Norman II_ starting for
Boothbay and seated on his haunches at the prow was Zip. I was not
expecting to see him and I should have got out of sight, but he
discovered me and emitted the most dissatisfied howl I ever heard. It
said as plain as so many words, ‘You played me a low down trick, and I
don’t like it.’ He would have sprung overboard and tried to swim to me,
had I not forbidden him. Perforce he went on to Boothbay and came back
on the _Norman II_. I was in my room when he scratched on my door and I
admitted him. He was so mad that he refused to eat the meat prepared for
him, and pouted the rest of the day. I apologized and coaxed, and by
night had won back his favor and the cloud between us passed away.”



                    CHAPTER XVIII — A Match of Wits


It may be said that Zip had become the hero of the Boy Scout camp on
Gosling Lake. He belonged to the finest breed of bloodhounds in the
world and had given an illustration of that gift of his species which
approaches the miraculous. The stories told by his master of his other
exploits, and of what had been done by his kind on Long Island and
elsewhere, were absorbingly interesting. As young Burton remarked, his
study of this canine species had given him more knowledge than could
have been the case otherwise, and he naturally did most of the talking
on that cool August night in front of the bungalow. The bloodhound is
one of the most dignified of dogs, and resents anything in the nature of
familiarity by strangers. Alvin, Chester, Mike and several others tried
to make friends with Zip, but he showed them plainly that he preferred
to be left to himself.

“Ef it was meself that was as partic’lar as him to selict me
associates,” said Mike, “I should faal mighty lonely, as Jim O’Toole
remarked after he had been lost for six weeks in the woods. I’ll
remimber yer coolness, Zip,” he added, shaking his finger at the dog
nestling at the feet of Burton, “and to-morrer ye’ll faal so ashamed,
after ye try to match wits wid me, that ye’ll resign as a bloodhound and
become a poodle dog for the rist of yer days.”

“Don’t boast too soon,” said the guest; “I’ll put my stake on Zip every
time.”

“And so will I,” added Alvin; “if Mike was half as smart as he thinks he
is, we should all be fools compared with him.”

“_Some_ folks don’t naad the comparisin to show they’re lacking in the
first ilimints of sense,” retorted the Irish youth with fine sarcasm.

It was quite late when the boys retired for the night. No one would have
objected to the presence of Zip in the bungalow, but his master
preferred that he should spend the night outdoors, and he was waiting
there the next morning when Burton, the first to arise, came out to have
a romp with him before breakfast.

It was about eight o’clock that the whole party of Boy Scouts including
their guest gathered on the front porch, eagerly interested in the test
that was to be made of the skill of Zip the bloodhound in following a
scent. Every one was on the _qui vive_, for the novelty of the
proceeding appealed to them.

The arrangements, simple of themselves, had been made while the party
was at breakfast. Three trials were to take place, involving that number
of Boy Scouts. Each was to plunge into the woods and use every device
possible to hide his trail from the dog, which was to take up his task
an hour after the fugitive, as he may be called, left the bungalow.

The first runner was the diminutive Isaac Rothstein, the second, the
tall, long-limbed Hoke Butler, and the third Mike Murphy.

“There is only one condition,” said young Burton, when everything was
ready; “you must not make any use of the lake. Zip can track you only to
the edge.”

“The lake is the only water shut out?” remarked Hoke Butler inquiringly.
The guest hesitated a moment, suspecting some intended trick by the
questioner.

“That is all.”

“How about the Sheepscot River?” asked Mike.

“If an hour’s start will enable you to reach that stream ahead of Zip,
you win.”

Scout Master Hall turned to Isaac, who was standing in the middle of the
group on the porch. The bright-eyed youth nodded.

Burton spoke to the hound which, knowing what was expected of him, came
forward and sniffed around the Boy Scout’s feet and ankles. He did this
for only two or three seconds, when he backed off and took his place
beside his master.

“That means he is ready if you are.”

“I am to have an hour’s start?”

“More if you wish it.”

“That’s enough, and you are sure he will not attack me?”

“Have no fear of that, but I suggest that you do not tempt him.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked young Rothstein.

“Don’t tackle _him_ first; and when he comes up with you, as he is sure
to do, stop running. The Belgian dogs have a trick of dodging between
the legs of a fugitive and tripping him, but the bloodhound prefers to
drag him down.”

“In other words,” said Mike, “whin the dog gits ye down, and has his
paws on yer breast, and is hunting out the best place to begin his
feast, h’ist the flag of truce.”

Isaac, accompanied by Scout Master Hall and several of the boys, passed
into the bungalow, closing the door behind them, and went out of the
rear door which was also shut. The dog remained on the front porch with
his master and the other scouts, each party out of sight of the other. A
few minutes later, Isaac’s friends rejoined their comrades, Burton and
several of the Scouts glancing at their watches to note the time. Zip
lay at his owner’s feet, with his nose between his paws, as if intending
to pass the interval in sleep.

Before starting, Isaac was asked to explain his plan. He replied that it
was merely to do everything he could to puzzle his pursuer, and he was
confident of succeeding. It was useless to make any effort at the start,
and he walked away at his ordinary pace, quickly disappearing among the
trees.

The moment, however, he was out of sight he began the precautions he had
decided upon before starting. He turned at right angles, walked rapidly
for a hundred yards, then changed again to the same extent. Since the
shift each time was to the right, this made an exact reversal of the
course upon which he set out, and being kept for a little while took him
back to the bungalow, a rod or two from his starting point. No one saw
him, since every one was at the front. Thus he made a second get away,
which delayed him for a few minutes.

Isaac chuckled, for he was sure he had played a cute trick upon the dog,
which he believed would be puzzled thereby, and yet you and I can
readily see that there was “nothing in it” at all.

Again the youth dived in among the trees, or broke into a rapid run,
going straightaway, but taking as long steps as he could. Then he
zig-zagged, first to the right and left, describing irregular circles
which assuredly would have led him astray had he not caught glimpses of
the lake now and then, and thus knew the course he was following, which
in the main was toward the cabin of Uncle Elk.

He kept note of the time, and just before the hour expired made a long
sweeping curve to the right, which brought him back to the opposite end
of the bungalow from his starting point.

“Hurrah!” he called as he bounded up the steps among his friends;
“where’s Zip?”

“On your trail,” replied his owner.

“Don’t be too sure of that; I’ve given him the task of his life.”

“Undoubtedly the easiest one; now that you have returned,” said Burton,
“you may as well tell us everything you did.”

Isaac described his course from the first,—how he had actually started
twice, often shifting and finally making a big curve, still marked by
abrupt changes that were sure to baffle the keenest nosed bloodhound
that ever tracked a fugitive into the depths of the Everglades.

“You couldn’t have given Zip an easier task,” said Burton; “when he left
here a short time ago he circled about the clubhouse, and in three
minutes at the most took your scent.”

“But didn’t the two trails puzzle him?” asked the astonished Isaac.

“There was a difference of a few minutes in their making and he took the
freshest.”

This sounded so incredible that the guest qualified his assertion.

“Even if he accepted the older scent, it led him straight to the second.
All your circlings and doublings availed you nothing; you never
perplexed him for more than an instant.”

“How can you know that?”

“There’s your answer.”

Burton nodded toward the steps up which Isaac Rothstein had come some
time before. There was Zip, who without baying or making any kind of
outcry, galloped over the porch and directly to where the astounded lad
was sitting. Stepping a pace or two away, he looked up at the youth and
then walked over to his master and sat down beside his chair.

“You can translate his remarks,” said the latter. “Words could not be
plainer: ‘There’s the young man who thought he could fool me, but never
was he more mistaken.’”

Isaac joined in the clapping of hands. Zip preserved his dignity and
paid no heed to strangers. All he cared for was the good opinion of his
master and he knew he had that.

“Next!” called Burton, and the tall, stoop-shouldered Hoke Butler rose
to his feet.

“I don’t want any help,” he remarked with a wink toward Isaac Rothstein,
as Zip sniffed about his feet; “stay right where you are. Mr. Burton, a
half hour start will be enough for me.”

“As you please, but you may have two hours if you wish.”

“And we’ll save our bouquets till Zip throws up the sponge,” said Mike,
“or rather until I tries me hand with the intilligint canine.”

Instead of leaving the bungalow from the rear, Hoke walked deliberately
down the eastern steps, and sauntered off where he was in plain sight of
all until he entered the wood which approached to within a few rods of
the lake. He had given no one a hint of the scheme he had in mind, but
the feeling was general that whatever its nature it was original, and
more than one-half suspected he might outwit the remarkable dog. In this
list we must not include George Burton.

Now Hoke had learned that it was useless to try to throw Zip off the
scent by any such artifices as young Rothstein had used. As the guest
declared, the tracker had not bothered the dog to the slightest extent.
It therefore would be folly for the second fugitive to repeat the
experiment. He had no thought of doing so.

Mention has been made in the preceding pages of a brook which ran near
the home of Uncle Elk. After a devious course this emptied into Gosling
Lake at a point about halfway between the cabin and the bungalow. Hoke
rested his hopes upon this little stream.

“Burton barred the lake,” chuckled the youth, “but he didn’t say
anything of this stream, though I was awfully afraid he would. I guess
he doesn’t know about it,—yes, he does, too, for he had to cross it on
his way to the bungalow, but he forgot it. He can’t kick when he finds I
have made his dog sing small.”

Allured by the single purpose, Hoke pushed straight on, turning neither
to the right nor left. Recalling that he had shortened the time Zip was
to wait, he broke into a lope. His build made him the fleetest runner in
camp, and it did not take him long to reach the stream. He had crossed
it so many times that the lower portion was familiar, and he turned as
if to follow it to its source in the spring near Uncle Elk’s cabin.

He found it of varying width. It was so narrow where a regular path had
been made by the passing back and forth of the hermit and his friends,
that nothing in the nature of a bridge was used. A long step or a
moderate jump served.

Nowhere did the depth seem to be more than a few inches, except where a
pool or eddy occasionally appeared; but as Hoke Butler picked his way
along the bank, he was pleased to note here and there a considerable
expansion.

“That’s good!” he said to himself; “it will make it all the harder for
that dog.”

He now put his scheme into operation. Without removing his shoes, he
stepped into the brook, sinking halfway to his knees, and began walking
up the bed of the stream. The water was as cold as ice, and he gasped at
first, but became quickly accustomed to it. The bottom was so irregular
that he progressed slowly, and more than once narrowly escaped falling.
Here and there boulders protruded from the shore and he steadied himself
by resting a hand upon them as he labored past. Those that rose from the
bed of the stream itself and around which the current foamed, afforded
convenient stepping stones and were turned to such use.

“Of course that wouldn’t do on land,” he reflected, “for the dog would
catch the scent, but he can’t know I’m in the water, and will be hunting
elsewhere for my trail. He’ll be the most beautifully fooled dog in
Maine.”



                      CHAPTER XIX — The Final Test


“Mr. George Burton may think he has a mighty smart dog,” reflected Hoke
Butler, as he picked his way up the small stream, “and he isn’t any
slouch, but there are some things he can’t do, and one of them is to
follow a fellow’s trail through the water. Funny that when Burton shut
us off from the lake he forgot this brook. Since he didn’t mention it, I
have the right to use it.

“Now,” continued the logical young man, “while I keep to the water I
don’t leave any scent; I’m like the fawn which the hound can’t track
through the woods, and when Zip comes to the point where I stepped into
the water, he’ll be up against it—hello!”

He had come to a place where the brook expanded into a pool and more
than fifty feet across. Opposite to where he halted, the foaming current
tumbled over a series of boulders, and then spread out into the calm
expanse, whose outlet was the small stream which Hoke had ascended to
this point. The water lost a good deal of its limpidity, so that the
bottom could be traced only a little way from where he stood.

“That’s bully!” exclaimed the Scout, after brief reflection; “I’ll walk
across the pond—it can’t be deep—and step ashore on the other side,
Zip won’t come within a mile of the spot.”

He began wading, cautiously feeling each step before advancing. Since
the depth was unknown he could not be too careful, though confident that
the little lake was shallow in every part.

Half across the icy water reached to his knees. He pressed slowly on,
thrusting out a foot and making sure of a firm support.

“It ought now to grow more shallow,” he reflected as he felt his way
forward; “when I get to shore I may as well go back to the bungalow and
wait till Zip returns disgusted. I guess Burton can take a joke when
it’s on him, and he’ll laugh with the rest of us——”

At that instant, Hoke stepped into an unseen hole and dropped out of
sight. The sudden clasp of the icy element made him gasp, and when his
head popped up, he spat and struck out frantically for land. It was
remarkable that the only spot in the pond where the water was over his
head was barely two yards across, and beyond it the depth was so slight
that while swimming, one of Hoke’s feet struck bottom. He straightened
up, and strode to land, shivering in his dripping garments.

“Who’d have thought that? I didn’t dream of anything of the kind—where
did _you_ come from?”

This angry question was addressed to Zip, who thrust his muzzle against
Hoke’s knee, looked up and wagged his tail.

“I’d like to know what led you here, when you hadn’t any scent to
follow.”

“It was his nose,” remarked young Burton some time later, when Hoke
having exchanged his wet clothing told his story to the laughing group
on the piazza.

“I left no scent when I stepped into the brook,” replied Hoke.

“Therefore he knew you were in the brook; and set out to find where you
had left it.”

“He had to follow both sides in turn.”

“Not at all; from one bank he could detect, without the least
difficulty, the scent on the other side. He failed to take it up, and
therefore knew you had still kept to the stream. If you had not been in
sight when he reached the pond, he would have circled around it and
nothing could have prevented his discovering your trail within the next
few minutes. But he saw you feeling your way across, and the direction
in which your face was turned told him where you would come out,—so he
trotted around to welcome you when you reached land.”

“Why didn’t he jump in to help me out of the hole?”

“The bloodhound is content to leave that kind of work to his brother the
Newfoundland, and a few others. You are ready to admit, Hoke, that there
are bigger fools than Zip.”

“Yes,—and here sits one of them. Mike doesn’t seem to care to match
with him.”

“There’s where you’re mistook, as Bridget Lanigan said whin she picked
up a red hot poker thinking it was a ribbon she had dropped from her
hair. Come, boys.”

Mike sprang from his seat and addressed Alvin and Chester. There was
much chaffing as the three passed into the bungalow and out at the rear.
Zip had taken his place beside his master’s chair, where he sat with his
long tongue hanging far out, his mouth wide open, and his big ears
dangling below his massive jaws. He manifested no further interest in
what was going on around him, though he must have understood everything.

The agreement with Mike was that the dog should remain on the piazza
with his master and the other scouts until a full hour should have
passed. Then he was to be allowed to smell of a pair of shoes which the
fugitive left behind him. These belonged to Alvin Landon, who had
brought some extra footgear. They had been worn by Mike for several days
when he replaced them with his own, which he had on at the time he left
the bungalow. Thus far everything was plain and above board.

“I don’t know what Mike has up his sleeve,” remarked young Burton; “no
doubt it is something ingenious, for he and his two chums have been
whispering and chuckling a good deal together, but Zip will defeat him
as sure as the sun is shining in the sky. You have noticed that my dog
does very little baying,—or rather, Isaac and Hoke have noticed it.”

“But he gets there all the same,” laughed Rothstein; “I should like to
know what plan Mike has in mind.”

“We shall learn when he comes back and we hear his story.”

Prompt to the minute, Burton directed the attention of Zip to the pair
of shoes that had been placed on the ground at the foot of the steps.

“Find him,” was the command of his master, and the hound fairly bounded
out of sight around the corner of the building. He bayed once as he
picked up the scent, and then vanished like a bolt from a crossbow. The
crowd of Boy Scouts resumed their chat and awaited as patiently as they
could the issue of the novel test.

Meanwhile, Mike Murphy and his two chums set to work to carry out the
scheme which they had formulated, and which each one was confident must
result in the humiliation of the wonderful dog and his owner. With
abundance of time at their command they did not hasten, but walked with
a moderate pace to a point some two hundred yards from the bungalow.
They had straggled along side by side, without trying to make their
trail hard to follow, and now halted.

“This is far enough,” remarked Alvin, as the three peered around without
seeing any one.

His companions agreed. Then Alvin and Mike sat down on the ground and
exchanged shoes. Not only that, but the former stooped and the latter
mounted his back, his arms loosely around Alvin’s neck with his legs
projecting in front and supported by the crooked elbows of his carrier.
Then he resumed his walk with Chester trailing behind.

When the distance from the bungalow had been doubled, Alvin asked:

“How much do you weigh, Mike?”

“A hundred and forty-three pounds—when ye started.”

“I think it is about a ton now; how far do you expect me to carry you?”

“Not far,—say two or three miles.”

“I rather guess not; Chest, it’s time you took a turn.”

“Oh, wait awhile; you have only just begun.”

“This isn’t as much fun as I thought,” growled Alvin, resuming the task
that was fast becoming onerous.

“I’m enj’ying mesilf, as Jerry Dunn said whin he tackled three
p’licemen. When I git tired I’ll sing out, and we’ll make a change.”

Chester’s sense of justice led him soon after to help in shifting Mike
to his own shoulders, and the progress was resumed much the same as
before.

You will perceive the trick the boys were playing upon the bloodhound.
Mike had not only changed shoes with Alvin Landon, but his new ones were
not permitted to touch ground while they traveled a fourth of a mile
through the unbroken woods. Moreover, for this distance the leaves were
trampled by Mike’s shoes, but they were on the feet of Alvin.

The next step in this curious mixup was for Alvin, still wearing Mike’s
shoes, to diverge to the left, while Chester, with Mike on his
shoulders, went a considerable distance to the right, where he halted
and the Irish youth slipped to the ground and stood in the footgear of
Alvin, who was so far away that he could not be seen among the trees.

All this was prearranged, as was that which followed. Mike started off
alone, aiming to return to the bungalow by a long roundabout course,
while the other two came together at a new point, and made their way by
a more direct route to where their friends were awaiting them.

“I wonder that Zip doesn’t show up,” said Alvin, when they caught sight
of the building, and he looked back; “it is considerably past the hour,
and he ought to be in sight.”

“It can’t be he was sharp enough to detect our track.”

“Impossible!”

And yet that is precisely what he did do, and later, when all were
gathered on the piazza, including the dog, who arrived less than ten
minutes after the astounded Mike, George Burton complacently explained
how it had all come about.

“It was an ingenious scheme, Mike, and deserved success, but it did not
bother Zip for more than a few minutes. If a dog can smile, he must have
grinned when he penetrated your strategy. You made one mistake which was
natural.”

“It looks to me as if our greatest mistake was in thinking the pup
didn’t know more than ten times all of us together,” said Mike with a
sniff.

“That, too, was natural in the circumstances, but when you changed your
shoes with Alvin, then was the time you three should have parted
company. Instead, you stayed together, and Zip kept to the trail, for it
was the only one for him to follow. Had you separated, he probably would
have followed Alvin for awhile, but not long. He would have detected the
deception, run back to the point of separation and hit the right one.”

“But he virtually did that afterward,” remarked Scout Master Hall.

“A proof of the truth of what I said. No doubt Zip trailed Alvin for a
little way or until he discovered that the scent had changed and he was
on the wrong track. Then he turned back and hunted out the right one.”

“If that explanation is correct,” said the amazed Mr. Hall, “it proves
that the bloodhound was able to detect the emanations, or whatever it
was that exhaled from Alvin’s feet, and could be differentiated from
Mike’s even though it must have passed through the leather worn for days
by Mike.”

“Unbelievable as it sounds we have to admit it, but,” added Burton, “we
mustn’t lose sight of what doubtless was a contributing factor. It was
not Mike’s shoes alone that told the secret, but his clothes. He brushed
the trees and limbs when carried on the backs of his friends, and while
walking. It was that which was probably the surest clue to Zip, as it
was with Isaac and Hoke, and made it impossible for any one of the three
to mislead the dog.”



                  CHAPTER XX — Speed the Parting Guest


George Burton and his dog Zip had won golden opinions from the Boy
Scouts, who urged their visitor to spend several days with them, but he
declined, saying he would set out on his return to Mouse Island directly
after dinner, which was eaten at one o’clock. Truth to tell his tastes
differed from those of his new friends. He cared little or nothing for
bird lore, or the study of trees, or roughing it in the woods. But he
was an athlete, who could outrun any one of the Boy Scouts and last
longer on a tramp. He was putting himself through a course of training,
with a view of making the football team when he should enter Princeton
University, for which he had already matriculated. His sole companion on
his long runs or the hours devoted to hardening his muscles was Zip,
between whom and himself, as had been shown, there was a strong
affection.

Accordingly, while the afternoon was quite young, Burton shook hands
with all his friends, promising soon to see them again, and stepped into
one of the canoes moored in front of the bungalow. He sat on the bottom
with Zip between his knees, while Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes
manipulated the paddles. Mike Murphy sat in front of Burton and assumed
the airs of a captain. Burton had intended to pass around the eastern
end of the lake, and over the rough trace to the highway, and so on to
Boothbay and Mouse Island, thus reversing this tramp of the day before.
Considerable of this long course could be saved by using the boat.

“I don’t see how you can reach Mouse Island before night,” remarked
Alvin as he slowly swung his paddle.

“I can’t.”

“Then why not stay with us and make your start in the morning?”

“What’s the difference? The weather is clear and cool, and the moon is
near its full. I can reach Boothbay Harbor some time in the evening and
stay there over night, and hire a launch to take me to Mouse. Or if I
feel lazy, I can find accommodations at Bovil, which you know is a
little village between that frightful road over which your supply team
labors and Boothbay. Zip and I don’t mind a little thing like that.”

“Hello!” exclaimed Chester, “are we never to be rid of those pests?”

On the shore of the lake to their right, two men were seen standing with
their attention fixed upon the canoe and its occupants. The distance was
so slight that the three boys instantly recognized them as their old
acquaintances,—Buzby Biggs and Saxy Hutt. It would have been thought
that after their recent experience they would have lost no time in
getting out of the neighborhood, but it will be remembered that when
they leaped in a panic from the wagon of our old friend Jake, instead of
running away from Gosling Lake, they headed toward it.

Zip was quick to identify the vagrants. Looking toward them he emitted a
throaty growl.

“He hates tramps so, that I have to restrain him when we meet them.”

“And why do ye reshtrain him?” asked Mike from his place in the boat.
“Why don’t ye gratify his appetite for such spalpeens, though I’m
thinking he runs risk of being p’isoned?”

“So long as the tramps keep out of mischief I am willing to leave them
alone.”

“But that is what they don’t do; they seem to have a spite against
Doctor Spellman and his family.”

“Against Doctor Spellman!” exclaimed Burton; “you don’t mean Doctor
Wilson Spellman?”

“That’s his name.”

“Where is he?”

Alvin lifted his paddle and pointed a little away ahead and to the
right.

“He has put up one of those patent houses among the trees, where you
can’t see it from the lake, though we observe the smoke from his fire
now and then. There he and his wife and little girl Ruth are spending
several weeks in the most sensible manner possible.”

“Why, he’s my uncle,” added the surprised and delighted Burton; “I knew
he had gone on an outing in Maine, but thought it was at the Rangely
Lakes. Now, as the expression goes, isn’t that ‘funny’?”

“You will like to call on him?”

“Most certainly; I’m very fond of him, and of Aunt Susie and Ruth.”

The boat was sheered toward land at a point where the canoe of the
physician was seen drawn up the bank. The two tramps stood so motionless
and fixed in their attention that they suggested a couple of scarecrows.
Mike turned his head and grinned.

“Head the boat toward them, as if ye intinded to call and lave yer
cards.”

The bow was whirled further around, and pointed straight for the
vagrants. Zip was tremulous with eager expectation. Resting his paws on
the gunwales, he twitched his ears and growled. One good look at the
canine was enough for the men. They turned about and dived among the
trees as terrified as when the bullets of Doctor Spellman’s revolver
whistled about their ears.

“Howld on!” shouted Mike, “till we can talk politics wid ye, and thry to
agraa as to whether the Bool Moose ought to be the next President.”

But the scamps paid no heed, and Mike looked commiserately at the dog.

“’Tis a cruelty thus to disappint ye, Zip, as me dad said whin he walked
five miles to have a shindy with Terence Googhagan, and found he’d been
drowned; but ye may git a chance at ’im later on.”

A few minutes afterward the nose of the canoe slid up the bank, and the
boys stepped out. It being early in the afternoon, Doctor Spellman was
seated in his camp chair in front of his house, smoking a cigar and
looking over the _Boston Globe_. His wife, having set things to rights,
had come forward to join him, with Ruth directly behind her.

The meeting was a pleasing one. When Burton remarked that he had time
for only a call, the doctor and his family put so emphatic a veto upon
it, that he was obliged to yield and agreed to remain until morning.

After mutual inquiries and answers had been made, Burton told of the
forenoon’s test of Zip’s marvelous power of scent. The story was so
remarkable that even Sunbeam, as she sat on Burton’s knee, silently
listened. The two were old friends. The little girl was the only one
besides his master whom the hound would allow to become familiar with
him.

“I wish I had a dog like him,” remarked the doctor.

“That is impossible, for there isn’t another like him,” replied the
owner.

“I have been so annoyed by a couple of tramps that I should like to get
Zip on their track and have him drive them out of the neighborhood.”

Alvin and Chester had told the guest of the doings of the nuisances, and
there was laughter at their panic when, looking over the side of the
canoe, they saw the frightful head of the sea serpent, apparently in the
act of rising up to crush the boat or them in its jaws.

“I can’t understand why they persist in staying in these parts, after
the hints they have received,” said the doctor.

“Can they have any special design in view?” asked Burton.

“I have thought of that, but can’t imagine what it is. All such pests
are thieves, but that is the worst that can be said of them. There is
nothing in my home that is specially tempting; they know I have a gun
and a revolver,—and that I am quite ready to use it if they give good
cause. Yet when I kill a man,” added the doctor with a grim smile, “I
prefer to put him out of the way in my professional capacity. There are
no unpleasant consequences to myself.”

“Couldn’t one of the spalpeens be ill?” suggested Mike. “He may be
trying to screw up his courage to the p’int of asking ye for a
prescription.”

“He will find me ready, and I’ll charge him no fee.”

At this moment, the physician supplemented his words by a remark which,
in the light of after events, was singular to the last degree.

“George, I have arranged a system of signals with my young friends
here.”

“I don’t catch your meaning.”

“When young Jack Crandall broke his leg some time ago, there was no
telling what complications would follow. It was therefore agreed that in
case I was needed in a hurry, some of the Boy Scouts should fire one of
their revolvers several times in quick succession. Then I would paddle
to the bungalow as fast as I could.”

“Could you count upon hearing the reports?”

“Yes,—as a rule; there is nothing to obstruct the sound on the water,
unless it might be a strong wind, and as to that we shall have to take
chances. My signal may vary.”

“_Your_ signal,” repeated the astonished nephew; “what need can you have
for anything of the kind?”

“Probably not any, and yet there’s no certainty that I shall not. I
brought some fireworks for the amusement of Stubby. Among them are a
dozen sky rockets. If we should find ourselves in need of help at night,
three rockets sent up in the sky will notify the Boy Scouts, who I know
will make all haste hither, and a score of such young fellows form a
force that even a half dozen men dare not despise. If I need them after
they have retired I can use my rifle or revolver the same as they would
use their weapon.”

“Suppose the emergency should happen in the daytime?”

“We have our firearms to appeal to; with them we can duplicate the call
of the Boy Scouts.”

“I suppose the system is the best that can be devised,” said Burton,
“and yet it strikes me it is as likely to fail as to succeed.”

“Why?”

“For your rockets to serve, some of the boys must see them,—and what
certainty is there that they will do so?”

“Of course there’s the possibility that they may not,—but until Scout
Master Hall and his charges retire for the night, all or a majority of
them are on the piazza and some of them would be certain to observe the
rockets as they streamed upward, leaving a trail of fire behind them.”

“But why talk of _your_ needing _our_ help?” asked Alvin; “it strikes me
as absurd, though the reverse of the rule is sensible.”

“I may as well confess that I feel uneasy over the persistent hovering
of those tramps in the neighborhood. I fear to leave wife or Ruth alone,
and I never do so even for a short time without making sure my revolver
is loaded and at her instant command.”

“When you come to the bungalow, you can bring Sunbeam and her mother
with you,” said Chester Haynes, “as you have generally done.”

“That is my rule, but it leaves the house without the slightest
protection, and those tramps, if they wish, can work their own sweet
will.”

“You did not visit us to-day, doctor.”

“Crandall is getting on so well there’s no need; he moves about so
readily on those crutches you fellows presented him that his rapid
recovery is assured. If to-morrow is fair, you may expect us over to
dinner.”

Alvin and Chester felt that this visit really belonged to young
Burton,—so, after remaining a brief while longer, the three bade them
all good-bye and paddled back to the bungalow, which they reached in the
latter part of the afternoon.



                      CHAPTER XXI — Call For Help


On the evening of one Thursday in August, Scout Master Hall and the
members of the three patrols composing the troop of Boy Scouts were
lounging on the piazza of the bungalow or clubhouse which stands on the
shore of Gosling Lake in Southern Maine. It was the day succeeding the
departure of George Burton and his bloodhound Zip.

The hours had been busy ones for our young friends. There had been
fishing, strolls through the woods, investigation of the different kinds
of trees, the study of birds, besides a “deer hunt.” I hasten to say
that this was not a real hunt, a dummy being used with bows and arrows
as weapons. This is one of the most popular forms of amusements among
Boy Scouts, who enjoy it to the full.

So when the youths came back to headquarters, they brought keen
appetites, overflowing spirits and healthy tired bodies. The gathering
on the piazza was a pleasing reunion of all the members. There were
experiences to be told, good natured chaffing, the laying of plans for
the morrow, and now and then Mike Murphy, in answer to the unanimous
demand, sang for them. As I have already said, this remarkable youth,
despite his unrestrainable waggery, would never sing anything of a
frivolous or “rag time” nature, but inclined to sentimental or religious
themes. When that marvelous voice of his, like the notes of a
Stradivarius violin in the hands of Ole Bull, or Spohr, or Kubelik, was
wafted across the placid lake, it was easy to believe the story of the
sirens of Lorelei.

Thus the party was grouped on the night I have named, and the hum and
chatter of conversation was at its height, when Scout Master Hall
exclaimed:

“Look!”

Every voice was instantly hushed. In the gloom the leader’s arm which he
had instinctively extended could not be seen, but naturally all who were
not already looking out upon the water did so. Every one was in time to
see a swift ascending rocket turn and break into a shower of sparks as
it dived downward again.

It was still in sight when a second whirred upward for two hundred feet
or more, leaving a streaming, dazzling trail as it circled over,
exploded and the stick plunged downward in the darkness.

Every one held his breath. Most of them rose and stared. It might be
that the physician was sending up the rockets to amuse his daughter. If
there were only two, they would mean nothing more; if there was
another——

“There it is!” gasped Scout Master Hall; “something is wrong at Doctor
Spellman’s!”

It was the signal which had been agreed upon in the event of their
friend finding himself in urgent need of help.

It seemed as if several minutes passed before, through the tomb-like
hush, stole a faint popping sound,—the report of the explosion ending
its journey across the lake.

The dull, almost inaudible call acted as if it were a bugle blast. The
whole party dashed off the porch and at headlong speed to the two canoes
drawn upon the beach. Even Jack Crandall swung to the steps, and debated
a moment whether he should not join the party of rescue, but his common
sense told him he would be only a hindrance, and he reluctantly stayed
behind and watched the shadowy forms of his friends as shown in the star
gleam, the moon not yet having risen.

“He has called for us,” said Scout Master Hall, “and there isn’t a
minute to lose!”

Standing on the edge of the lake he gave his commands as coolly as an
officer marshaling his forces for a charge. In a twinkling the two boats
were afloat in the deep water which came close to the bank.

“There are twenty-one of us; each canoe will carry no more than eight;
the other five must hurry along the shore to the doctor’s house.”

The lads stood breathless, waiting for the leader to name those who must
walk. He promptly did so:

“Isaac Rothstein, Hoke Butler, Gerald Hume, Arthur Mitchell, Gordon
Calhoun.”

It was a keen disappointment to the five, but there was not a murmur.

“Come on, boys,” called Hoke; “if we do our best we shall not be far
behind them.”

His long legs carried him at a pace that made it hard for the others to
equal. In Indian file the procession, with him in the lead, loped along
the beach and was speedily swallowed up in the obscurity.

The crews of the canoes worked like beavers. In a twinkling the boys had
adjusted themselves and in each boat the two who were handiest with the
paddles plyed them vigorously. Scout Master Hall was seated in the stern
of one, among his companions being Mike Murphy, Alvin Landon and Chester
Haynes.

At the moment the two craft put out from shore, Mike Murphy repeated the
exclamation—

“Look!”

The startling performance of a few minutes before was repeated. One,
two, three rockets streamed upward in the heavens, curved over, exploded
and plunged downward among the trees.

“What can be the trouble?” was the question which everyone of the
rescuers asked himself, as the oarsmen threw their energies into the
task, and sent the heavily-laden craft with the utmost speed across the
lake toward the home of their friend.

Alvin and Chester swung the paddles in their canoe, which speedily
assumed a slight lead. There was little or no conversation, but each Boy
Scout was busy with his thoughts, and burning with curiosity to learn
the cause of the strange night call across the lake. Since every one
knew of the doings of the two tramps, who had been lurking in the
vicinity for several days and had been seen the previous afternoon, it
was natural that suspicion should turn to them.

And yet it was hard to imagine a situation in which so plucky a man as
Doctor Spellman, who owned a revolver and a repeating rifle, would have
any fear of two unarmed vagrants. Impulsive by nature, and already
resentful toward them, he would stand no nonsense at their hands.

And for a third time were three signal rockets sent streaming aloft,
before the canoes had passed half the distance between the bungalow and
the home of the physician. The urgency of the summons filled all with
anguish. Mike and the Patrol Leader offered to relieve Alvin and Chester
with the paddles, but they would not listen and bent resolutely to their
task. The other canoe had pulled up alongside, and the two kept abreast
with barely ten feet separating them.

The cause of the call of distress was revealed with startling suddenness
and before the craft reached land. Through the gloom, Mike Murphy caught
the vague outlines of a man and woman on the beach, and he shouted:

“What’s the matter, docther?”

The reply of itself was a partial answer:

“Is Ruth at the bungalow?”

“She hasn’t been there since ye brought her over the other day.”

“Then heaven save us! she is lost.”

It was the mother who uttered this wail, as she convulsively clasped her
hands and walked distractedly to and fro.

The boys leaped out of the boats and gathered round the grief-smitten
couple.

“Tell us what this means,” said Scout Master Hall, as he sympathetically
clasped the hand of the physician, who spoke with rare self-command,
though his wife began sobbing as if her heart was broken:

“We did not miss her until about an hour ago; I sat in front of the
house smoking and talking with wife, when she remarked that it was time
Ruth was in bed. I called to her, but there was no answer. Thinking she
had fallen asleep inside, I lighted a match and looked around, wife
joining me. A brief search showed she was not there. We hurried outside,
and I shouted again.

“By that time we were in an agony of distress and wife was sure
something dreadful had happened to her. As soon as we could command our
wits we found that neither of us had seen her for nearly two hours and
the thought struck us both that she had wandered off to the bungalow. If
she had kept along the beach and walked steadily she would have had time
to reach you, but there are so many other awful chances that I dared not
trust to that, so I appealed to you.”

“And you did right; there is nothing that is possible for us to do that
we will not do,” was the response of Scout Master Hall.

“She may still be wandering along the beach on her way to the bungalow.”

“Five of our boys are hurrying over the same course to this point, and
will be sure to meet and bring her home.”

“Unless she has strayed off in the woods and been lost.”

“Let us hope that such is the fact, for then she will be safe and suffer
only slight inconveniences.”

“Oh, it is worse than that,” moaned the mother, still pacing to and fro
and wringing her hands; “she has fallen into the lake and been drowned.”

“I cannot believe that,” said the Scout Master, following the remark
with such tactful assurances that the mother regained a part of her
self-command, to the extent even of feeling a faint hope that all was
well with her child.

The conduct of the youths was admirable. When they spoke it was in
whispers and undertones, but every heart was filled with the sincerest
pity, and all were eager to do everything they could for the smitten
parents.

The Boy Scout does not content himself with words: his mission is to do
a good turn, and where every minute was beyond value none was thrown
away.

Scout Master Hall assumed charge. He directed six of the boys to take
the back trail, as it might be called,—that is, around the eastern end
of the lake to the bungalow. This would insure their meeting Hoke Butler
and his companions, who in turn would meet the missing child if she had
wandered over the same route. The six to whom this task was entrusted
were under the charge of Mike Murphy.

The same number of boys were ordered to follow the opposite
direction,—that is, to skirt the lake to the westward,—each of the two
searching parties to keep it up until they came together at the
bungalow. This arrangement left four Boy Scouts, including Mr. Hall and
not mentioning the father and mother. The leader proposed that he, one
of the lads and the parents should separate, plunge into the woods and
pursue the hunt independently of one another. Since for a time the
search must be a blind one this plan was as good as any that could be
suggested.

The Scout Master took Alvin and Chester aside.

“I have selected you for a special work,” he said. “You are fleet of
foot, cool-headed and have good judgment. The doctor has made no
reference to those tramps, and yet I know he suspects they have stolen
Ruth, and intend to hold her for ransom. I believe it is either that, or
she has wandered off and fallen asleep in the woods,—with the
possibility that she is drowned.

“I want you to make your way as quickly as you can to the little town of
Bovil, where I think there is a telephone. If the tramps have kidnapped
the Sunbeam, they will try to get out of the neighborhood. Telephone to
the officers at Boothbay Harbor and other points, and get word to Burton
at Mouse Island as soon as possible, and ask him to make all haste here
with Zip. He’ll do it.”



                   CHAPTER XXII — Groping In the Dark


Five distinct parties were engaged in searching for the missing child,
Ruth Spellman. Hoke Butler and his companions had left the bungalow on
foot, because there was not room in the two canoes for them. Knowing
nothing of the cause of the doctor’s appeal for help, they made no hunt
until, when the greater part of the distance was passed, they met Mike
Murphy and his friends. These had advanced at a slower pace, for they
were hunting for that which they dreaded to find, and they meant to
neglect nothing.

When the two parties came together, a brief explanation made everything
clear. Inasmuch as the larger part of the beach to the eastward had not
been examined, it was agreed that the coalesced companies should return
at a slower pace to the bungalow, and then, if nothing resulted, reverse
and push the search all the way to the house of Doctor Spellman. This
would be covering the ground twice, and it would be done effectively.

“Do you think she has been drowned?” asked Hoke of Mike.

“I do not, for it’s unraisinable that she should be. The Sunbeam is
afeard of the water and would not step into it. If there was a dock or a
pile of rocks where she could have fell off, she might have done the
same, but there’s nothing of the kind, and the little one couldn’t have
slipped into the lake while walking along the shore.”

It may be said that this theory was accepted by every one except the
parents and they were inclined toward it. It was their anguish of
anxiety which warped their reasoning and made them fear at times that
that precious form was drifting in the embrace of the chilling waters,
and would never again respond to their loving caresses.

While scrutinizing every foot of the way, each member of the two parties
scanned the moonlit lake, as far as the vision extended, urged by a
fearful fascination that scattered cold reasoning to the winds.

Suddenly Hoke Butler, who was slightly in the lead, stopped short,
pointed out on the water and asked in a startled undertone:

“Isn’t something floating out there?”

All grouped about the speaker and peered in the direction he indicated.

“Ye’re right,” whispered Mike, swallowing the lump in his throat; “can
it be Sunbeam?”

The surface of the lake was as placid as a millpond. Barely a hundred
feet from shore a motionless object was seen floating, but it was so low
that for a time it could not be identified.

“I’m thinking,” added Mike, “that she would not float for a day or two,
but bide ye here till I swim out and make sartin.”

He began hastily disrobing, but before he was ready for the plunge Hoke
exclaimed:

“It’s the branch of a tree.”

Now that the assertion was made, all saw that it was true. The identity
of a limb with its foliage was so evident that they wondered how even a
momentary mistake had occurred. The advance was resumed, and in the
course of the following hour the boys reached the bungalow, where Jack
Crandall was seated on the piazza with his crutch leaning beside him. It
need not be said that he was shocked beyond expression by the news.

“How I wish I were able to join in the search,” he lamented, “but I can
only sit here and wait and pray for you.”

“Do you think it likely she has been drowned?” Hoke asked.

“No; and yet it is possible. She may have slipped while walking on the
edge and a child like her is so helpless that it would be all over in a
minute or so. Keep up your hunt until she is found and don’t forget to
scan every part of the lake you can see.”

Jack made no reference to Biggs and Hutt, the tramps, for he knew very
little about them. Mike, like his intimate friends, had them continually
in mind, but the same strange dread that for a time restrained them,
held his lips mute. He did not want to believe they had had any hand in
Sunbeam’s disappearance, and yet the conviction was growing upon him
that they had kidnapped and would hold her for ransom.

“And if the same proves true,” he muttered with the old glint in his
eye, “it’s mesilf and the rest of the byes that will do the biggest kind
of a good turn consarning the spalpeens.”

For the second time the beach leading from the bungalow eastward to the
temporary home of Doctor Spellman was traversed, and the search if
possible was made more rigid than before. With so many at work, a number
tramped through the woods bordering on the open space, though that
seemed useless since in the gloom their eyes were of little help. They
did not forget to call the name of the lost one, Mike taking upon
himself this duty. He used her right name as well as those by which he
and other friends knew her, and his clear voice penetrated so far into
the still arches that it was heard by other searchers who, though they
shouted as loud, were not audible to him and his companions.

Gradually they approached the desolate home, arriving there about
midnight. They had not come upon the slightest clue and no one was found
in the house, nor was any light burning. All were pretty tired, for the
tramp was a long one, but they were as ardent as ever to do their utmost
to find the missing child.

“There’s no use in going back to the bungalow,” said Mike, as the group
gathered in the little clearing; “it strikes me we may as well turn into
the woods.”

It must have been about this time that the searching party which had
gone to the westward completed the circumvallation and joined Jack
Crandall seated on the piazza,—listening, watching and praying that all
might be well with the lost child. These boys had been as painstaking
and thorough as Mike and his friends, and were equally unsuccessful. Not
the faintest light upon the mystery had come to them.

“I don’t think it possible she took that direction, unless it may have
been for a short distance, for there was nothing to attract her thither.
In visiting us she was always brought across the lake, though I heard
her father say they had followed the beach once or twice. The distance
is less.”

“We fellows can’t go to bed,” said Colgate Craig, “until the little one
is found.”

“You have had a long tramp and must be pretty tired.”

“That has nothing to do with it,” said Robert Snow sturdily; “we’ll keep
it up all night, if there’s the least chance of it doing any good.”

“The trouble is,” said Jack, who had learned the particulars of what had
been done from Mike Murphy, “Mr. Hall has made no plans beyond what all
of you were to do first. You with Mike’s party have gone round the lake,
and a part of the distance—the most promising as it seems to me—has
been covered twice.”

“Do you think there is any use of our retracing our steps?”

“Not the slightest; wherever Ruth may be found, it will not be in that
direction.”

“Where do you advise us to go?”

“Follow Mike’s party; that will be the third time the ground has been
traversed.”

“What do you think has become of Sunbeam, as Mike calls her?”

“It seems to me she has strayed only a little way from home, grown
weary, sat down to rest and fallen asleep.”

The counsel of Jack Crandall was followed. Thus the major part of the
searchers were soon pushing through the woods in the neighborhood of
Doctor Spellman’s home. It will be recalled that he, his wife and Scout
Master Hall, set about this task upon the first breaking up of the Boy
Scouts to prosecute their separate lines of work. Although they parted
company directly after leaving the others, the three kept in touch with
one another, and after a time husband and wife joined, with Mr. Hall
just far enough away to be invisible.

The Scout Master left it to the parents of Ruth to call to her. They did
this at brief intervals, and they did not listen more intently for the
reply which came not than did he. When an hour had been used without
result, the three came together in a small open space lighted by the
moon.

The mother, although distressed beyond description, was become more
composed.

“What do you think, Mr. Hall?” she wearily asked.

“I judge that, like all healthy children, Ruth is a sound sleeper. What
more likely than that when worn out, she has lain down on the leaves
like another Babe in the Wood, and will not open her eyes until morning?
Am I not right, Doctor?”

“Undoubtedly, provided she has been permitted to do as you say.”

“I do not understand you.”

“What is the use of our keeping silent, when the same fear is in all our
hearts?”

“I still fail to catch your meaning.”

“Wife, and you, and I believe she has been kidnapped by those tramps.”

The mother gave a gasp and low moan. Covering her face with her hands,
she sobbed:

“That’s what I have feared from the first.”

“I cannot deny that the dread has been with me,” said the Scout Master,
“yet I have hoped and still hope we are mistaken.”

“I see no room for such hope.”

“But, even if so, it should be an immeasurable relief. It means that she
has not fallen into the lake, nor is she in danger from a night’s
exposure.”

“But think of her being in the power of those hideous creatures,” wailed
the mother.

“If they have stolen her it is for the purpose of ransom. They will take
the utmost care that not the slightest harm befalls her, since it would
defeat their scheme.”

“And this is the twentieth century!” was the bitter exclamation of the
physician. “If the probability occurred to you and me, why did we not
take steps to baffle them instead of wasting our time in groping through
the darkness of the woods?”

“I did do so.”

“Now it is I who do not understand.”

“Two of the fleetest of the Boy Scouts,—Alvin Landon and Chester
Haynes,—are at this moment making all haste to the village of Bovil, on
the road to Boothbay Harbor. If they can reach a telephone, they will
communicate with officers in the surrounding towns and villages, asking
for the arrest of the tramps on sight. Those boys will not waste a
minute.”

“Thank heaven for that.”

“Furthermore, at the earliest moment they will ’phone your nephew, and
you need not be told that he and his dog Zip will be equally quick in
getting on the job.”

“_That_ gives me more hope than anything that has happened since my
child disappeared,” was the declaration of Doctor Spellman, whose wife
shared in the pleasurable thrill.



                  CHAPTER XXIII — A Fortunate Meeting


Scout Master Hall was right when he said Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes
would not waste a minute in carrying out the task he had given them.
They were determined to secure the arrest of the men who it was believed
had kidnapped the little daughter of Doctor Spellman, before they could
leave that section. In addition, they aimed to get the help of George
Burton and his bloodhound.

This last was far more important than the other, and would insure the
discovery of the fate of the child. If Zip was allowed to take the scent
within twenty-four hours after she left home—and possibly a little
later—he would never lose it.

It was four miles over the rough broken trace to the highway, and then
two more of smoother traveling would bring them to the straggling town
of Bovil, where they hoped to secure telephonic communication with
Boothbay Harbor and other near by towns. If that could be done, they
could reach Samoset Hotel, on Mouse Island, by the same means. It would
be like young Burton to start at once. He could be taken quickly across
to Boothbay in a motor-boat, where he knew the right course to follow,
since he had been over it with Zip. He would have to ascend the
Sheepscot and walk three miles to reach Bovil, but if a midnight start
was made, he ought to reach the village at daylight and soon after.

It was between eleven and twelve o’clock that Alvin and Chester came in
sight of the score of buildings which make up the village of Bovil. When
they passed through it on their way to Gosling Lake, they paid so slight
attention that they could not recall whether it had an inn. Vastly to
their delight, however, they came upon the old-fashioned structure near
the center of the place, and it was the only one in which a light was
burning.

“That’s luck,” said Alvin, as the two ascended the steps, pushed open
the door and entered the roomy office, with its unpainted desk, broad
fireplace where no wood was burning, a bench without any back, several
rickety chairs, and showy posters on the walls for the information of
travelers by boat or rail.

Staring around the room, by the dim light of the kerosene lamp suspended
from the middle of the ceiling, the youths at first saw no person, but
heavy breathing directed attention to a settee at the other side, upon
which a young man was stretched at full length, with his coat doubled
under him for a pillow. He was the model watchman, who was aroused only
by vigorous shaking. By and by he glumly assumed a sitting posture, and
blinked at the disturbers.

“What do you want?” he demanded sourly.

“Can you get us a room?”

“’Spose so. Why didn’t you come earlier?”

“Because we came later,” replied Chester; “have you got a telephone in
the house?”

“’Course we have,—what of it?”

“We want to use it at once to call up Boothbay Harbor.”

“This ain’t no time to bother with such things; you’ll have to wait till
morning. What bus’ness had you to wake me up?”

“See here,” said Alvin, who was in no mood for trifling, “we have come a
good many miles to reach a telephone; this is a case of life and death;
we haven’t a minute to spare.”

“Don’t make no difference; you’ll have to wait till to-morrer morning.”

“Give me the number of the Chief of police at Boothbay.”

As Alvin made the peremptory request, he slipped two silver half dollars
into the bony hand of the young man. This effected the purpose intended.
He became wide awake on the instant, stepped briskly to the desk, caught
up the receiver of the instrument, asked and answered several questions,
and after a brief wait, nodded to Alvin, who with Chester stood at his
elbow.

“Here you are,” he said, passing the receiver to the former; “Art
Spofford is the chief of police at Boothbay, and he’s at t’other end of
the wire.”

Artemus Spofford, or “Art” as he is called by every one, was courteous,
and replied that no tramps had been seen in town for several weeks, but
he and his officers would be on the alert and arrest and hold any
vagrants answering the description. Not only that, but he volunteered to
communicate with the neighboring towns and see that every possible
precaution was taken.

“Leave it to me,” he added; “don’t mix in; I can attend to it better
than you; how shall I reach you, if we scoop in the gentlemen?”

It was agreed that Art should ’phone to Bovil, where some of the Boy
Scouts would call at intervals of a few hours to get any message left
for them. This arrangement was the most convenient for all concerned.

It took some trying minutes for Alvin to get Hotel Samoset on Mouse
Island. It looked as if Everett Ham, the night clerk, was also asleep at
his post, but I must not do the faithful young man that injustice. He
responded after a time, and an understanding was speedily reached.

“Is George Burton staying at your hotel?”

“Yes; he has been here for a week.”

“Please call him to the ’phone as quickly as you can; this is of the
utmost importance; don’t delay for a moment.”

“Hold the wire.”

With his ear to the receiver, Alvin Landon plainly heard by means of the
marvelous invention the hurrying footfalls of Clerk Ham as he dashed out
of the office, along the hall and upstairs to rouse Burton. Sooner than
was expected he was back at the instrument.

“Hello! are you there?” he called.

“Yes; where is Burton?”

“He isn’t in the hotel.”

The boys were dumfounded for the moment.

“You are sure of that?”

“Yes; I’ve been to his room; he isn’t there; then I remembered he went
off two days ago and hasn’t been back since.”

“Didn’t he leave any word as to where he was going?”

“He never does; he and that dog of his are on the tramp all the time.”

“Then you can’t help me to locate him?”

“I wish I could; there’s only two things he’s fond of,—that is scouting
through the country with that dog of his, and going to clambakes. Capt.
Free McKown says he’s looney on clambakes and eats as much as any two
men.”

“Well, Mr. Ham, will you be good enough to give a message to Burton the
first minute you see him?”

“I surely will.”

“Tell him to make all haste to his uncle on Gosling Lake—Got that? That
their little girl is lost, and her parents are distracted with
grief—Get that? And they beg him to come as quickly as he can—Get
that?”

Ham repeated the substance of the words, and then rang off.

“We may as well go to bed,” said Chester to the clerk, who had sauntered
back to the settee and sat down. He lighted a tallow candle and led them
upstairs to a roomy apartment, where he bade them good night, pausing at
the door long enough to say:

“There’s only one other chap staying with us; he’s at t’other end of the
hall. Do you want me to call you in the morning?”

“No; we shall wake early.”

“That’s a bad setback,” said Chester dejectedly, as the two began
preparing for bed; “we never dreamed that Burton would be away from
Mouse Island.”

“And with not the remotest idea of where to look for him. He left his
uncle’s house this forenoon, and may be miles inland, without our being
able to get track of him for a week. I can’t help feeling that Zip is
the only one that can solve the puzzle, and it won’t take him long to do
so.”

“No one who knows the dog can doubt that. If Sunbeam has managed to fall
into the lake, he will lead us to the spot. If those scamps have stolen
her, she will be found within an hour or two,—and then may the Lord
have mercy on them!”

“Chest, do you believe they are mixed up in this business?”

“I can’t help suspecting it.”

“I don’t, even though their hanging about Doctor Spellman’s home has a
bad look. Those kidnappings are done in the cities,—not in the open
country like this; and then think for a moment of the conditions. For
two tousled bums to steal a little girl, and compel her father to pay a
ransom for her,—here in the Maine woods, within a few miles of Boothbay
Harbor,—why the thing is preposterous.”

“Has it occurred to you that they may be connected with others? They may
be agents of the Mafia or Camorra or some regularly organized gang of
kidnappers.”

This was new to Alvin, and disturbed him painfully. What was improbable
about it? The persistency of Biggs and Hutt in prowling about the lake
suggested a strong motive,—such as that of earning a big reward through
the commission of some such crime as indicated.

“I tell you, Chest, none of us has gone the right way about this
business. Suppose Chief Spofford or some other officer succeeds in
arresting the two tramps, what good will it do? They are not such fools
as to walk into a town with a little girl in their charge. They would be
called to account on sight without any request from her friends. As we
agreed, we must pin our faith on the bloodhound, and we may not find him
for days, when the trail will be so cold that even he cannot follow it.”

The two felt that for the present they were at the end of their rope.
They had done all they could to set the wheels in motion for the arrest
of the tramps who were under suspicion, and the dread was strong with
them that if such arrest could be brought about it would affect nothing.
Any plan for the kidnapping of the little girl would be so cunningly
laid by master minds that their agents would never walk into a trap, no
matter how skilfully set.

“We must find Burton and his dog,” was the last remark of Alvin. His
companion murmured assent and then the two sank into the sleep of
weariness and sound health, because of which they did not awake until
the young man who had received them the night before hammered on the
door and shouted that breakfast would be ready in ten minutes.

With self-reproaches they bounded out of bed, hurried through their
preparations, and went down stairs two steps at a time. The meal was on
the table, and for the moment they were the only guests, with the young
man referred to acting as waiter.

The boys had hardly seated themselves when through the open door entered
a third guest, accompanied by a black, sturdy, long-eared dog, and the
name of the youth was George Burton and that of his canine companion
Zip.



              CHAPTER XXIV — “The Latchstring Was Inside!”


The meeting was a joyous one. Alvin and Chester sprang to their feet and
grasped in turn the hand of their astonished friend, while Zip, never
forgetting his dignity, looked on as if he understood it all, as quite
likely he did.

“I didn’t leave Uncle Wilson’s until after dinner yesterday,” said
Burton, “and as Zip and I were in no hurry, it was growing dark when we
got here. Somehow or other, I fancied the looks of this old-fashioned
inn and decided to stay over night, but what is it brings you here?”
asked the young man as all three sat down to the table.

And then Alvin told his astounding story, to which Burton listened with
breathless interest.

“How dreadful!” he exclaimed; “it distresses me more than I can tell. It
was fortunate indeed that I decided to stop here, for I may not return
to Mouse Island for several days. I reckon we shall do some tall
traveling to Gosling Lake.”

They did not linger over their breakfast. Burton tossed a few mouthfuls
of meat to the dog, which sat on the floor beside his chair. As a rule,
when off on one of his tramps, the hound shared his room, though he did
not do so at the bungalow, which explained why Alvin and Chester saw
nothing of the animal when they arrived several hours before.

“It isn’t any use to theorize,” remarked Burton, as the three paid their
bill and hurried out of the inn, “for at such times you are more likely
to be wrong than right. Ruth may have fallen into the lake and been
drowned, without her body being found for several days; it may be that
those tramps belong to an organized gang and have stolen and hidden her,
but in that case,” added the young man with a flash of his eyes, “they
forgot to reckon with Zip; and if so, they will soon learn their
mistake.”

“The general belief when we left last night,” said Chester, “was that
she had simply wandered off in the woods until tired out, when she lay
down and fell asleep.”

“That sounds reasonable, but I can’t shake off the fear that it is not
the right explanation.”

It need not be said that while the three boys were hurrying over the
highway and along the rough path with the eager Zip, who knew that
something was in the air, keeping them company, the Boy Scouts and
Doctor Spellman and his wife were busy.

Their aimless groping through the wood was kept up until far beyond
midnight, when the physician compelled his wife to return with him to
the house and lie down for a brief rest. Scout Master Hall suggested to
the members of the troop to return to the bungalow, he accompanying
them, where they too secured sleep, and ate their morning meal at
daylight. The agreement was that all should assemble at an early hour at
the doctor’s home, where a decision would be made as to what was next to
be done.

If the child, as all prayed was the case, had simply gone astray in the
woods, she would awake at an early hour and renew her effort to find her
way home. With so many persons wandering here, there and everywhere she
must hear their calls and her rescue could not be long delayed. If such
proved not to be the case, and she had not been drowned, it would mean
the worst. She was the victim of the most atrocious miscreants who
lived,—for no crime is more merciless and unforgivable than the
kidnapping of the pet of a household, and giving its parents the choice
of paying an enormous ransom or never seeing it again.

Now, it may have struck you as strange that no reference has been made
to Uncle Elk in the consternation which followed the discovery that Ruth
Spellman had been lost or stolen. In knowledge of woodcraft none of the
searchers could be compared to him, and yet no one had asked his help.
The reason was simple. With all his skill in the ways of the forest, he
could do no more, so long as the night lasted, than the youngest member
of the Boy Scouts. He could join in the aimless groping and shouting,
but with a score already doing their utmost, he would simply be one
among them.

Although morning brought a change of conditions, it would seem that they
were still unsurmountable, for what Apache, or Sioux or Shawnee (unless
he were Deerfoot) could trail a little child through the forest, when
her almost imperceptible footprints had been repeatedly crossed by other
feet?

“I think we ought to appeal to Uncle Elk,” said Scout Master Hall to the
parents, after the scouts assembled at the Doctor’s home had scattered
to press their hunt harder than ever. “None of us can equal him.”

“You know that for some cause which I cannot fathom, he has formed an
intense dislike for my wife and me,” said the perplexed father.

“But it is impossible that it should include the little one. At such a
time as this no heart has room for enmity, no matter what fancy may have
dictated.”

“I am willing to be guided by your judgement,” replied the doctor, after
his wife had joined in the plea. “If Ruth has slept alone in the woods,
she must have awakened an hour or two ago and ought to have been found.
I don’t see how the old hermit can help us, but we must neglect nothing.
Come on.”

But Mike Murphy had anticipated their action. We know what unbounded
faith he held in Uncle Elk, and more than once he had felt inclined to
go to his cabin. With the coming of morning he decided to do so.

Consulting with Patrol Leader Chase, Mike found that he had formed the
same decision. Accordingly the two withdrew from the others without
attracting notice and made their way together to the cabin of their old
friend. This was so far removed from the zone of active search that none
of the other Scouts was met.

“If he can’t help us, no one can,” said Chase.

“There’s only one cratur that can thrack Sunbeam through the woods, and
his name is Zip,” replied Mike. “If I hadn’t seen with me own eyes what
he can do, I wouldn’t belave the same. Wal, here we are!”

They had reached the little clearing in the middle of which stood the
familiar cabin, as silent and devoid of all signs of life as ever.
Without hesitation, Mike led the way up the path, placed his foot on the
small steps, and was about to reach up to draw the latch, when he
recoiled with a gasp.

“Do ye obsarve that?” he asked in a startled whisper.

_The latchstring was inside!_

Never since the leathern thong was first shoved through the little
orifice above the tongue of iron had this occurred, by day or night.

The two boys stood for several minutes staring at the blank door, and
then looked in each other’s face. Not the slightest sound was heard from
within.

“What does it mean, Mike?” asked the Patrol Leader in a still lower
whisper.

“It maans ‘no admittince’; this is no place for us. I can’t guess what
raison Uncle Elk has for shutting ivery one out, but he’s done it, and
we must respect it.”

They turned away, hurrying in the direction of Doctor Spellman’s house,
and had almost reached it when they met the physician, his wife and
Scout Master Hall, to whom the two boys told the astounding news. In
other circumstances they would have theorized as to the cause of Uncle
Elk’s unaccountable action, but there was only one theme that filled
every mind.

“It shuts us off from any aid by _him_,” remarked the doctor; “we can
only keep up the search and wait for the coming of my nephew and his
dog,—but,” he added bitterly, “that may not be for days, when even he
can do nothing.”

A ringing shout caused all to turn their heads and look along the beach
toward the northern side of the lake. Three boys were coming toward them
on a run, and a few paces ahead of them, as if he were their leader,
galloped a black dog.

“God be thanked!” exclaimed the mother clasping her hands. “It’s George
and Zip!”

“Not forgitting Alvin and Chest, the two best boys that iver lived,
barring only mesilf.”

The next minute the parties were mingling, and greeting one another.
Alvin, Chester and young Burton were panting, for they had not let the
grass grow under their feet on the way from Bovil to Gosling Lake, but
they were still good for much more of the same kind of work.

“Zip is ready,” said his master, “and we are near the house. Let’s make
a start, for we are soon to learn the truth.”

The news of the arrival of Zip quickly spread by means of shouts and
calls to the scattered Boy Scouts, who began flocking to the quarters of
Doctor Spellman, until very nearly the whole troop were gathered there.
In answer to the request of Burton for some article of wearing apparel
recently worn by Ruth, the mother with a calmness that impressed every
one, brought forward a pair of chubby shoes, which the little one in an
effort to “break them in” had kept on her feet until late in the
afternoon, when they irked her so much she changed them for an old pair.
Burton held them out to Zip, who sniffed several times and then turned
his head away to signify that he had learned enough.

“Now, get to work!” commanded his master.

The scent was perhaps fourteen hours old when the Boy Scouts assembled
in front of the wooden structure, saw Zip begin trotting to and fro with
his nose to the ground. Suddenly he bayed slightly, and started down the
slope in the direction of the lake.

“He’s hit the trail!” said the excited Burton, dashing after him; “not
too fast, Zip.”

The youth never used a leash. The hound wore a handsome collar with his
name and the address of his master engraved on it. His voice was
sufficient to restrain Zip if he traveled too rapidly.

But the dog at his slowest traveled so fast that the boys had to trot to
keep pace with him. His master by common consent took the lead, with
Alvin, Chester, Mike and the others at his heels. Zip would have drawn
away from them all had not his master sharply restrained him. The doctor
was well to the rear, in order to keep company with his wife.

The hound went straight toward the water, but a few paces away turned to
the left, taking a course which if continued would lead him to the
bungalow. This was kept up for more than a hundred yards, when he
abruptly stopped and throwing up his head looked off over the lake,
without emitting any sound.

The mother with a moan staggered and would have fallen had she not been
caught in the arms of her husband.

“That means she is drowned!” faintly whispered the stricken wife. “O
Wilson! I cannot bear it!”

“No, my dear; he has gone forward again; be brave; hope is still left.”

Zip now led the company along the beach, at the same steady trot, with
his master almost near enough to grasp his collar, and checking him now
and then when he went too fast. There could be no doubt that he was
following the scent, from which nothing could divert him.

But whither was it leading?

The run was a long one, always within a few paces of the water, until a
point was reached opposite the path which led to the cabin of Uncle Elk.
Here, to the astonishment of every one, the dog turned off and went up
the slope.

“What can that mean?” was the question which each one asked himself.

And with more amazement than before, the procession of pursuers saw Zip
follow the path across the clearing to the door of the cabin, where he
stopped, threw up his nose and bayed. It was notice that he had reached
the end of the trail.

Ruth Spellman was inside the log structure.

In a twinkling the whole company was grouped around the front of the
building.

“Why don’t you go in?” demanded the Doctor, pressing impatiently
forward.

“You forget the latchstring is inside,” reminded Scout Master Hall.

“What difference does that make? Is this a time to hesitate? Let’s break
in the door! Make room for me and I’ll do it!”

Mike Murphy, Alvin Landon and Chester Haynes ran to the little window a
few paces beyond the door and peered through the panes.

“Sunbeam is there!” shouted Mike, “and nothing is the matter with her!”

Before he could explain further, there was a crash. The impact of Doctor
Spellman’s powerful shoulder carried the staple which held the latch
from its fastenings and the door swung inward. Through it swarmed the
Boy Scouts, the physician and his wife in the lead.

In front of the broad fireplace, where the embers had long died, sat
Uncle Elk in his rocking chair, silent, motionless and with head bowed.
Seated on his knees, with her curls half hiding her pretty face and
resting against his massive chest, was Ruth Spellman, sleeping as
sweetly as if on her cot at home.

With a glad cry, the mother rushed forward and flung her arms about the
child, sobbing with joy.

“O my darling! Thank heaven you are found!” and she smothered the
bewildered one with kisses and caresses.

Suddenly Doctor Spellman raised his hand and an instant hush fell upon
all. He had lifted the limp arm of the man and placed his finger on the
wrist. The professional eye saw that which escaped the others. He said
in a solemn voice:

“Uncle Elk is dead!”



                       CHAPTER XXV — And the Last


Enough has been said in the preceding pages to show that Elkanah Sisum
was a man of excellent birth and superior culture. He possessed moderate
wealth, and when admitted to the bar his prospects could not have been
brighter, but misfortune seemed to have marked him for its own. It
delivered the first crushing blow by taking away the beloved wife of his
young manhood, and leaving him an only child,—Ruth, who was as the
apple of his eye. At eighteen she married a worthy young man who was
admitted as a partner in the law firm and displayed brilliant ability.
Unto the couple was born also a single daughter, named for its mother.

Sisum never remarried, but lavished his affection upon his daughter and
especially the grandchild Ruth, whom it may be said he loved more than
his own life. Thus things stood until the little one was nearly five
years old, when she showed alarming signs of sinking into a decline. Her
parents decided to take her on a long sea voyage in the summer time. The
understanding was that they were to be gone for several months, but they
never returned. Their steamer was not heard of again.

It was years before the grandfather gave up hope. The long brooding over
his grief and the final yielding to despair,—slow but final,—produced
a strange effect upon his mind. Only his most intimate friends saw that
his brain was affected; others met and talked with him daily with never
a suspicion of the fact. He had come to the gradual but fixed belief
that although his dear ones had left him for the land of shadows, yet
somewhere and at some time in this life his grandchild would come to
him. She might not remain long, but she would reveal herself
unmistakably before Uncle Elk himself passed into the Great Beyond. It
was the centering of his thoughts and hopes upon this strange fancy that
was actual monomania. Scout Master Hall detected it, though none of the
Boy Scouts dreamed of anything of the kind. As the delusion fastened
itself upon the old man, he formed a distaste for society, which of
itself grew until it made him the hermit we found in the Maine woods
during this summer. There he spent his hours in reading, and in studying
animal and bird life,—trees and woodcraft. He never lost his gentle
affection for his fellow men, and at long intervals visited his former
acquaintances; but, though he left his latchstring outside and gave
welcome to whoever called, he preferred to make his abiding place far
from the haunts of men.

What mind can understand its own mysteries? While the current of life
was moving smoothly with the old man, Doctor Spellman put up his summer
home on the shore of the lake not very distant from the cabin of Uncle
Elk. The latter set out to call upon them almost as soon as he learned
of their arrival. While too far for the couple to see him, he caught
sight of them sitting in front of their structure, the doctor smoking
and the wife engaged in crochet work. Their child was playing with a
doll indoors, and Uncle Elk saw nothing of her, nor did he learn of her
existence until several days later, when occurred the incident that will
be told further on.

It was that sight of the man and woman that gave a curious twist to the
delusion of the hermit. He was startled by the woman’s striking
resemblance to his own daughter who had been lost at sea years before.
He formed a sudden and intense dislike of the man who had presumed to
marry a person that resembled his child, and it was painful to look upon
the wife who bore such a resemblance. No brain, except one already
somewhat askew, could have been the victim of so queer a process. Such,
however, was the fact and of itself it explains a number of incidents
that otherwise could not be explained.

It will be noted that thus far Uncle Elk had not seen the little child
who was the image of her mother, and since the parents quickly learned
of his strange antipathy and took care to avoid meeting him, it is
unlikely that in the ordinary course of events he ever would have come
face to face with the little one.

Now nothing is more evident than the absurdity of my trying to describe
the mental ordeal through which this man passed on that last and most
memorable night of his life. I base what I say upon that which Doctor
Spellman told me as the result of his painstaking investigation, during
the succeeding months, of the most singular case with which he was ever
concerned, and even the brilliant medical man could not be absolutely
certain of all his conclusions. However, they sound so reasonable that I
now give them.

Throughout the afternoon, Uncle Elk was depressed in spirits, as is
sometimes true of a person who is on the eve of some event or experience
of decisive importance to himself. He was subject to a peculiar physical
chilliness which led him to kindle a fire on his broad hearth, in front
of which as the night shadows gathered, he seated himself in his
cushioned rocking chair. As time passed he gave himself over to
meditation of the long ago with its sorrowful memories.

He had sat thus for some time when he was roused by the twitching of the
latchstring. He turned his head to welcome his caller, when he was so
startled that at first he could not believe what his eyes told him. A
little girl, of the age and appearance of the one who had gone down in
the depths of the fathomless sea, stood before him.

“Good evening,” called the child in her gentle voice; “how do you do?”

“Who are you? What’s your name?” faltered the astounded old man.

“I am Ruth,” she replied, coming toward him with the trusting confidence
of childhood.

This was the name of the loved one who had left him in the long ago. The
resemblance was perfect, as it seemed to him. _It was she!_

He rose to his feet, reached out, clasped her hand and touched his lips
to the chubby cheek.

“God be praised! You are my own Ruth come back to me after all these
years!”

That poor brain, racked by so many torturing fancies, accepted it all as
truth.

“I am so tired,” said the wearied little one, “I want to rest myself.”

He tenderly lifted her in his arms and carried her behind the curtains,
through which the firelight shone, laid her on the couch with her head
resting on the pillow, and drew the coverlet over her form. At the end
of the few moments thus occupied he saw that she had sunk into the soft
dreamless sleep of health and exhaustion.

He came back to the sitting room. The outer door stood ajar, as it had
been left by the infantile visitor. As he closed it he did an
unprecedented thing,—he drew in the latchstring. He wanted no intruders
during these sacred hours. Then he seated himself as before and gave
himself up to musings and to wrestling with the problem which was really
beyond his solution.

There must have been moments when he glimpsed the truth. That which he
had lifted in his arms was flesh and blood and therefore could not be
the Ruth who had stepped into the great unknown many years before. Yet
she looked the same, and bore her name. Could it not be that heaven had
permitted this almost incomprehensible thing?

He sat in front of the fire, which was allowed to smoulder all through
the night. It is probable that he rose more than once, drew the curtains
aside and looked upon the little one as revealed in the expiring
firelight.

“Whatever the explanation, it means that _my_ Ruth and I will soon be
together. If it is not she who has come to me, I shall soon go to her.”

Unlocking a small drawer of the table, he drew out a large, unsealed
envelope, unfolded the paper inside, glanced at the writing, returned it
to the enclosure and laid it on the stand where it could not fail to be
seen by any visitor, and then resumed his seat.

“By this time,” said Doctor Spellman, “the brain which had been clouded
probably became normal. He knew that my Ruth could not be his Ruth. He
must have seen that she was the child of the man whom he intensely
disliked because I had presumed to marry a woman who resembled the
daughter whom he had lost.”

When daylight returned, Uncle Elk after a time aroused himself. He did
not renew the blaze on the hearth, but once more drew the curtain aside.
Ruth Spellman still slept. As gently as he had laid her down, he raised
and carried her back to his chair where he resumed his seat, with the
curly unconscious head resting upon his breast, and after a time, he
closed his own eyes, never to open them again.

In the presence of death all was hushed. The Boy Scouts bowed their
uncovered heads, and as they stood in the crowded room gazed in awe upon
the gray head and inanimate form in the chair. Even the overjoyed mother
who had clasped her loved child and lifted her from the lifeless arms
suppressed her glad croonings, while the bewildered Ruth gazed upon the
strange scene with hardly a glimmering of what it all meant.

For the moment, Doctor Spellman was the professional expert. In a low
voice he addressed the Scout Master and the young friends who looked
into his face and listened.

“Uncle Elk passed away several hours ago,—his death from heart failure
was so painless that it was like falling asleep, as was the case with
our child. This looks as if he had left a message for us.”

As he spoke, the doctor picked up the large unsealed envelope and held
it up so as to show the address,—“To be opened by whosoever finds it
after my death.”

Drawing out and unfolding the sheet, the physician read aloud:

“It is my wish to be buried on the plot between my cabin and the brook.
Over my grave a plain marble stone is to erected with the inscription,
‘Elkanah Sisum. Born January 23, 1828; died ——’ Add nothing to the
date of my death. Inclosed are enough funds to pay the expense. Whatever
remains, which is all the money I possess, I desire to be presented to
the Sailors’ Snug Harbor, New York.”

Having finished the reading, the physician added:

“The coroner must be notified and the proper legal steps taken. We
should get word to Boothbay Harbor as soon as possible.”

“I will attend to that,” said George Burton, “and start at once.”

The wishes of Uncle Elk were carried out in spirit and letter. The
clergyman who came from Boothbay Harbor preached a touching sermon, and
a score of men who had known the old man for years came out to the cabin
to pay their last respects. The evidence of Doctor Spellman was all the
coroner required, and there was no hitch in the solemn exercises.

Mike Murphy, when he could command his emotions, sang “Lead, kindly
Light,” with such exquisite pathos that there was not a dry eye among
the listeners. The grave had been dug by the Boy Scouts, who stood with
bared heads as the coffin was slowly lowered into its final resting
place. A few days later all departed for their homes, carrying memories
of their outing in the woods of Southern Maine, which will remain with
them through life.





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