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Title: Blackie Thorne at Camp Lenape
Author: Saxon, Carl
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.

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                             BLACKIE THORNE
                             AT CAMP LENAPE


                               CARL SAXON

                               _Author of
                     “The Mystery at Camp Lenape”_

                          [Illustration: Logo]


                              BOOKS, INC.
                           NEW YORK    BOSTON

                  COPYRIGHT 1940, 1931 BY BOOKS, INC.
              MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


                                  _For
                              BILL SIMMONS
                      companion of tent and trail_



                                CONTENTS


  I. Tent Four                                                         7
  II. The Councilor                                                   17
  III. After Taps                                                     30
  IV. A Hard Case                                                     39
  V. Treasure                                                         53
  VI. The Hermit’s House                                              59
  VII. Initiation                                                     69
  VIII. The Snipe Hunt                                                81
  IX. A Rainy Day                                                     97
  X. The Lie                                                         111
  XI. Kangaroo Court                                                 123
  XII. The Hut on Black Pond                                         135
  XIII. Robbery by Night                                             150
  XIV. The Spring-House                                              166
  XV. The Last Race                                                  179
  XVI. The End—and the Beginning                                     198



                           BLACKIE THORNE AT
                              CAMP LENAPE



                               CHAPTER I
                               TENT FOUR


  “We’ve been working on the ra-a-ailroad
      All the livelong day——”

Two enormous hay-wains, full and running over with a tumbling mass of
boys, turned a bend in the narrow country road.

Blackie Thorne was the foremost boy on the first wagon. He clambered up
on the narrow seat with so much eagerness to view the camp and the lake
that he almost knocked over the stolid farmer who was driving the team.
His first view of camp!

There it lay on the wooded slope above the shining lake and the boat
dock, a large white lodge with a flag floating lazily above it, and two
rows of canvas tents lost among trees to the right but showing clearly
against the gray mountains beyond, with their heavy covering of tall
pines sticking up like spikes along the skyline. Camp Lenape, where the
wonderful things his friends told about had happened. Why, anything
might happen in such a marvelous place as the camp which grew nearer
every minute as the slow horses plodded their way along the dusty road!

Blackie squirmed with excitement and jerked his arm so that it hit the
head of the driving farmer and knocked his wide straw hat down over his
eyes.

“Here now, sonny!” spluttered the man, grabbing at his hat and almost
falling off the board which served as a seat. “If you’re a-goin’ to get
so het up about seein’ this camp-ground of yourn, you better get out and
walk!”

“A good idea!” exclaimed a fellow standing just behind Blackie, holding
himself up in the jolting wagon by a hand on Blackie’s shoulder. He was
Gil Shelton, patrol-leader in Blackie’s troop back in the city, and a
“three-striper” who wore on his camp sweater three green chevrons to
show that he had been at Lenape for as many seasons. “What do you say,
Blackie? If we hop off now, we can follow the trail through the woods
and beat the rest into camp.”

The trail led around the end of the lake, down through a meadow dotted
with daisies and buttercups, and on again into the deepening shadow of
the pines and birches.

They panted as they ran up a short hill, and came out in a little
cleared space among the scrub-pines.

“Wait a minute, can’t you?” gasped Blackie. “What’s the use of killing
ourselves?”

Gil snorted. “Does that little run make you tired? Wait until you’ve
been here at camp a week, and a trot like this will seem so slow you’ll
think you’re going backwards.” Nevertheless he stopped and threw himself
on the soft ground, and Blackie gratefully followed his example.

“How far are we from camp now?”

“Oh, about a quarter of a mile, I guess. Don’t worry, little one, you’ll
get there before dark.” He pointed his grass-stem, toward the hills,
where the sun was dropping, a ball of red fire in the west. “The Indian
council ring is over that way. We’ll have a pow-wow there to-morrow
night, I guess.”

Blackie’s eyes followed in the indicated direction, but his attention
was immediately claimed by a fan-shaped formation of gray rocks on the
side of the western mountains. His dark eyebrows raised, and he
whistled. “Hey, Gil, what’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“That pile of rocks there—are they rocks?”

“That’s a terminal moraine. Now, ask me another.”

“A what?”

“Terminal moraine, dummy.”

“Well, who put it there?”

“Say,” exclaimed Gil with disgust, “if you listened to the scoutmaster’s
talks instead of skylarking around at troop meetings and stealing Fat
Crampton’s hat, you’d learn not to be so ignorant. A terminal moraine is
a pile of rocks brought down by a glacier in the days when all the part
of the world north of here was covered with ice. You’ve heard of the
Glacial Age, haven’t you? Well, when the ice moved down from the North
Pole it pushed a lot of rocks ahead of it, right over the ground. Now,
when old Mr. Glacier got this far, he heard the five o’clock whistle
blow or something, so he dropped that pile of rocks he was carrying, and
started to melt. When we hike up there, you can see markings on the
rocks where they got scratched being pulled along over the ground.” Gil
finished his lecture by throwing away his chewed grass-stem and
carefully pulling another.

Blackie rose and held up his hand to shade his squinting eyes while he
peered at the slide of boulders which, according to Gil’s story, had
been brought there in such a dramatic manner.

“All right, I believe you,” he said; but he continued to stare.

Half-hidden among the pines and mountain maples, clinging to the side of
the mountain at the end of a thin line of road that ran above, Blackie
saw the faded clapboards and weathered roof of a house. There was not a
sign of life about it. The sinking sun, nearing its last stand above the
Lenape ridge, was reflected in all its bloodiness in two upstairs
windows of that dark and ominous dwelling; the afterglow swirled and
glinted with the color of molten copper. A little breeze blew up from
the lake, a breeze not too warm for late June; and Blackie shivered
slightly as it struck his back. He didn’t know why, but the sight of
that dead, hidden house scared him—just a little. He thought it looked
like a skull, lost among the trees. There must be some mystery about a
house like that.

“Gil!”

“Well, what is it now, youngster?”

“Does anybody live in that old house up there?”

“Sure. That’s where old Rattlesnake Joe lives. Some people around here
call him the hermit. You can go up and see him some time. Now, have you
got your breath back? If we don’t get going pretty soon, the gang will
be in ahead of us, and we’ll be out of luck for getting a good bunk.”

The two boys trotted on along the trail at a fast pace. Blackie would
have liked to ask some more questions about the hermit who lived alone
in the woods in that mysterious house, but he was afraid that Gil would
taunt him about being a greenhorn, so he saved his breath for running.
The trail soon broke surprisingly into the campus, and they were among
white tents where several of their comrades, already arrived in camp by
the same short-cut around the lake, were busily spreading out their
blankets on the two-decked canvas bunks that lined the tent walls.

“The tent assignments must be already posted,” muttered Gil. “Hurry up
to the lodge!”

Blackie ran with him through the little tent-village, but when he
reached the flagpole before the spreading lodge he halted as the lake
and the far shore spread out before his view.

“Jee-miny!” he whistled. He could see the roof of the boat dock below,
around which were moored about a dozen broad-beamed steel rowboats.

Gil Shelton came tearing by, laden with blanket and duffle that he had
collected from the pile of baggage on the lodge porch.

“Say, Blackie,” he called, “you better get on the job! You’re assigned
to Tent Four, down there. Grab your stuff and hurry down. The first one
in the tent gets his choice of bunks.”

Several boys, the advance guard of the hay-wagons, came streaming down
to the campus from the road behind the lodge. Blackie climbed the steps
to the lodge porch and in the welter of luggage there discovered a
familiar-looking sea-bag with his initials painted on it in black.
Seizing this dunnage, he ran stumbling to Tent Four, his new home in the
woods.

Tent Four lay at the end of the row of tents topmost on the hilly
campus. Before it lay a cleared space dotted by huckleberry bushes and a
few shading pines. The tent was floored and painted a battleship gray,
and eight canvas bunks lined the walls, running the length of the tent
and making two tiers. A tall boy was already swiftly and smoothly making
up a bed in one of the lower bunks. He nodded to Blackie but did not
pause in his work.

Gil Shelton shouted across from Tent Three, next door. His bunk was
already made. With the deftness of an experienced camper, he was setting
each thing in its correct place—shoes and hats in a line under the bed,
coats and sweaters on the rope swung between the two tent-poles, pajamas
under his pillow, and the remainder of his kit in one of the pine-wood
lockers that ran down the middle of the tent.

“The bottom bunks are the best, Blackie! If you pick a top one, the
fellow under you gets you up in the morning by the airplane method!”

Blackie began unpacking his duffle, slowly and clumsily. He laid out his
blankets on a lower bunk as advised, and tried two or three times to
make his result somewhat resemble Gil’s bed; but when he had finished,
it still looked bumpy and not too soft. Then he sat on his sea-bag and
looked about him helplessly.

The tall fellow, who had not spoken until now, looked up and smiled
shyly.

“Stuck? Well, follow what I do, and you’ll soon get cleared up. This the
first time you’ve been to camp?”

It was the first time Blackie had ever been away from home, but he hated
to admit it.

“Yeah. How do they put their stuff at _this_ camp?” He said it as if he
had visited all the other camps in the world before he had happened to
drop in on this insignificant little one.

Two other boys now rushed down, and made haste to stake out their claims
to lower bunks.

“Can’t have that one,” warned the tall, quiet boy to one of them who had
put his bag on the lower bunk nearest the lodge. “That belongs to the
councilor. And a councilor needs a lower bunk because he may have to
turn out quick in the middle of the night if he’s needed.”

“Who is the councilor?” asked the other.

“Mr. Rawn—Wally. He’s the fellow that has charge of the swimming. Well,
I’m going up to the lodge. He promised to let me be the waiter for the
first two days, because I know all about it.” He departed in the
direction of the lodge.

Blackie sat on his bunk and looked around. Everyone was busily engaged
in making up the first night’s bed, and shouts and singing came from all
quarters as the busy campers shook down in their new homes. From the
lodge porch came the brazen blare of First Call sounded by the camp
bugler.

A pine bough brushed against the tent, laden with cones. It occurred to
Blackie that it would be a good idea to take a few and stick them in
between someone’s blankets. He lifted off a few that looked to be the
most prickly and crossing the tent, pulled down the blankets of the tall
lad who had gone to the lodge. The two other boys had now been joined by
a third; but none of them were watching, for they were hurriedly
preparing for supper, and evidently thought the bunk was his own.

Blackie shoved the pine-cones down between the blankets, and looked
around to see if anyone had watched him. Someone had. A shadow fell
across the front of the tent, a tall and muscular figure stood over him,
and a deep voice demanded, “Do you always sleep with pine-cones in your
bed?”



                               CHAPTER II
                             THE COUNCILOR


Blackie hesitated.

“Yes, sir, I always do that when I’m camping. It makes it seem more as
if I was really in the woods,” he said.

The tall man—he must have been six feet two, and stockily built—looked
down at Blackie and frowned. He was big enough to have picked up the boy
and used him for a baseball.

“I wouldn’t lie if I were you,” he drawled. “It’s a bad habit for a
young lad to acquire. That bunk belongs to Ken Haviland, my aide. By the
time he’s ready to crawl in to-night, he’ll be plenty tired from a long
day on the job. Don’t you think he’s entitled to a good sleep?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, since we are to be tent-mates, we ought to get acquainted.” He
grinned broadly, and held out his hand. “I’m Wally Rawn. What’s your
name?”

“Blackie. Blackie Thorne.”

The man grinned as he took the boy’s hand in a firm grip and surveyed
the bright black eyes, the shining black hair.

“Not a bad name, at that. What’s your mother call you?”

“She calls me Blackie, too. My regular name is Ambrose.”

“I won’t tell a soul. Blackie you are and Blackie you shall be. Now,
Blackie, I’m going to offer you a chance to show what sort of a spirit
you have for helping to make the Tent Four boys known all over camp. I
have, after much thought, decided to paint our tent-poles with pink and
green stripes. That ought to start the rest of camp thinking about us.
Now, please run up to the kitchen and ask the chef to send you down here
with a bucket of striped paint—pink and green.”

Blackie was off like a flash, but his leader called him back.

“While you’re up there, Blackie, you can also ask him to lend you a
bunk-stretcher. I find that my feet stick out over the edge of my berth,
and I don’t want to wake up in the morning and find the birds roosting
on my toes. A left-handed bunk-stretcher—my bunk is on the left-hand
side.”

“Yes, Mr. Rawn.”

“Call me Wally. Now, off with you!”

Blackie bounded up the short hill to the side door of the kitchen.
Through the screen came the tantalizing fragrance of something good;
supper was on the way, evidently, and Ellick, that good-hearted king of
the kitchen, was at his busiest. Blackie pushed open the door and ran in
with an important look on his dark face. He was greeted by Leggy, a
skinny, coffee-colored individual whose thin shanks, although they
seemed to have no end, did no more than reach the ground. He waved a
long-handled spoon, and made a swing with it at Blackie’s head.

“Outside, white boy!” he cried. “Kitchen ain’t no place for little boys
at de supper-call.”

“I got a message for the chef—very important. Let me in!”

“Hol’ on dere!” came Ellick’s voice from the far corner of the room.
“You ain’t de boy what is lookin’ for de striped paint, is you?”

“Yes, I am, chef.”

“Well, if dat don’t beat all!” exclaimed the surprised cook. “We is just
out of striped paint. If I wasn’t busily pre-incapacitated by carving
dis yere ham for dinner, now, I would shorely help you-all out. A
left-handed bunk-stretcher wouldn’t do as well, would it, now?”

“Say, that was the other thing I was sent for!”

“Who-all sent you?”

“Wally Rawn—he’s my leader.”

“Oh, that Wally boy! It must shore be important then. If I could only
dis-extricate myself from carvin’ dis yere ham, now——Let me see. De
bestest thing to do under de concircumstances is for you-all to go down
to de boat dock and petitionate de person in charge to give you de keys
to de campus. And, whiles you’m down there, you-all might bring up a
cargo what’s waitin’ for some smart young boy to fetch me. Ask him
pussonally from me to deliver unto you-all de shipment of fence-post
holes and de Royal Official Back-Scratcher.”

“You bet, chef—keys to the campus, fencepost holes and the Royal
Official Back-Scratcher.”

“I thanks you. What might be you-all name?”

“Blackie.”

“Hmm. I decalculate from dat name dat you are repartial to doughnuts.”
There was a sweet, sugary smell in the warm kitchen air.

“Doughnuts? You said it, chef!”

“Catch!”

The grinning Ellick deftly caught up a doughnut from a bowl beside him,
and tossed it in the air. Blackie got under it like a veteran fielder,
and sped out the door. The gangling Leggy aimed a parting swing at him
with the long-tailed spoon, and missed.

On the parade ground, Blackie paused in his headlong lakeward course at
the sight of Gil Shelton, hair combed, face shining from a recent
scrubbing, and spotless for supper. “Hey, Blackie, where you heading?
After fence-post holes?”

“Yep—how did you know? And striped paint and a left-handed
bunk-stretcher and——”

Gil started in great surprise. “Don’t tell me,” he exclaimed, “that they
picked you to bring the Royal Official Back-Scratcher?”

“They sure have.”

“That’s a great honor, my son. In fact, only the newest and greenest
boys are ever picked for it. Say, Blackie, I didn’t think you’d fall for
that old stuff. Did you ever see a fence-post hole? Does striped paint
come in cans?”

Blackie paused and thought for the first time.

“Well, Gil, it was my leader Wally who sent me. He told me not to tell
lies, too, so I thought it was all right.”

“Say, did you ever hear of Santa Claus? Why, for a week now the little,
new, green, smart, bright city boys will be looking all over the place
for striped paint and the key to the lake. And you fell for it the first
thing!”

Gil’s laughter was so deep that Blackie was glad to get back to the
shelter of his tent.

Wally greeted him. “So you didn’t find it, eh? Well, that’s all
right—don’t be discouraged. You can help me out in another way. Just run
down to the dock, will you, and ask if anyone down there has seen the
key to the lake?”

“Not on your life, Wally,” grinned Blackie. “Send one of the new fellows
down, can’t you?”

The camp bugler, Ted Fellowes, sounded Assembly Call at that moment, and
there was no time for further talk before supper. After the Retreat
ceremony and the lowering of the flag, the boys attacked the supper that
had been prepared in the depths of the kitchen. Blackie had never found
a meal that tasted quite so good.

He met the remainder of the boys of Tent Four at the table. Ken
Haviland, the tent aide, was busily serving as waiter at one end; he had
to run again and again to the serving window for additional platters of
ham, potatoes, and turnips, mountains of bread and oceans of milk.
Blackie didn’t envy him his job.

Wally had evidently met all the boys in his group. He paused and,
between mouthfuls, addressed them.

“There’s one thing that’s worrying me, gentlemen of the famous Tent Four
group. There are only seven of us, and there should be eight, counting
myself. One of our number has not turned up. I shall call our imposing
roll. Haviland!”

“Here, sir.” Ken seized his serving tray and dashed off in pursuit of
dessert.

“Thorne! Here, I see. Slater!”

“Here, sir!” answered a freckle-faced boy with burning red hair.

“Guppy!”

Blackie looked with interest at the boy with such a beautiful name. He
was a little chap of about eleven, at the end of one row.

“Lefkowitz!”

“Present!” came a squeaky voice from across the table.

“Gallegher!”

“Here!” He was a sunburnt, black-haired chap with a scar across his
forehead, shaped like a V.

“Crampton! No answer. It is the notorious Mr. Crampton who is missing.
Has anybody here ever heard tell of the gentleman?”

“That must be Fat,” said Blackie. “We saw him down at the end of the
lake before we hiked up. He was in the wagon then.”

“Maybe that’s the fat fellow we dumped off the wagon coming along the
road back of camp,” volunteered Slater. “We told him that walking was
the best way to reduce his figger, and dumped him out.”

“To our fat friend’s rescue, then, tent-mates!” cried Wally, drinking
down the last of a glass of milk. “As soon as the Chief makes his
announcements, we shall be in the saddle and off for the hunt!”

A whistle sounded, and quiet fell on the groups. The Chief was about to
speak. He rose, an imposing figure of a man, quiet, dignified, and with
a voice full of calm command. He was dressed in camper’s togs, and wore
the green “L” on his sweater.

“All I have to say is this, fellows. We are all up here for a good
time—the best time ever. Now, I want to mention a few things that will
help the new camper to get along and make himself at home. Don’t expose
yourselves to the sun too much until you get a coat of tan gradually;
you won’t blister then. Don’t cut up or mark the trees on the campus of
which we are so proud. Don’t have any firearms in your tents; none of
any kind are permitted here at camp, and if you have any, bring them up
to the lodge and I will look after them for you. And finally, I only
need mention the rule we have about boys who smoke. Now, those are all
the ‘don’t’s’ I’m going to mention. In an hour there will be a grand
jubilee campfire below the baseball diamond, where I will introduce you
to the councilors, who will then have something to say to you. All set
for the best camp season ever! Everybody happy?”

“Yay!” The resounding, united call of the campers reverberated among the
lodge rafters.

“Let the lions roar!”

“Rao-a-ow!” A pack of well-fed lions never sent up such a tremendous
roaring to the Sahara moon.

“Dismissed!”

Tent Four remained a little island in the swirling rush of campers that
broke up after the meal.

“Are you with me, gang?” shouted Wally. “Onward to the rescue of our
wandering brother!” He made for the back door, pushing through the crowd
like a fullback carrying the ball to victory, followed by his eager team
of tent-mates. Tent Four was on the round-up.

No sooner had they reached the road behind camp than the leader began
giving directions, curtly and with precision. “Spread out, fellows, and
we’ll cover a path on each side of the road. Keep in touch with my
whistle—I’ll be in the center. Shout for Crampton at intervals, and
we’ll soon have him back in the fold——What’s that?”

A low moan was heard behind him, just off the road.

“Help! Help!”

Wally bounded off in the direction from whence it came. His muscular
legs cleared the low bushes like so many hurdles.

“Behind that big tree!” shouted Gallegher. The six boys dashed off after
their leader, and found him staring down at a mournful figure sitting
with his back to the trunk of a tall pine. It was Fat Crampton. His
bulging cheeks bore the trails of tear-marks; he sat hunched amid the
wreckage of his knapsack and accouterment, with the most woebegone look
in the world.

“I’m lost in the woods,” he moaned. “I’ve been walking around for
hours!”

“Why, you poor nut,” said Blackie, “if you had walked two steps further
you would have tripped over the camp!”

Fat transferred his doleful gaze. “Oh, Blackie, is it really you? Say,
I’m scared. I heard a bunch of lions off in the woods a minute ago, and
I thought they were going to get me.”

“Lions, nothing!” The whole tent broke into a storm of laughter. “That
was us! Rao-a-ow! Look out for us, Fat—we’re lions!”

“Come on, lion-hunter,” said Wally, “come on and get a meal of raw meat.
I think the chef will have saved something for you.” He lifted the
rotund lad on his shoulder and set off toward the kitchen, with Fat
helplessly waving his arms from his lofty perch. The rest of the boys
ran with them, roaring terribly and making quips at the wanderer’s
expense.

Little Guppy ran beside Wally, looking up at the leader.

“I’ll make up Fat’s bunk,” he offered, “if he’ll tell me where his
blankets are.”

“That’s the spirit! Keep it up, and you’ll make a great aide some day,
Gup!”

By the time the fat boy was fed, the bugle sounded Assembly for the
campfire. It was now dark, and the campers found their ways down through
the baseball diamond to a field above the lake shore, where a group of
three or four leaders were standing beside a high pyre of logs and
branches, talking to the Chief. They were Mr. Frayne, the burly
assistant director whom everyone, even the smallest boys, familiarly
called “Happy Face” because of the smile he always wore; “Sax” McNulty,
the mournful-looking comedian and saxophone artist who had charge of the
shows and stunt-nights; and Lieutenant Eames, the West Pointer. The
other leaders were to be found among the crowd of boys settling around
the piled fire.

In the glow of somebody’s flashlight Blackie caught sight of Gil
Shelton’s face in the crowd. Gil saw him, also, and shouted over: “Hi,
Blackie! How’s the guardian of the Royal Official Back-Scratcher?”

“Aw, forget it, Gil. Say, what are they going to do now?”

“Light the fire, of course. Then I guess we’ll have a song or two, and
the Chief will introduce all the leaders, and somebody will tell a
story, and then we’ll burn all the little new greenhorns at the stake.”

Blackie laughed as much as the joke required, and snuggled down next to
Wally, in the midst of the Tent Four group. The fire was lighted, and
the glow was reflected in the faces of the happy throng of campers who
gathered around the first campfire of the season. The boys of Tent Four,
already bound together by loyalty to their leader, were content to lie
and listen to the calm voice of their Chief, as a spout of flaring
sparks rose from the flames to challenge the distant glitter of the
stars.



                              CHAPTER III
                               AFTER TAPS


The musical echo of Tattoo came from the bugle, and a hush fell upon
Tent Four. The campfire still smouldered in the field by the lake, but
the campers had passed to their tents at the Call to Quarters, and were
now making ready to turn in for the night.

Blackie squatted on his bunk and stared at the faces that were
half-illuminated by the solitary lantern that hung on the tent-pole.
Mindful of the pine-cones that were still in Ken Haviland’s bed, he was
lying low and watching for developments.

The aide had already stripped, and was climbing into a swathing suit of
pajamas. Above him jutted the head of Lefkowitz, already between
blankets but still full of interest in proceedings.

“I can’t find my nightgown,” wailed little Guppy at the other end of the
tent.

“It should be under your pillow,” said Wally. He stretched his broad
arms and yawned prodigiously, making a noise like an enraged walrus.
“You ought to have pajamas anyway.”

“I put it under the pillow, sir, as Ken told me to. I had an extra one,
but that’s gone too. And I promised Mother I wouldn’t sleep in my—my
underthings, sir.”

“Well, they’ll probably turn up. For to-night you can have an extra pair
of my pajamas. I think the pants would be enough for you, though—you’re
not exactly a giant.” Wally produced a pair of outing-flannel pants,
stuffed the small Guppy into the legs of them, tied the cord about his
neck, and stowed him away between the blankets like a sack of potatoes.

Ken was turning down the covers. Blackie watched him feel the blankets
all over, and to the joker’s disappointment, the aide touched several
suspicious bumps and resuscitated the hidden pine-cones. He tossed them
into the night, and winked at Blackie.

“My camp experience has taught me to always feel my bed before I turn
in,” he grinned. “Some chaps have a funny sense of humor.” He hopped in
and sprawled out luxuriously.

Now that his trap had failed, Blackie bethought him of turning in also.
Slater, who had been outside gazing at the stars, stepped into the tent.

“Lots of meteorites falling to-night, sir,” he observed. “Venus is full,
too, I think; she’s especially bright in the west.” He set about his
preparations for bed.

Gallegher made a spring and landed in his bunk, just over Blackie’s
head. A creaking from another upper bunk across the way announced that
Fat Crampton had at last been able to climb to his lofty berth.

“Make it fast, Blackie,” warned the leader. “You don’t want to be the
last one in.”

Blackie was soon arrayed in the popular evening clothes for the
well-dressed camper, and looked longingly at his inviting bunk. He
slipped between the warm blankets, and stretched out. Umm—this was the
life!

But hold on! Something had him by the leg—something else was biting him
on the foot! Ouch! He yelled and rolled over the side, to come to the
floor in a whirling pile of boy, blankets, and—pine-cones!

Gallegher snickered above him.

“The oldest trick there is!” he chuckled. “These new guys will fall for
anything!”

The crestfallen Blackie struggled upright, and in the dull lamplight
began to make his bed anew.

“That will be all the demonstrations of playfulness for to-night,
gentlemen,” observed Wally, sitting on the edge of his bunk. “You are
all tired, and need your sleep—I, may it be observed, need mine also.
How anybody has the pep left to skylark around the first night of
camp—or any other night—is beyond me. As soon as Taps sounds, Tent Four
will be as still as the grave. The silence, as the book-writers always
have it, will be broken only by the measured breathing of the slumbering
woodsmen and the far call of a fillyloo bird across the waste. Key down,
now.”

He reached for his kit and drew out a book. “I’m talking seriously now.
We are all up here at Lenape to have the best time ever. It’s my job as
councilor to see that we do. And that’s what I want to make you fellows
understand. I’ll help you in any way I can to keep you good campers and
to make Lenape proud of you. If at any time you have anything on your
mind, bring it to me and we’ll talk it out. Now, I’m going to read you
one of the finest things that a camper ever listened to.”

He opened the Bible in his hand and read by the flickering light, in a
clear and sincere voice: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the
firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night
unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where
their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. In them hath He set a
tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his
chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is
from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and
there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. The law of the Lord is
perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making
wise the simple.”

Softly and sweetly, as if from afar, came the first comforting notes of
Taps, the finest of music to a tired camper. Wally doused the lantern,
and the glory of the stars came into the quiet tent.

“Good-night, fellows,” said Wally quietly. “Happy dreams!”

Blackie lay quite still in his tumbled bed, thinking about the stars.
Firmament—that was a word that meant the same as heaven, but not so
nice-sounding. The stars were bright, all right.

Gallegher must have put those cones into his bed, when he had been
chasing bunk-stretchers—it must have been Gallegher, because he had
laughed so hard when Blackie fell out. Well, so much the worse for Mr.
Gallegher! He was sleeping right above Blackie, and in the morning, Mr.
Gallegher would be surprised. He reached up one foot, tentatively, to
see how the airplane method would work in helping Gallegher to rise. The
temptation came, and he pushed upward with both feet, hard.

Zoom! Gallegher flew into the air and came down to the floor with a wild
yell. The experiment was a success. Tent Four was instantly alert.

Lefkowitz snickered. Slater moaned dolefully. Little Guppy said, “What’s
that?”

Gallegher lay tumbled on the floor among his blankets. He had bruised
his elbow against a locker, and it made him mean-tempered.

“Damn you!” he cried. “I’ll get even——”

Through the dark came the calm voice of Wally. “You seem to have been
around a bunch of pretty foul-mouthed fellows, Gallegher. Gentlemen, and
especially Lenape gentlemen, don’t talk that way. Chain gang for you
Monday morning.”

“I don’t care!” shouted Gallegher. “I’d say it again if he did that to
me. If Blackie was a gentleman, he wouldn’t have given me that airplane
ride. It’s his fault as much as mine. Why don’t you give him the chain
gang, too?”

“Blackie!”

“Yes, sir.” Blackie, chuckling happily to himself at the thought of the
row he had raised, sat up and leaned on one arm.

“Didn’t I ask you and the other fellows to key down after Taps?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right. Take your blankets and go sleep on the ground by the
flagpole to-night.”

“But why? I didn’t do a thing but get back at him for sticking
pine-cones in my bunk!”

“On your way. When you can behave decently, you can sleep with the rest
of us again.”

Sullenly, and making as much noise about it as he dared, Blackie put on
his slippers and gathered up his pillow and blankets over his arm. The
night air was cool, and he shivered slightly in his pajamas. A pine
tree’s branch brushed the canvas tent-roof above his head, and somewhere
off up the mountain a dog howled dismally. It didn’t look too inviting
out on the darkened campus by the flagpole; but he didn’t want to appear
a coward and whine to get out of going.

“Good-night, you guys,” he said with bravado and stalked out of the rear
of the tent. As he passed the bunk across from the leader’s, on his way
out, Slater stuffed something among Blackie’s blankets with a whispered
caution.

“Keep it out of sight—you’ve got the chance to get to the flagpole!”

Blackie nodded and went out on the path. The stars were like bright
candles against a blue-green silk dome, and somehow their twinkling was
not so pleasant now. He passed a line of tents, some quiet, one or two
filled with low snickers and cackles and the usual disturbance of the
first night under canvas. The white lodge showed pale and strange in the
starlight; the campus was somehow changed from what it had been in
bright day. He stumbled across to the base of the flagpole and began
spreading out his bed on the hard ground. He cleared away one or two
stones, and beat down the high grass as best he could, and tried to
rearrange his blankets into comfortable shape.

His next care was to examine the bundle that Slater had passed to him.
As he had guessed, it was the missing nightgown that Guppy had bewailed
at bedtime. He chuckled, thinking of the scheme that Slater had
suggested.

He looked around; the coast was clear. The flagpole was only a few steps
away. He jumped up, unfastened the halyards, and knotting a sleeve to
each end of the rope, hauled away. Then, almost too sleepy to care where
he lay, he crawled into his twisted bed and was dead to the world in
half a minute, smiling to think that when the morning sun rose over Camp
Lenape, it would reveal that the campers had slept under a fluttering
ensign that was nothing more than little Guppy’s pink nightgown.



                               CHAPTER IV
                              A HARD CASE


Blackie was wakened somewhat rudely the next morning. A sloshing glass
of cold water landed on his face, and he jumped up half-awake to find
Gil Shelton standing over him in the fresh sunlight with the empty glass
in his hand.

“Rise and shine!” called the patrol-leader. “First Call will sound in
about a minute. Gee, you must have been sawing wood not to hear the
noise the gang has been making ever since four o’clock this morning!
Most of the tenderfeet woke up early and have been horsing around. I
couldn’t sleep, so Chink Towner and Spaghetti Megaro and I got
permission to hike down to the cottage and back. Look at the big frog we
found by the brook!”

He held up a monstrous bullfrog by the hind legs, so close to Blackie’s
face that he jumped backwards in alarm, while Gil’s two companions
laughed.

“Don’t let him scare you,” said Megaro, the Italian boy.

“I ain’t afraid. Say, what are you going to do with him, Gil?”

“Give him to Ellick—he likes to eat frog legs. Come on, here comes
Fellowes with his tin horn ready to blow First Call.”

Blackie picked up his bed and made his way to Tent Four. All his
tent-mates were awake and laughing at little Guppy, who had just
discovered that his nightgown was floating in the breeze at the top of
the flagpole. The bugle’s call routed them all out to formation in front
of the lodge, where after a snappy setting-up drill the entire camp flew
down the slope to the boat dock for the Indian dip.

The blue waters of the lake reflected a hundred white bodies standing
about the edge of the dock waiting for Wally’s whistle. No sooner had it
sounded than there was a tremendous plunging and splashing as most of
them tumbled head-first into the crisp, bracing water. A few younger
boys and timid souls waded in from the shore.

“Stick your head under, Toots!”

“Oh, boy! Say, ain’t this water cold?”

“It ain’t cold, you dummy. Just the way I like it—wakes me up fine!”

Blackie took a swift racing dive off the front end of the dock, swept
cleanly through the water in a shower of small bubbles, and came to the
surface with a speedy overhand stroke. He swam some fifty yards out to
the life-saving boat that was stationed there with Sax McNulty at the
oars and a leader named Munson at the bow, and there floated a minute.
He was surprised to hear the trill of the whistle, followed by cries of
“All out!”

Swimming over to the dock again, he shouted in a grieved tone to Wally,
who was supervising the general exodus from the water, “What’s the idea,
Wally? Do you call this a swim?”

“Of course not—this is just morning dip, and you’ll get a chill if you
stay in long. Swim comes later.”

“Aw, heck!” Somewhat disgruntled, he climbed out and raced back to the
tent to dress for breakfast.

The morning meal over, there was a period of duty. “We’re on police
squad, you fellows!” called Ken Haviland.

“Police?” asked Blackie. “What do we do—go around arresting guys?”

“No, you sap. Get a blanket and I’ll show you.”

Blackie discovered that policing camp merely meant going about the
campus and picking up bits of paper and destroying unsightly objects
that littered the paths. Church Call sounded soon after they finished,
and together with the rest of the campers he went to a shady glade in
the forest beside the lake and sat on a log while the short Sunday
service was held. He liked sitting there in the leafy woods and singing
the various tunes, even though they were the same ones they sang in
Sunday-school at home; he admired the handiwork of the rustic pulpit
that the campers had built the year before; but when the Chief began his
talk he was frankly bored. The Chief was saying something about
different trees and how they were like different kinds of boys; but
Blackie only listened now and then. He was wishing that church was over
and that they could go in swimming again; and he passed the time
catching ants and dropping them down the neck of a smaller boy who sat
in front of him.

As a matter of fact the service was quite brief; but it seemed to him
that it would never end. After years of waiting, or so he thought, the
brisk challenge of Swim Call came from the lodge porch, and slipping
into his bathing suit, he headed again for the dock. He was the first
one there, with the exception of the life-saving crew, composed equally
of councilors and older boys who had won the Red Cross emblem that was
stitched over their breasts. Wally was in charge; he was sending out
three boats to patrol the waters about the dock and posting the guards
who would stand in various places about the tower to be on the watch for
water accidents. When this was done, the man turned to Blackie.

“First one down for swim? Say, if you’d only show as much speed doing
squad-duty, the rest of the fellows wouldn’t have to do a thing!”

“Can I go in now, Wally?”

“You’ll have to hold yourself down until the rest get here and the
whistle blows. The rule is that there’s no swimming except when the
life-savers are on duty. There aren’t going to be any accidents while
I’m in charge. By the way, I noticed this morning at Indian dip that
you’re not a bad swimmer.”

“I’m pretty good, I guess,” said Blackie modestly.

“Do you know the Australian crawl? No? Well, if you want to make speed,
that’s the stroke to use. The camp always holds a big boat regatta and
swimming meet at the end of each section—that’s two weeks from now—and
we compete with our old rivals of Camp Shawnee. I’d like to see you take
a few honors and help us to beat them. What say I teach you the crawl
some time?”

“Now?”

“To-morrow, maybe. Well, here comes the gang!” He turned away as the
crowd of campers, all in swimming togs, trooped on to the dock, and at
the sound of his whistle the swim began.

Blackie sported about the water happily for the remainder of the period.
He was quite pleased with himself for having thus been singled out by
his leader for swimming ability. Tired of circling about the life-boats,
he began ducking less experienced swimmers and pushing boys off the dock
into the water, until he was reprimanded for this conduct by Lieutenant
Eames because of the danger of someone slipping and injuring himself
against one of the piles or the superstructure of the dock. This
scolding made him sulky, and he swam by himself until the whistle blew,
and then tardily walked up to the tent, stopping many times on the way
to chase butterflies or to hunt for snakes among the rocks; and thus,
when he finally reached the tent, he found his comrades working busily.
All the beds were made except his own, and under the direction of Ken
Haviland, the boys were sweeping and arranging, cleaning the tent
lantern, putting their lockers in order, and tidying up the place.

“Where have you been?” the aide greeted him. “Snap out of it and get
dressed and make your bunk and get ready for inspection. Wally had to go
up to leaders’ meeting at the lodge.”

“Aw, don’t make such a fuss,” said Blackie. “I’ll do it, won’t I?”

“Yes, but we have only a couple minutes before inspection. If the tent
isn’t in apple-pie order, we don’t stand a chance to win the pennant
to-day.”

“Well, what if we don’t? What’s the good of having an old pennant in
front of your tent? It don’t get you anything.”

“But don’t you see it means that the Tent Four bunch are the best
campers? When you’re here longer you’ll learn not to waste time talking
back when we have a chance to show our stuff.”

Without haste, Blackie peeled off his swimming suit and cast it on the
floor, dressed with tantalizing slowness, and with a scowl at the aide,
began to make his bed. He knew that Haviland was angry and thought it a
good chance to get the tall camper’s “goat.” In the midst of his
preparations the call came down the line, “All out of tents for
inspection!” Haviland and the others jumped outside and lined up at
attention, but Blackie delayed to try and shake his blankets into shape.
Just as he stepped outside, Mr. Colby, one of the councilors and a
scoutmaster known for his strictness, came along with his inspection
staff.

“Tent Four! Two demerits for having a camper inside the tent after
inspection call. The tent seems to be in pretty good shape, but there’s
a wet bathing suit in the middle of the floor, and one bunk that isn’t
made. Sorry, Haviland—but this will give you so many demerits that
you’ll probably get the booby prize to-day! Any excuse?”

“No excuse, sir,” answered Haviland, looking daggers at the guilty
Blackie. After the inspection crew had passed on, he turned to Blackie
and said, “We would have had a good chance at the pennant if it hadn’t
been for you! As it is, we’ll probably have the booby can tied to our
tent-pole until to-morrow! What do you say, fellows—shall I recommend
that Wally puts him on the chain gang?”

“Put me on the gang if you want to—I don’t care!” exclaimed Blackie
boldly; but he was silent all during dinner, and even fried chicken,
green corn and ice-cream failed to make him forget that his careless
attitude had won him the black looks of all his tent-mates.

After the meal there was the usual siesta period. The boys were
scattered about lying in their bunks, resting and writing letters home.
Blackie crouched in his place with a pencil and pad before him. Haviland
sat across from him, now and then looking gloomily up at a big tin can,
painted black with the white letters BOOBY across it, which hung
swinging in plain sight over the front steps. Slater was writing busily.
Fat Crampton was asleep, and Gallegher was tickling the stout boy’s nose
and neck with a stalk of grass, while Guppy and Lefkowitz watched the
proceedings with amusement.

Blackie looked down at what he had written. “Dear Mother—We got here O.
K. and Camp Lenape is a fine camp. I am on the Chain Gang already and
the swimming is O. K. I will learn the Ostralien crawl soon please send
me up some fudge and cake. Last night I slep out-door. I think this is a
fine camp o boy and don’t forget the fudge and cake and some chewing gum
too.”

He read this over for the fifth time, wondered what to put down next,
and looked up to find Haviland watching him.

“What’s biting you?” Blackie asked. “Still sore because you didn’t win
your old pennant?”

“It’s not myself I’m worrying about, but after dinner I heard a couple
of the other leaders kidding Wally because he is always so proud of
having his tent make a good showing, and to-day we were handed the merry
razz.”

Blackie snorted. “Say, who is this guy Wally that he should boss us
around? Always blowing his whistle just when the water’s getting good!”

“Yeah,” put in Gallegher, who had finally succeeded in awakening Fat
Crampton. “Down our way all the guys would think he was sure a sissy,
landin’ on me just because I cussed a little.”

“He wouldn’t give me seconds on ice-cream, either,” said Fat Crampton
mournfully. “Said I ought to start to reduce.”

Ken looked at them all pityingly. “Say, don’t you know Wally is a senior
at Columbia University and on the varsity water-polo and basketball
teams? He’s coming up here and spending his time teaching you birds how
to be good campers, and that’s all the thanks he gets!”

“I guess he has a pretty good time,” said Blackie.

“Of course he does, or he wouldn’t be here. But it’s no fun to have a
tent full of lazy draw-backs like you that object every time he tries to
make a good showing.”

There was a short space of silence. Slater looked up from his writing.

“Hey, Ken, do we have council ring to-night?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“What’s council ring?” asked Blackie curiously.

Slater explained. “Just when it’s getting dark, we all put on blankets
and go over to council, just like the Indians used to do. We all sit in
a circle around a four-square fire, and one of the fellows lights the
fire with flint and steel, or else with rubbing-sticks. Then we have
report of scouts. Any fellow who has seen any interesting birds or
animals or anything like that gets up and tells about them. Then we
suggest anything we can do to help make the camp better and offer to do
it. Then they have all kinds of contests—hand-wrestling and talk-fests
and imitations, and usually end up with a ghost story. It’s real fun,
all right.”

Blackie remembered that Gil had pointed out the way to the council ring
the evening before, and suddenly thought he would like to see the place
by daylight. He put away his letter, rose, and stretched.

“So long, you guys,” he said.

“Where are you going?” asked the aide. “Nobody’s allowed to leave until
after Recall.”

“None of your business—and if you ask me, I think you’re nothing but a
spy on us for this Wally of yours.” He dived into the bushes and
disappeared before Haviland could follow.

Not only did he want the fun of tormenting Ken, but also wishing to look
over the famous council ring, he took a course through the woods that he
thought would bring him out at the place he sought. It was quiet; the
camp was still even for a Sunday afternoon. He pressed through the
underbrush and in a short time stumbled upon a well-worn path that led
in the direction he was going. Shortly he caught a glimpse of white
birch railings through the leaves, and he trod softly in case there
should be anyone there who might question him. His precaution proved to
be wise. From a clearing ahead came the low hum of men’s voices.

A circle some fifty yards across had been cleared in the woods, and
seats built about it, with an imposing stone dais on the north side to
furnish a proper elevation for the chieftain. Sitting on this stone were
the Chief himself and Wally Rawn, chatting together.

They had not seen him, and it struck Blackie that it might be a daring
thing to get close enough to overhear their conference. Forgetful of the
old saying that eavesdroppers seldom hear well of themselves, he wormed
his way around through the bushes and found a place where he could
listen without being seen.

“I approve of the life-saving crew assignments you’ve made, then,
Wally,” the Chief was saying. He rose as if to leave. “By the way, what
do you think of the bunch I’ve put in your tent?”

“They look pretty good,” answered Wally. “They ought to turn out
first-rate after a couple of days. Haviland is a pretty capable kid, and
Slater is bugs about stars and scouting and doesn’t give much trouble.
That Crampton lad is lazy, but I hope to have him get over that when we
get out on the hikes.”

“You have two fellows I put in with you because they need pretty careful
leadership. Know who they are?”

“Think I do, Chief—Gallegher and that Blackie Thorne.”

“Right. Gallegher comes from the worst part of town, and I think he may
have picked up a lot of questionable habits. Thorne is a different sort.
He’s lively and smart as a whip; but his father is dead and maybe he’s
getting to be too much for his mother to handle alone. He’s full of
mischief, his scoutmaster tells me, but he ought to turn out right.
They’re a pair of hard cases, I guess; but keep them busy and they’ll
soon be real Lenape fellows.”

“I like hard cases,” grinned Wally. “Blackie is crazy about swimming;
guess I can get him interested through that, and the old camp spirit is
bound to follow. Well, let’s get back.”

The two men, arm in arm, disappeared down the path. Blackie Thorne, in
his hidden covert, laughed unpleasantly at their backs.

“Hard case, am I?” he said to himself. “Well, Mr. Smart Wally, if you
call me that, I guess all I can do is to try and live up to it!”



                               CHAPTER V
                                TREASURE


“This chain gang ain’t so bad,” remarked Gallegher.

It was after breakfast on Monday morning. He and Blackie, as well as
three other culprits, were chopping wood behind the camp kitchen with
the supervision and assistance of Jim Avery, a tall, gangling councilor
who was a specialist in woodcraft and bird-study.

Blackie split up a knotty stick of oak before replying.

“Sure, this ain’t such hard work. The leader does half of it, anyway.
Say, you were pretty good, to cuss right in front of Wally the other
night.”

“Aw, that’s nothin’. I guess I’m pretty tough, all right. I used to go
down by the railroad lots of times and hook rides on the freight cars.
Once I bummed clear out to Scranton and back, that way.”

“Gee! No wonder the Chief said you was a hard case!”

Gallegher stopped his chopping, and looked up proudly. “Did he say
that?”

“Yeah. I heard him talking to our noble councilor about us. He said we
were both hard cases, and that Wally would have to watch us.”

“Well, if that’s the way they do in this camp, I’m sure goin’ to get
away with everything I can. How about it—are you with me, Thorne?”

“Sure.”

They split wood for a while in silence. Blackie’s back began to ache
from stooping over so much. He dropped his ax and stretched.

“Gosh, I’m getting sick of this job. When Jim lets us go, I’m going to
head for my bunk and stay there the rest of the day.”

“Say, what did you come to camp for—to be a bunk-stretcher?” asked
Gallegher. “They’re goin’ to have tests for the honor emblem this
mornin’—ain’t you goin’ to try for one?”

“What’s the honor emblem? What good is it?”

“Aw, you have to pass a lot of tests, and then they give you a badge to
sew on your jersey. You’ve seen them—lots of the guys have won them.”

“You mean the things with a swastika and a big L on them? What do you
get for it?”

“Say, don’t be dumb all your life! If a guy has an honor emblem he can
join the Bugs Society and have an initiation and a feed, and then he can
get away with lots of things, just because he’s got a badge, see? It’s
somethin’ like the Knights of Columbus.”

“Oh. What did you say you have to do to get one?”

“A bunch of things, like knowin’ the names of the parts of a boat and
bein’ good at hikin’ and swimmin’ and athaletics——”

“That’s me. I can do all those things.”

“—And collect flowers and tree leaves and rocks, and know the names of
the stars, and box the compass, and cook a meal, and build cabins and do
stunts—a whole lot of stuff. We can do it easy.”

Blackie considered this, and after his work was done he joined a nature
hike. During the hour before swim, he learned much that he had not
previously known about geology and ferns, and collected the ten leaves
he must identify as one of the qualifications toward his honor emblem.

Since overhearing Wally and the Chief in the council ring, his attitude
toward his leader had changed. He now thought of Wally as an irksome
guardian and taskmaster, and found excuses for himself to disagree with
every suggestion the councilor made. Nevertheless, he remembered Wally’s
promise of the previous day, and after all the other campers had come
out of the water after swim, he touched Wally on the arm and reminded
him that he was to be taught the Australian crawl.

The life-saving crew now had its brief moment of fun. They were having a
game of water-tag about the boats and up the diving-tower. Blackie
thought it great sport to be with them, and under Wally’s direction to
seem one of the outfit that was so much at home in deep water. He kept
one eye on their antics and with the other watched Wally Rawn
demonstrate the approved method of breathing with the crawl stroke that
sent him plowing through the sunlit water at a speedy rate. Then it came
Blackie’s turn to show what he had learned, while Wally stood on the
dock and shouted directions.

“That’s right—take a breath every fourth stroke, and let it out under
water! Don’t use that frog kick—use the trudgeon! Keep your fingers
together! That’s the way.”

At first Blackie found it hard to get the correct timing for his
breaths, but after some twenty minutes Wally called a halt and put an
end to the lesson for the day, pronouncing himself well satisfied with
the boy’s progress.

“If we keep on like this, you ought to win a couple first places in the
Shawnee meet, Blackie. I’ll give you some diving instruction later on—I
think I’ll give all the fellows in the tent a chance to learn a few
jack-knives and swan dives.”

“What do we get if we win?” asked Blackie.

“Award ribbons, and lots of glory for Lenape. What more do you want?
You’re pretty young yet, kid—but I hope it won’t be long before you find
out that the biggest rewards in life are the ones you don’t get paid
for. Money or silver cups or ice-cream don’t begin to compare with the
ownership of an alert mind, a strong, clean, healthy body, fine
friendships, and a reputation for honor and manliness and courage. Do
you know there’s a treasure buried here on the Lenape campus?”

Blackie was aglow on the instant. “Where? Do you know where to dig for
it? Is it a pirate treasure? Let me help you hunt for it, Wally!”

The man smiled. “There you go again—always on the lookout for a selfish,
personal gain! The treasure I mean isn’t made of Spanish doubloons and
stolen jewels; but it’s here, waiting for every boy to find it for
himself. If you’ve got the right stuff in you, Blackie, and I think you
have, you can take that treasure home with you when you leave camp. It’s
a treasure you wouldn’t want to trade for anything else in the world—the
treasure of a true Lenape spirit.”

Blackie’s visions of delving in the dead of night for a glittering hoard
in a pirate chest vanished. Somewhat downcast, he muttered, “Aw, don’t
preach! Just the same, I sure would like to take home a bunch of money
that I found up here.”

“Well, stranger things have happened. Guess your mother would be proud
if you did.”

“Sure! It would help a lot; we don’t have much money since Dad left us.
You see, she runs a little store and sells sewing things and fancy
embroidery and stuff like that.”

Wally nodded. “Did you ever stop to think how much she is sacrificing to
give you a good time camping up here in the woods?”

“I guess so,” said Blackie uncomfortably. “Let’s go. We don’t want to be
late to-day—we don’t want to get the booby prize for inspection twice in
a row.”

“That’s the spirit!”



                               CHAPTER VI
                           THE HERMIT’S HOUSE


That night after supper, when the whistle had shrilled for silence,
Happy Face Frayne, who was officer of the day, made announcement of the
evening’s program. “We still have lots of daylight left after supper, so
we have planned a few short hikes before dark. Then, after that, we’ll
gather here in the lodge around the fire and have some songs and
stories.”

“Hurray!”

“Mr. Munson will take a group up the mountain road to the Devil’s Potato
Patch. Mr. Colby will head a boating expedition to the dam at the end of
the lake, while those who want to visit Rattlesnake Joe, the hermit,
will report to Dr. Cannon. Those who stay in camp can have a rousing
game of volley ball—Long Jim Avery and Lieutenant Eames will choose
sides.”

“Hurray!”

“Dismissed!”

“Where you going, you crazy Irishman?” Blackie asked his bosom friend
Gallegher when they were outside.

“Me? I’m goin’ to start out with the bunch up the mountain, and then
lose myself. You want to come?” He winked significantly.

“What are you going to do?”

“You’ll see, if you come with me. We’ll get away from these babies and
have a good time of our own.”

“All right. Hi, Gil!” shouted Blackie, as his patrol-leader passed by.
“Where you heading?”

“Up the lake. Say, you remember when we hiked the short way to camp the
first night we came up? You remember that house you asked me about?
Well, now’s your chance to see it closer. That’s where the hermit lives,
and he’s a queer old bird if there ever was one.”

At Gil’s words the picture of that secret, sinister house on the
mountainside, as Blackie had first glimpsed it, came back to him.

“That’s right—thanks for reminding me. I’m sorry, Irish—I’ll sneak off
with you some other time.”

He slipped away and joined the group around Dr. Cannon, the camp medico,
at the lodge steps. There were some fifteen or twenty campers who
clamored about the short, sturdy figure of the doctor, deluging him with
questions about their destination.

“The old hermit, Rattlesnake Joe, is one of the sights of this part of
the country,” he said, quieting them with a gesture. “I don’t need to
tell you anything more—you’ll see him for yourselves soon enough. Keep
together—forward, march!”

The boys straggled behind him as he led the way around behind the
kitchen and the ice-house and on past the Red Cross tent to the road.
Blackie marched in company with the Utway twins and a shock-haired
“two-striper” nicknamed “Sunfish” because he had once fallen out of a
canoe and when he was pulled up on the dock, it was discovered that he
had unwittingly trapped a good-sized sunfish in one of the pockets of
his sweater.

The hikers turned off to the right where the road turned up the
mountain, and headed down a marshy lane bounded with a stone fence on
each side. The small, stinging deer-flies swarmed about their heads, and
Jerry Utway, one of the twins, showed Blackie how to fasten a
handkerchief around his head so that it would flutter and keep the
bothersome insects at a distance.

“See that tree?” asked the Sunfish.

Blackie nodded.

“Well, that’s a black birch tree—the kind they make birch beer from.
Some time I’ll show you how to tap it and get a drink of the sap—it
tastes great. Here, take this twig and chew on it. Doesn’t it taste
something like sassafras?”

“Come on—we’ll be back with Elephant Crampton in a minute,” urged Jake,
the other of the twins. “Hurry up if you kids want to see the old hermit
before dark.”

They increased their pace, and caught up with the vanguard about Dr.
Cannon just as the mysterious house came into sight at the end of the
lane. Surrounded by the shouting company of the campers, Blackie was not
so awed by the place as he had been when, alone with Gil, he had
glimpsed it from afar on his first memorable evening in camp. There were
the same weathered shingles on the low roof, the same dirty windows and
decaying out-houses—but it did not seem so unreal and awful now.

On their approach they were announced by the furious baying and howling
of half a dozen hounds that leaped and pulled at their chains beside a
rickety kennel by the door. The campers drew back, hoping with all their
hearts that none of the dogs would break loose. The door was flung open,
and a tall old man stamped out and began quieting the hounds, beating
their heads with a stick until they subsided, whimpering. Then he turned
and gazed strangely at the group of boys, shading his eyes against the
slanting rays of sunset.

“Wal, now,” he said after a minute, “if it ain’t the Doctor and the
camp-ground boys. How be ye, Doc?” He extended a dirty and claw-like
hand. Blackie was near enough to notice that the finger-nails were all
about half an inch long, broken, ragged, and encrusted with mold.

Indeed, as Blackie watched him shake hands with Dr. Cannon and step back
to lounge in the doorway, he seemed a far from attractive personality.
He was probably sixty years old, with a tall, stoop-shouldered body. He
leaned slouchily against the rough doorpost, and the blackened fingers
of one hand nervously combed a ragged and greasy beard that was streaked
with gray. The same tangled gray prevailed in the straggling hair that
crawled from beneath his battered felt hat, and in the discouraged
mustache that drooped to mingle with the beard. The hermit’s eyes were
bleared by sitting beside a smoky fire, and were overhung by bushy
brows. Now and then, as he talked, he would profanely quiet the hounds
at his feet, who, it must be admitted, were far more intelligent and far
cleaner than their master.

“Glad ye’ve come, boys,” he drawled. “Allus glad to see boys here. Glad
to see anybody. I been livin’ all alone here five year now come fall,
sence my boy Jase left me to go over and cut ties in Pike County. Good
boy, Jase was, but him and me couldn’t get along right well together.
Say, Doc, when ye get back to camp-ground ye kin give Ellick and the
Chief my regards fer sendin’ up that sack of flour last week. Shore did
enj’y it.”

“We thought you might,” said the doctor. “These boys wanted to take a
little hike to-night, and I brought them up to call on you.”

“Thet’s fine—allus glad to see boys. Well, boys, guess ye want to see my
old thunderbolt, don’t ye? I allus show all the boys that thunderbolt——”
He entered his house and with a long knife pried up a flat flagstone,
one of those forming the hearth before his fireplace. Blackie saw him
kneeling in a shaft of sunlight beside the cold embers, and watched
until he drew forth from its hiding-place what seemed to be a long,
thin, slate-colored piece of stone or iron. The hermit brought it out
and passed it around for all to see. It was pitted and twisted, like a
short iron bar that had been exposed to rough use and rust for years.

“Thet’s my thunderbolt,” the hermit explained. “Ten year ago come August
we had a whackin’ big storm—black clouds piled high over the hills here
till it looked like midnight. All of a sudden, bang! comes a big blast
of lightnin’, and hit thet old oak tree out thar—it was a big tree then,
but it’s only a stump now. After the storm was all over I come out thar
and saw this stuck right in the middle of the tree—had to cut it out
with my old ax. Look at it close, young fellers—ye don’t get a chance to
see a reg’lar thunderbolt every day.”

The boys hurriedly passed the famous object from hand to hand, for it
was suddenly growing dark and the doctor had announced that it was time
to leave. Blackie was not at all regretful to leave the neighborhood of
that ruined house, which became more unfriendly as the long shadows of
the pines barred and striped its mouldering walls.

“How long has he lived here?” he asked Dr. Cannon as they hiked on the
return journey at a rapid pace.

“All his life, I guess,” was the reply. “He makes a poor living, cutting
railroad ties and raising a few pigs and chickens—just enough to scrape
along on. It just shows you what a life of ignorance and dirt can do to
a man.”

“Was that a true story about his thunderbolt?”

“There aren’t really any bolts thrown down during a thunderstorm. That
thing he had may be what is called a belemnite, or maybe just a piece of
meteoric iron he found, and made up the story about it afterward.”

On the return trip Jerry Utway discovered a patch of gooseberries. He
and his brother and Blackie and Sunfish clustered about and found a few
berries that had ripened.

“Well, Blackie,” said Sunfish, talking with his mouth full, “guess you
won’t feel so lively to-morrow night.”

“Why? What’s going to happen?”

“Stuck-Ups.”

“What’s that?”

The two-striper put his thumbs in his ears and waggled his fingers
mysteriously. “You’ll see,” he said meaningly. “They initiate all the
new campers then. Big secret society; everybody tries to join, but they
don’t always stand the tortures.”

“Do they have real good tortures at this camp?” asked Jake. “We joined
up at Camp Coutrell last year, so we don’t have to get initiated here.
Oh, boy! We were black and blue for a week afterwards!”

“What do they do to a guy?” asked Blackie.

“You’ll find out. The Grand Mogul makes the neophytes—the new guys—do
all sorts of things and go through all kinds of tortures.”

“I won’t do it,” announced Blackie, with a sudden sinking of the heart.

“Oh, you’ll have to, if you want to be one of the society. After you get
in, it’s lots of fun helping to initiate the ones that join after you
do. And some day, maybe you can work up to be one of the officers, like
the Exalted Overseers of the Rabble or the Supreme Potent Inquisitors or
the Sublunary Administers of the Last Rites.”

“That sounds fine, but I don’t want to be black and blue for a week.
Can’t you get in without being tortured?”

“Oh, no!” said Sunfish. “A guy has to go through perils and trials
before he ever amounts to anything in the world. Come on—we’ll be the
last ones in camp as it is.”

The four hastened after that. A few hundred yards from camp they came
upon Fat Crampton, weary but still determined, and cheered him with the
news that the tents were not far away. Through the trees was borne the
rollicking chorus of the singers gathered about the fireplace in the
lodge, united in good fellowship and roaring out the lilting words of
the Lenape marching song:

  “Oh, I’ve travelled the world from shore to shore
    And sailed on every sea,
  But there ain’t no spot in the whole darned lot
    Like old Camp Le-na-pe!”



                              CHAPTER VII
                               INITIATION


The coming initiation ceremony of the Stuck-Up Society was the chief
subject of conversation during Tuesday. Many were the direful hints and
bloodthirsty tales that the new campers heard from the lips of seasoned
Lenape boys, who, of course, were all members of the society and who
were all occupied in getting out their regalia and ceremonial weapons in
preparation for the big night.

Immediately after the supper dishes were washed, the lodge was cleared
of all except the dozen members of the society who had been chosen to
arrange the mess-hall as the Throne Room. Blackie, sitting on the steps
in front of his tent, could hear a prodigious thumping and running and
hurly-burly inside the lodge, but could see nothing, because blankets
had been hung over all the windows and the door was guarded. He was
gravely watching Slater, who had been initiated the year before. The
red-headed boy was putting the finishing touches on a war-club he had
just made, meanwhile whistling the Funeral March in a dolorous key.

“How’s that?” he asked, whirling the formidable club by its thong. “When
you’re a member, you can bear one of these at initiations too.”

“Say, how do you make one of those clubs?” asked Blackie.

“First you find a nice little white birch tree. You dig it up and cut it
off about two feet above the roots; then you peel it around the base and
sharpen the roots. Then you can cut your mark and decorations and
designs on the bark, like this. If you soak it in water soon after it’s
cut, it gives it this nice, red, bloody color.”

“All loyal Stuck-Ups come to the Throne Room!” came a call through the
megaphone on the lodge porch.

“So long,” said Slater. “I’ve got to go up now. I’ll see you later. Take
my advice and don’t get fresh with the Grand Mogul, or it’ll be all the
worse for you.”

He departed, swinging his club with gusto. Blackie left to join the
group of new campers who were gathered under the big black-cherry tree
by the baseball field to await the summons to their doom. There were
about forty of them; among them he found many he knew, mostly boys who
had never spent a season at Lenape. Lefkowitz, Guppy, Fat Crampton, and
Gallegher were those from Tent Four who, beside himself, were to prepare
to undergo the awful ordeal. They sat about nervously on the stone
fence, trying to reassure themselves by bold talk and a great deal of
forced laughter.

“Here they come!” shouted one boy after a while, and instantly there was
silence. All eyes were turned to watch the approach of the Outer Guard,
which consisted of four older boys marching toward them in formation.
Each one of them wore nothing but a towel caught about his hips and
knotted on the side, and fantastic peaked hats some three feet high that
had been made by wetting an ordinary felt hat and pulling it over the
end of a baseball bat until the crown had stretched to a high point. The
faces and bodies of the Guard were barbarically daubed and streaked with
colored grease-paint, and each bore over his shoulder a broad-bladed
canoe paddle.

They solemnly halted beside the secretly trembling neophytes, and
“Kipper” Dabney, who was in charge, spoke in hollow tones: “Line up by
the alphabet—those with names beginning with A are in front. You are all
about to undergo the dread inquisition of the Omnipotent Stuck-Up
Society. Meditate upon your benighted souls, and ponder how best you can
serve the spirit of Lenape!”

He counted off the first four boys in the line, and marched them away to
the lodge porch. Blackie saw Dabney give a secret knock and a password;
the portals of the Throne Room unclosed; there was a flourish of
trumpets, and then an ominous silence that lasted until the Outer Guard
again came to take four more aspirants to the great hall of the society.

Four by four, Blackie Thorne saw his fellows vanish into the echoing
Throne Room. He was almost at the end of the line, and did not know
whether to be pleased or sorry that he would be one of the last to be
initiated; but Fat Crampton went with the second bunch, and both Guppy
and Gallegher with the fourth. Blackie was surprised to see the latter,
about twenty minutes after he had entered, ejected somewhat roughly
through the door and escorted down the steps by two stalwart guards.

“What’s the matter?” he called. “What did they do to you, Irish?”

“Aw, they booted me out of their old society!” mumbled Gallegher. “They
let that little squirt Guppy stay in, though. Guess I didn’t bow down
and lick their boots enough to suit ’em.”

“Key down, you!” ordered one of the guards. “You have been told to go to
your tent. You, Thorne, get back in line and wait your turn.”

Blackie returned to his place, wondering at this new development.
Gallegher had failed to pass the trials for some reason; evidently the
Stuck-Ups did not accept everybody. But he figured that he was at least
as clever as Nightshirt Guppy and could stand any test they might put to
him.

At last there were only three neophytes left under the
cherry-tree—Blackie, a younger boy named “Peanut” Westover, and Slim
Yerkes. Peanut had grown more and more timid as the minutes passed, and
at last ventured to address the others in quavering tones.

“Do—do you think they’re going to hurt us much?”

“Maybe,” said Blackie. “Who cares if they do?”

“I sneaked my pillow out here with me,” confessed the boy, “and stuffed
it in the seat of my trousers. Some of the kids said they paddle you
something awful.”

“Well, we’re in for it now,” said Yerkes, pointing. “Here come the
guards for us.”

The three neophytes were surrounded by the serious-faced paddle-bearers
and marched up the steps to the porch. Blackie assumed a careless
expression to conceal his inward misgivings, and whistled with as much
bravado as he could muster.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Kipper Dabney whispered a password through the
keyhole, the door swung open, and they were marched inside. Two boys
with sashes about their waists, whom Blackie recognized as Ted Fellowes
and his younger brother, put pennant-hung bugles to their lips and blew
a clarion call that set the rafters ringing. The huge room was dark
except for a space in front of the empty fireplace, where a row of
lanterns shed a yellow glare which, however, did not reveal the faces of
three men who sat, robed in blankets, upon a high dais made of benches
piled one upon the other. About the circle the grotesquely-costumed
members of the society sat in grim silence, nursing their war-clubs and
looking with threatening anticipation at the three newcomers.

From the darkness came the gruesome chords of the Funeral March, played
on the concealed piano; and down an aisle in the center of the seated
initiates proceeded the guarded trio. Peanut Westover was shivering with
fear, and his knees were knocking together at every step. With a roll of
drums they arrived before the dais, and were lined up facing the almost
indistinguishable robed figures of the Grand Master and his two
potentates.

“Three more rash neophytes who would dare the wrath of the honorable
Stuck-Up Society,” announced Kipper in a sepulchral voice, and with a
deep salaam he stepped back and left the three candidates together in
the middle of the lighted space. Blackie could feel everyone’s eyes upon
him, and he had a tingling, shaky feeling somewhere inside; but he
resolved that not one of them should think for a minute that he was
afraid.

The Grand Mogul upon his throne said nothing, but surveyed the three
boys before him with tantalizing deliberateness. Finally he spoke.

“You have signified your desire to enroll your unworthy names upon the
laurel-crowned roster of the honorable Stuck-Up Society. In order to win
to the gates of Glory you must first slay the Dragon of Selfishness,
defeat the Giant of Fear and arm yourselves with the Helmet of
Knowledge, the Spear of Courage, and the Sword of Justice. Are you ready
to make the trial?”

He looked at Peanut at the end of the line, and the boy quavered,
“Y-Y-Yes.”

“_Sir!_” roared the entire group within the lodge, bellowing with all
their might and beating their clubs upon the resounding floor.

“Y-Y-Yes, sir,” said Peanut, more frightened than ever.

“What is your name?” asked the inquisitor.

“P-P-Peanut, sir.”

“You have a most suspicious bulge in your trousers. Please remove the
padding, Master Seneschal.”

A boy stepped forth and removed the pillow that Peanut had placed where
he thought it would do the most good, while the circle of campers roared
with laughter at his predicament.

“Let’s see how smart you are, Peanut,” commanded the Grand Mogul. “Spell
your name with a sneeze and a hiccough.”

Peanut looked bewildered. Blackie nudged him and whispered, loud enough
for everybody to hear, “Go ahead, kid—he won’t hurt you. He’s only Sax
McNulty dressed up a little.”

The crowd gasped, horrified at such unheard-of impudence from a
candidate.

“One bell!” said the Mogul solemnly, looking gravely at the offender.
Off at one side, a dishpan struck with a drumstick resounded once with a
hollow clang. “Now—go on, Peanut.”

Taking courage, the smaller boy began: “P—achoo!—E—hup!—A—choo!—N——”

“That will do. Now get down on the floor and scramble like an egg.”

Peanut gave the best imitation of an egg in the process of being
scrambled that he could muster. When he had finished, Sax ordered him to
rise, and spoke again.

“Neophyte Peanut, you must learn that the spirit of Lenape is found in
sacrifice and self-denial. Through secret channels I am informed that
your greatest weakness is wasting the time of your leaders with foolish
questions. To remind you that it is better for a camper to discover
things for himself, I command you not to ask a single question of
anybody all day to-morrow; if any member of the society hears you ask a
question, he will be entitled to hot-hand you once. Now, you tall,
gangling, skinny drink of water on the other end,” he continued, turning
toward Slim Yerkes, “what have you got to say for yourself?”

“Nothing, sir,” said Slim quietly.

“That’s just the trouble with you. You’re always so quiet that nobody
ever knows you’re around. I’ll bet a dollar to a flash of lightning that
you’ve got lots of talent but are afraid to let anybody know it. Camp is
the place where a boy learns to step out of the background and show what
he can do. You’re here to-night to help amuse the Stuck-Ups. Let’s
see—can you sing?”

“No, sir.”

“There you go—I’m sure you’re a mighty fine singer if only you had a
little confidence. Now clear your throat, sound off, and sing in a bold
voice ‘How Dry I Am,’ starting from the end and working forwards.”

“Am I dry how——” Slim croaked feebly. The campers set up a groan, but
the Grand Mogul pretended to be immensely pleased at the thin lad’s
singing ability.

“That’s not so terrible. Now, just to make you get out of your shell, I
order you to put on a free show to-morrow for anybody that asks you.
Just pretend you’re a whole circus side-show, and when they ask you,
give imitations of the Fat Lady, the India-Rubber Man, JoJo the
Dog-Faced Boy, the Snake Charmer, or anything else they happen to think
up. Now, next case for the executioner!” He transferred his attention to
Blackie Thorne.

“All right,” said Blackie insolently, deliberately leaving off the title
of respect. “What are you going to do to me?”

“_Sir!_” roared the assembled Stuck-Ups.

“Two bells! Three bells and the foolhardy neophyte hangs on the red
cedar at midnight!” intoned Sax McNulty. The dishpan gong resounded with
two slow strokes. “You have twice dared the wrath of the Stuck-Up
Society. What excuse have you to offer, you in the middle? What’s your
name?”

Blackie resolved that he would not be daunted by the rigmarole of the
initiation as his two companions had been, and answered as impudently as
he could, “Aw, I go by the name of Saxophone McNulty.”

The listeners broke into a pandemonium of hooting and roaring, almost
drowning out the booming of the gong sounding three bells. For the first
time the Grand Mogul’s tone became deadly serious, and when he could
make himself heard he addressed Blackie with measured calm.

“Though the Stuck-Up Society has assembled here to-night in a spirit of
fun, the unwritten code of good-fellowship should govern our every
action as much now as at any other time. You, Thorne, have deliberately
disregarded that code. Besides being an obvious falsehood, your answer
showed a silly wilfulness. In the few days you have been at Lenape you
have shown yourself to be a ‘fresh guy’ and a bully to those who are
weaker than yourself; you have shown a lack of self-control and a
selfish forgetfulness of the other fellow. You get lots of fun out of
playing jokes on somebody else, but as soon as they play a trick on you,
you get sore and go off by yourself and sulk. Am I right?”

“I guess so, sir.” Blackie hung his head; he hated to be talked to this
way in front of all the other campers.

“Don’t forget, Blackie,” went on the leader, “that the difficult things
in the world are the ones worth fighting for. It’s easy to be fresh, to
be a bully, to lose your temper, to stir up mischief; but the
worth-while things are gentlemanliness and self-control. Everybody here
will help you all they can, but only you yourself can fight the fight to
make yourself a good Lenape camper. When you have won that fight and
proved that you possess the spirit of sportsmanship and team-play, you
can have another chance to join the honorable ranks of the Stuck-Up
Society. The initiation ceremonies will now proceed without you. Go to
your tent!”



                              CHAPTER VIII
                             THE SNIPE HUNT


“Last night about dusk, when I was walking by the marsh down where the
creek empties into the lake, I was surprised to discover a large flock
of snipe. Now, hunting this wary game-bird is one of the sports that
Camp Lenape is famous for; and since in my opinion we couldn’t have
better weather for it, I suggested to the Chief that we have a hunt this
very night.”

Mr. Carrigan, leader of Tent Nine and camp naturalist, was making a
report after supper the next day; and judging from the cheer that went
up at his words, the sport he spoke of was one of the greatest
attractions that camp life could offer. Blackie Thorne, sobered by his
humiliating experience in the Throne Room of the Stuck-Up Society the
previous night, listened with both ears as the councilor continued his
announcement.

“I do not need to explain to campers who have spent a season at Lenape
that it is exceedingly difficult to capture the elusive snipe. It
requires great care and skill to catch them, and since it would be
impossible for all of us to go after them, it has become the custom for
the old campers, who have all bagged their birds, to give first chance
to the new boys and to act as ‘beaters’ and scare up the game for them.
They will take care of the inexperienced hunters, see that they are
placed in a good position along a well-known snipe ‘run,’ and do all
they can to drive the birds their way.

“Now, since many of the new boys will not know about the habits and
method of catching this most famous of all game-birds, it will be best
to explain a few details. There are several varieties of snipe. The
variety that is usually found on the Lenape campus is the ‘coo’ snipe,
which may always be recognized by the fact that its eggs are not round
but cube-shaped. Another variety, the ‘fan-tail’ snipe, is found a few
miles north of here, near Camp Shawnee, our rivals on Iron Lake. The
snipe is a bird with long legs and long bill, and the meat is very
succulent, tasting like a cross between turkey and lemon pie. Ellick,
our genial chef, is well-known for his ability to fry snipe in the most
toothsome way, and has furthermore, out of his love for the sport,
offered a prize of one watermelon from the camp ice-box to the first
camper who brings in his snipe.”

Cheers followed, for Ellick, for Mr. Carrigan, and for the watermelon.

“The best method of catching this cunning bird,” continued the leader
when the noise had died down again, “is by means of the bag and lantern.
Each hunter should provide himself with a burlap bag—or a pillow-case
will do—and a lantern of some sort. When one of the beaters posts him
along a snipe ‘run,’ as we call the trails which the birds make along
the ground through the bushes on their way down to the lake for a drink,
the hunter should prop the mouth of the bag open with sticks, place a
small pyramid of rocks in front of it, and station himself behind the
bag with his lantern. He then at intervals gives the snipe mating-call,
like this—_coo-coo-coo!_—in a soft and liquid voice. The snipe, aroused
and startled by the approach of the beaters through the bushes, flies
into the air in alarm. Hearing the mating-call and mistaking the pile of
rocks for its nest, it flies toward the open bag, and dazzled by the
light in its eyes, blunders right into the bag. Then all the hunter has
to do is to grab the top of the bag quickly, and the bird is imprisoned
alive and brought back to camp. Remember—the first one to catch his bird
wins the watermelon!”

He sat down amidst a tornado of cheering. During the uproar Wally
managed to make himself heard at the Tent Four table.

“With four hunters in our bunch,” he said, “we ought to have enough
snipe to-morrow to make a full meal for the whole table. Soon as we’re
dismissed, you fellows hop around and see if Ellick hasn’t got some old
bags you can borrow. Don’t let anybody else get ahead of you if you can
help it—it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have some watermelon to eat along
with that fried snipe!”

As soon as the whistle sounded, Blackie joined the torrent of boys that
poured out into the kitchen to besiege Ellick for bags, boxes—anything
in which a bird might be trapped. The chef looked about genially,
finding something for most of them, smiling and assuring them that the
prize offer was true, showing them the big green watermelon that would
fall to the lucky Nimrod. Blackie was fortunate enough to find an empty
potato-sack, and after providing himself with the powerful flash-lantern
he had brought to camp, was ready to put himself in the hands of the
experienced beaters, who would show him the correct place to post
himself.

To his surprise, Sax McNulty, the councilor who had served the previous
night as Grand Mogul and who had ordered Blackie’s ejection from the
Throne Room, singled him out. The gloomy-faced comedian nodded somberly.

“Hello, Thorne! Going to redeem yourself and make the camp forget last
night by being the first to get your snipe?”

“I don’t know about that,” said Blackie, “but I sure am going to try.
Say, Sax!”

“What?”

“I—I’m sorry I was so fresh last night. I won’t forget what you said
about being a good sport. And I didn’t mean to act the way I did.”

“Oh, that’s all right. You didn’t hurt my feelings any. Just to show you
we’re good friends, I’m going to take you to the best place on the
campus for snipe. I know where there’s a ‘run’ where as many snipe have
been caught as in all the other places within six miles. I’ll be your
beater. Got your outfit? Good. Trot along!”

He led the way at a rapid pace and Blackie followed, lugging his bag and
lantern. They cut straight through the woods away from the lake; in
places it was already so dark that the boy switched on his light to see
the way. McNulty made so many turns and twists that it was not long
before Blackie lost all sense of direction. At last, much to the boy’s
satisfaction, the leader announced that they had reached the place. He
helped Blackie rig up the sack with the mouth propped and held open by
sticks, and arranged a pile of stones in front.

“In my experience,” said McNulty, “I think Mr. Carrigan is wrong about
the mating-call. It really sounds more like _kuk-kuk-kuk_ than
_coo-coo_.” He made the boy practise the call over and over until he was
satisfied.

“Now,” he said, “you just wait here until I beat a few down your way.”

He departed stealthily through the undergrowth, and Blackie crouched
waiting behind his glaring lamp. For ten or fifteen minutes he heard
nothing but the sweet whistles of the whippoorwill and the timid
twilight noises of the woods. Then from the front came a series of
halloos and the crackling of a body passing through the brush. McNulty’s
voice was raised in the beater’s call, advancing swiftly toward him. The
boy clucked as he had been told. There was a whirr like that of wings,
and a flashing shadow in the bright beam of the light. Blackie fell
forward on his bag, sure that some wild thing was struggling among its
folds.

“Get any?” asked McNulty, rushing up with a long stick in his hand.
“Here—let me take a look—careful now! Don’t let him out, whatever you
do! Easy—I’ll hold it, and you reach down and pull him out. Don’t be
scared—they just peck you a little bit.”

Gingerly, and not at all sure that he would like to be pecked by a sharp
bill even a little bit, Blackie put his arm in the bag and felt about.
His fingers closed on something, and hastily he jerked it forth. Instead
of a struggling mass of feathers, his hand held only a bunch of tangled
grass and twigs.

Sax McNulty snorted in disgust. “Thought you had a snipe! Huh! Here I
drove a whole covey of them right at you! Didn’t you see them?”

“Yes, I thought I saw one fly right into the bag! How did this get
here?”

“You ought to know. Well, guess I’ll have to go through it all again—and
it’s no fun beating these bushes. I’m all scratched up already. If you
don’t have better luck this time, we’ll have to go somewhere else. I’ll
have to go almost to the top of the mountain as it is—I’ve already
covered the ground near here.”

He moved away and disappeared into the July night. Blackie settled
himself for a long wait.

It was lonely there in the woods. He thought over one by one every
incident that had happened since he had landed in camp. Already four
days of his slender two weeks at Lenape had passed; only ten days more
and he would have to return to the hot city, far from the exciting
adventures of forest and lake and lodge.

It seemed to him that hours had passed since Sax had left him. He
listened with all his might to try and pick up the leader’s shouting off
in the silent woods. Mosquitoes, attracted by the light, swarmed about
him and made him miserable with their tormenting hum; he slapped at
them, but still they came to sting his neck and wrists and ankles. He
would have turned off the light, but knew that if he did so he would
miss his chance of bringing in any snipe; and he was determined not to
return to camp without at least one bird. By this time many of the new
boys should have captured their prey; and he could not think of
returning empty-handed. Why didn’t McNulty return?

Gradually it dawned upon him that the leader would not return, that he
had not intended to return. It must all be a joke! Just another of those
innumerable hoaxes which camp custom had decreed should be played upon
all tenderfoot campers during the first days of their first season under
canvas. It must be just a conspiracy among the experienced campers and
leaders to decoy the credulous greenhorns out into the woods alone under
the pretext of a hunt for snipe. With a bag and lantern! The whole story
seemed so impossible to him that he wondered how he could have been
taken in by it. Sitting behind a pile of stones and a gaping
potato-sack, cooing and waiting for birds to fly his way! McNulty must
have bundled up grass and twigs into a ball and thrown it into the bag
when he had approached on the pretense of “beating” the birds toward the
light. And how he and the rest of the knowing ones would laugh at
Blackie when he returned to camp, shamefaced and abashed at having been
hoodwinked by such a ridiculous flimflam! Snipe that laid cube-shaped
eggs!

The thing must be faced like a good sport, however. If he hurried back
to camp, he might still arrive in time to watch some of the other
victims come in, and thus have the laugh on them——He suddenly realized
that he was not sure which was the way back to camp. He had depended on
the guidance of McNulty, and did not have the least idea where he was,
or how far away the tents might be. Well, he would have to explore a
bit, pioneer the way home for himself.

Carrying his flash-lamp hooked on his belt, he beat his way through the
scrub carefully, on the lookout for snakes and other dangerous dwellers
in the forest. He blundered across a narrow ravine, pushed his way
through a clump of laurels, and climbed a stone fence. The light showed
on the rutted tracks of a lane that wandered through the trees—a lane
that seemed somehow familiar. Sure enough! It was the road that led to
the gloomy house of Rattlesnake Joe, the hermit; it was the trail he and
the others had followed only two nights before!

He knew his way now. The stars were out, and a half-moon was tilted
among the tree-tops. He snapped off his lamp, so that it would not draw
too many mosquitoes, and found he could follow the lane well enough by
moonlight. Taking the direction that led away from the hermit’s dwelling
and toward the campus, he trudged along by himself, almost laughing to
think how easily the snipe-trick had worked. It was a good joke; and
next year, if he came to camp, he could have the fun of taking some
scary tenderfoot out into the woods and planting him there for the
evening, to coo and wait for snipe that would not come.

Only about five minutes passed before he was aware that someone was
coming toward him up the road; he could hear the low mumble of voices
only a few hundred yards in front. Could one of them be McNulty, alarmed
because Blackie had not yet turned up in camp, and coming to seek him
and break the news? If so, he was due for a little scare; the jester
would himself be the butt of a jest. Blackie planted himself behind a
thick oak trunk, ready to jump out with a shout and throw the bag over
the leader’s head and give him the fright of his life.

The voices came nearer; one of them harsh and bullying, the other
sounding strangely weak and pleading. Blackie pondered. Neither of them
could be McNulty. They must be strangers, even men who, finding him
alone, might do him harm. He resolved to keep quiet and let them pass
without noticing him. Inwardly congratulating himself for turning off
his light, he concealed himself as best he could behind the friendly
oak. The voices grew louder; they were rough, uncouth, and profane.

Two slouching figures emerged from the dark, and stopped right beside
the tree Blackie had chosen. He could have reached out his arm and
touched them both. There was a scratching sound as a match was drawn
across a rock; a red flicker burst forth and revealed two faces bent to
light cigarettes. The face of the taller man was seamed and dirty, and
the unshaven jowls were covered with gray stubble. A green patch hung
over one eye, giving him a peculiar and sinister look. The other man was
younger, with a slack mouth and watery eyes, and a vacant face that
showed he had little or no will of his own. Both were garbed in loose,
patched garments streaked with mud and torn in places.

“Tramps!” thought Blackie. “Gee, they sure look hard-boiled! If they
ever find me here——” He crouched behind his shelter, fearing that they
had seen him already.

“Aw, what ya want to be yeller for?” the older man was growling. “I tell
ya it’s a sure thing! He lives all alone up there—I heard all about him
down in Elmville. The hermit, they call him around here, and everybody
knows he’s got a silver mine somewheres in the mountains that he won’t
tell about! Every once in a while he sneaks off and digs up some silver
and buries it under the stones of his fireplace!”

“Are ya sure, Reno?” asked the other, in snivelling tones.

“’Course I’m sure! I seen him myself the other night, diggin’ up the
stones at the fireplace and takin’ somethin’ out that looked like a bar
of silver. There ya stand moanin’ like a sick chicken, and all we have
to do to get rich is just walk in and tie him up and take the silver!”

“We might be seen!” The younger man’s terror was increasing every
minute. “And he’s got dogs, too.”

“Blast the dogs! They’re all chained up anyway.”

“But how about them kids?”

“Aw, they’re all in bed by now. If you’d seen that bar of silver like I
saw, you’d pull yer freight and get the job done.”

Blackie wanted to cry out and tell them that the hermit was poor, that
he had no money or treasure at all, that the man must have seen him
looking at his precious thunderbolt which he kept under the hearthstone.
But his mouth was so dry with terror that he could not make a sound. He
leaned against the tree for support, and the lantern on his belt clinked
against the rough bark.

“What’s that?” The weak-chinned man jumped nervously about.

“Aw, yer jumpy as a cat to-night! ’Fraid of the dark, ain’t ya, Lew?”

“I thought I heard somebody in the bushes.”

“Not likely. If I thought there was, I’d pull out his windpipe. There
ain’t nothin’ to be scared of. Now, will ya come, or will I have to do
the job meself?”

“I—I’ll come, Reno.”

The two men moved off in the direction of the hermit’s house. Some
minutes passed before Blackie dared to relax his body from the stiffened
position his fright had put him into. Reason told him to get away from
the spot before he was discovered and would have to face the wrath of
the two tramps alone; but curiosity and an uncanny fascination seemed to
draw him to the house whose grim face had somehow haunted him since
first he had arrived at Lenape. With lagging steps, he followed down the
lane toward the fateful, tumbledown dwelling.

As he drew near the door, his terror increased. The hounds were making a
dismal racket in their kennel, rattling their chains fiercely. One
small, dusty window on the ground floor showed red with firelight; the
rest of the house was dark. Drawn and yet repelled by what might be
going on behind the weather-beaten walls, he dared the chance of one of
the dogs escaping and attacking him, crept to the door, and listened.

The sound of voices raised in anger came to him, a bedlam hubbub of
words. He thought he could distinguish the peculiar, slouchy dialect of
Rattlesnake Joe above the others.

“Ye’re crazed, ye devils! I’ll have the law onto ye!”

“Will ya tell us where yer silver mine is located?”

“No! I won’t tell ye a tarnal thing——”

There was the clatter of a chair overturned on the board floor. A
piercing, terrifying scream, hoarse and horrid, came once and broke off.
A heavy body slipped noisily to the floor. Afterward endured a hushed,
strained silence, during which Blackie heard with distinctness the
beating of his own pulse and the hollow ticking of a clock beyond the
door.

The wind was rising; a gust swept over the roof of the somber house,
rattling the loose shingles and stirring the tops of the pines. Its
coming brought panic to Blackie Thorne. He turned and, with eyes
starting with horror, fled away into the dark with the ghastly memory of
that hoarse, despairing scream still ringing in his ears.



                               CHAPTER IX
                              A RAINY DAY


Blackie did not mention to a single soul what he had seen and heard at
the hermit’s house the night of the snipe hunt. He wanted nothing more
than to forget the terror which had gripped him by the throat as he
stood outside the door of the house in the woods. Indeed, when the
crystal clear morning came and the busy camp routine began, it was hard
to believe that he had witnessed any dark deed the night before.

As the days passed, he almost forgot he had ever overheard the two
tramps planning robbery and violence upon a harmless old man. The
glorious Fourth of July came and went, leaving only burnt fingers and a
powder-blackened litter of colored papers on the baseball field as
souvenirs of the sparkling and explosive celebration. Wally continued
his lessons in the Australian crawl, and also taught the Tent Four group
many things about the art of diving. Camp Lenape held a field meet, and
Blackie was awarded three ribbons of various colors as trophies of his
prowess in running and jumping. Tent Four wiped out its bad record by
winning inspection three times in succession. On Friday night each tent
group put on an impromptu show or stunt, ranging from a vaudeville act
with a trick horse (front part, Gil Shelton; hind legs, Spaghetti
Megaro) to an uproarious imitation of a tent full of sleepy-heads
turning out for Reveille. Blackie and Gallegher spent much of their time
studying to pass their requirements for the honor emblem, and at the
Indian council on Monday night they both were summoned before the
Chief’s seat and proudly received the coveted badge.

Blackie was awake twenty minutes before First Call on Tuesday morning,
and passed the time stitching the swastika emblem on the front of his
jersey. The sky was dull and leaden; for the first time since he had
come to camp there was a smell of rain in the air. When the campers were
returning up the hill after the Indian dip the storm broke, bucketing
down in torrents; the boys went up to breakfast in raincoats and
ponchos, and stood assembled for flag-raising on the long porch of the
lodge.

“I was going out with the pioneers to help build a signal-tower this
morning,” Blackie grumbled over his oatmeal at breakfast, “and here it’s
got to go and rain. Gee, what rotten luck!”

“Why worry?” asked Ken Haviland; “Rain doesn’t spoil anything here at
Lenape. Last year we had so much fun on rainy days that I’ve been
wishing for a wet day soon. We’ll have a good time to-day, and don’t
forget it.”

“What will happen?”

“Oh, lots of things. Everybody stays here in the lodge, and we have
boxing and wrestling matches, indoor track meets, or signalling
contests. Maybe some of the leaders will tell stories. Rainy days are
good times to practise for the big show that comes at the end of every
section, or to get the dope on map-making, life-saving drill, forestry
and merit badges. Some fellows can work in the carpenter shop on
handicraft. I remember one wet day last year we had a big mud-marathon
around the lodge. Everybody put on old clothes and went through a big
obstacle race; we almost laughed ourselves sick.”

Haviland’s prophecy was correct; the program for the day was more active
and strenuous than for a day of sunshine. The campers put the lodge in
order, cleared away a big space in the center, and brought in a tall
heap of firewood for the cheerful blaze that was crackling in the stone
fireplace. Wally Rawn, who as officer of the day was supervising the
program, caught Blackie by the arm as he was helping to lay down some
large, padded wrestling mats.

“Blackie, will you go in to the Chief’s office and get the O. D. report
blank for me?”

“You bet, Wally!”

Blackie skipped over to a far corner of the lodge, where the Chief had a
small room fitted with a desk and cabinet to hold the camp letters and
records. The door was slightly ajar, and two voices sounded beyond. The
Chief had a visitor. Blackie paused at the door, hesitating to intrude
upon the conversation.

“Just stopped on my way from Elmville,” came the heavy voice of the
visitor. “Couldn’t find out anything about the matter there, and as I
was riding back over the mountains I thought I might as well stop on the
chance that you might know something about it.”

“Mr. Lane, who brings in our provisions, told me what he’d heard in
town,” answered the Chief. “That’s all I know. Wednesday night it
happened, wasn’t it?”

“That’s what the coroner thinks. The body wasn’t found till
Friday—nobody goes up there, you know, and the old man lived alone. It
was just by luck that one of the neighbors stopped in to see him, and
found the body.”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you, Sheriff. It’s a terrible thing to have such
a murder so near camp. And the old hermit wouldn’t have hurt a fly.”

Sheriff! Murder! Blackie clutched the doorpost and almost fell over at
the words. The hermit!

“Well,” said the sheriff, scraping back his chair as he rose, “if you do
hear anything, I live over by Newmiln Center. You can send word to me
there. It’s a puzzle, sure enough. As brutal a thing as I ever heard of
in all my experience; if it was robbers that did it, they surely didn’t
find anything.”

“I hope you catch them,” said the Chief fervently. “And I’m sorry I
can’t give you any clue. Good day!”

Blackie just had time to collect his thoughts and run away from the door
before he might be discovered listening. He dashed off and joined the
group about the wrestling-mats, covertly watching the man who came out
of the office. The sheriff was a heavy-set, black-mustached man in
spurred and muddied riding-boots and glistening slicker. He stamped
across to the back door and, while Blackie watched at a window, mounted
a waiting horse and cantered off down the muddy road through the
downpour.

The watching boy heaved a sigh of relief; he had escaped being caught
and questioned. The two tramps must have tried to force the hermit to
tell what he knew. The old man, of course, possessed neither a treasure
nor the secret of a silver mine, and in the struggle he had somehow
been—killed. Murder! What an ugly-sounding word it was! Blackie
shivered. He wanted to forget; but he knew that never in this world
would he lose the memory of that sullen, threatening house and the
racking scream that had issued from it on that fatal Wednesday night.

He looked about him. The rainy-morning program in the lodge was already
in full swing. In front of the fireplace Lieutenant Eames had roped off
a square space and was giving boxing instruction to an interested group.
Two older boys, their fists hidden in bulging padded gloves, were
clumsily sparring together under a rapid stream of cautions and advice
from the lieutenant and a perfect hail of cheers and urgings from the
howling bunch of spectators.

“Put your body behind it!” counseled the West Pointer. “Place your blows
where they’ll do the most good—don’t thrash around wildly. There—not
bad! Don’t run away, Pete; stand up to him and defend yourself with the
gloves. Whoa!” The two boys, smarting under a few well-placed blows,
were mixing it in earnest, their fists whirling rapidly but with little
damaging effect. “That’s enough—you can’t fight best when you lose your
tempers. Now, who’s next?”

“Match me with somebody!” urged Chink Towner. “It’s my turn now,
Lieutenant!”

“Whom do you want to take on, Chink?”

The onlookers chorused a suggestion. “Blackie! Blackie Thorne! Here he
is now! Take him on, Chink!”

“How about it, Blackie?” asked the lieutenant. “Want to try a round or
two with Chink?”

Blackie’s scare was still too close to him to want to think about
anything else, but he resolved not to display the white feather before
the group. He could not refuse. “Aw, sure, I’m not afraid of him. Give
me the gloves!”

Jerry Utway volunteered to serve as his second, and jumped to help him.
Jake Utway, not to be outdone by his twin brother, took Chink’s corner
and laced on his gloves. The news of the bout spread around the lodge
from group to group, until quite a number of campers crowded about the
ring. Ellick, the chef, drifted in from the kitchen, and agreed to judge
the contest. Tent Three rallied to support Chink, their champion, and
the Tent Four boys patted Blackie on the back and whispered words of
advice or encouragement.

Wally Rawn came over while Blackie was stripping to shorts and tennis
shoes. “You shouldn’t be matched with Towner,” he said. “He’s got a
longer reach than you have, and knows more about boxing than you do.”

“I can’t back out now. I’m not scared of him anyway,” Blackie muttered,
but his heart was racing and he had a chilly feeling in the pit of his
stomach.

“Well, remember to keep your guard up all the time, and don’t lose your
head. Another thing—don’t set your body stiff until you’re ready to hit;
if you’re relaxed a blow doesn’t hurt so much. But don’t let him take
you off balance, or you’ll find yourself chewing the floor.”

Bewildered by the shouting and the hasty advice, Blackie found himself
in the center of the ring. The lieutenant was introducing the
contenders.

“In this corner, Battling Towner, the Chinese challenger; to my right,
Kid Blackie, the Bloodthirsty Bantam. Shake hands, gentlemen! First
round—time!”

The two boys closed in upon each other warily, exchanged a few watchful
feints and passes. Chink led with his left; Blackie sprang out of the
way, and swung harmlessly at the air.

“Get into him, Thorne!” squealed Jerry Utway. “This ain’t a
pillow-fight! Hit him!”

Chink feinted with his left and aimed a blow with his right that caught
Blackie on the arm, whirling him half around. He caught his balance,
leaped forward, and closed in a clinch so tight that neither boy got in
any blows before they were separated. They parted; there followed a few
seconds of brisk sparring; then Chink, with lightning footwork, dodged
under Blackie’s guard and planted a thudding glove upon his face.
Blackie was knocked backwards; he shut his eyes and crouched with his
gloves over his face and his arms tight to his chest. The spectators
shouted, cheering for Chink.

“First blood for the Chinese lightweight!”

“Yay, Tent Three!”

“Get into him, Blackie!”

Blackie set his teeth. The blow had stunned him for a minute, but it had
the effect of making him forget the crowd, forget everything but the
crouched figure of the boy before him—his antagonist. The faces of the
watchers and the referee seemed to show through an unreal haze. He
struck out at Towner, and landed on his body; but Chink retaliated with
another crushing blow upon the nose. A numb feeling settled upon
Blackie’s senses; his limbs seemed to be yards long, the gloves to weigh
tons. What was he doing out here in front of the crowd, jumping around
breathlessly and being struck again and again? Even Chink’s face came to
him half hidden by a dreamy mist. He fought and fought, yet Chink never
seemed to be touched; he darted about, apparently placing his fists
where he pleased.

A gong sounded; hands reached out and pulled Blackie to his chair. He
felt a splash of cold water on his face; Jerry Utway was rubbing his
arms with a towel. “Round one—won by Mistah Chink!” came Ellick’s voice.

Again Blackie was aware that the gong had sounded, and once more he was
facing Towner. The other boy was breathing heavily, but was apparently
as light on his feet and as ready with his hands as ever.

“After him, Blackie—the best defense is an attack!” It was Wally’s
voice, coming coolly to him from beyond the ring. Blackie caught his
breath and plunged with whirling arms after the shadowy form of his
opponent. Chink closed in for an exchange of body blows and another
clinch, in which Blackie got the worst end of it. Towner was depending
mostly upon blows to the face, concentrating all his attack upon the
nose and mouth, placing shrewd hits on these places one after another.
Blackie had the feeling that he was fighting against a ghostly figure,
an antagonist as elusive and intangible as smoke. He began hitting out
blindly, thoughtlessly, raging and hating Towner with all his might. A
red flag seemed to drop before his eyes, and he charged with his fists
hammering like pistons, careless of the rain of blows that fell upon his
unprotected head. He was seeing red, running wild, losing all his skill
and direction in a mad, senseless rush. Through the clamor of the crowd
came Wally’s low counsel again.

“Keep your head, Blackie! Self-control!”

The mist began to clear. He felt a jolting, sharp blow on the chin, was
aware that Chink was off to one side and that in his blind charge he was
nowhere near his antagonist. He fell back, protecting his face; then,
suddenly, he whirled and struck out with his right arm extended. His
glove seemed to plunge forward of its own accord and land with a smack
on Chink’s face. The other boy fell back with an amazed look in his
eyes.

“Time! End of de bout—no decision!” cried Ellick.

There were shouts of protest; the campers wanted a fight to a finish.
Ellick only shook his head and nodded in the direction of Blackie’s
corner. Blackie saw his comrades staring at him strangely.

“He tapped you one on the nose, all right,” said Jerry, giving him a cup
of water.

Blackie looked with surprise at his hand, still encased in a leather
glove. The casing was stained with a few darkening crimson drops.

“What of it? I can still lick him! I’m just getting started!”

Lieutenant Eames crossed over to them with one arm on Chink’s shoulder.

“Sure, you’re not whipped by a long sight, Thorne,” he said. “But we can
match up you two again some other time. Now, you two boys have been
swatting each other all around the ring enough to satisfy anybody.
Another thing, Blackie—I can see that you don’t know the first thing
about scientific self-defense, but you have two things that are most
essential to a good boxer. You have good muscular control, and you keep
your wits about you all the time. If you want to spend some time with
me, I think after a few lessons I can make a pretty fair boxer out of
you.”

“Say, will you, Lieutenant? I’d sure like that!”

He relinquished his gloves to another boy, and a third match began,
while Wild Willie Sanders and Soapy Mullins began a wrestling bout. The
group split up and drifted away, while Blackie slipped into his clothes.
His nose had stopped bleeding, and he was feeling a glow of happiness
that came from the words of the boxing instructor. He felt a hand on his
shoulder, looked up and saw Wally.

“Well, you took a beating to-day, all right!”

“Chink didn’t lick me,” frowned Blackie. “They stopped us because he
tapped me on the nose.”

“He hammered you all over the ring; I said you were no match for him.
Chink Towner did give you a beating; but I was watching another fight at
the same time.”

“Gee, you talk funny sometimes, Wally. What fight do you mean?”

“You were fighting against your own self, Blackie, when you were there
in the ring. And you won that fight. I saw you. For a minute you got
mad, lost your control; then you got hold of yourself and began to use
your head. It was a good thing for you to go against a fighter better
than yourself; you learned to take your medicine and keep your temper.
And they’re both good things for a young lad to know.”



                               CHAPTER X
                                THE LIE


“You put up a pretty good scrap,” grunted Gallegher approvingly.

Blackie had donned his shirt and sweater after the boxing bout. “Thanks,
Irish,” he said.

“I’ve seen lots of tough fights, and I know what I’m sayin’, see? Say,
are you tired?”

“No, not very.”

“What do you say we take a little walk? I’m sick of bein’ shut in this
lodge all mornin’.”

Blackie looked out a window; the rain had slackened, but still drizzled
down with settled persistence. “In the rain?”

“Sure—what’s a few drops matter? Put on your raincoat and come along.”

The two boys slipped into their rainproof ponchos, and then Gallegher
led the way a short distance through the wet woods behind camp. Here he
turned off and struck through the brush toward the mountain, following a
line of lead pipe that ran from a spring above down to the lodge,
supplying fresh, cold water for the use of the camp. A trail had been
cut when the men had laid the pipe, but it was overgrown and indistinct,
and it was easy to see that few campers ever passed that way. After
about a quarter of a mile of trudging in silence through the dripping
forest, Gallegher turned off and floundered through the undergrowth
until he came to the thick trunk of a fallen tree that lay rotting on
the ground.

“Here we are,” he said. “Not so bad, eh? I come here lots of times.”

“What for?” asked Blackie curiously.

“I’ll show you.” Gallegher stuck out his chin, and winked meaningly.
“Have a good time, away from all the baby kids in camp. See what I
mean?”

He fished out a crumpled, gaudily-colored package from his shirt, and
held it out to Blackie. Within were a few cheap cigarettes.

“Gee!” exclaimed Blackie, “cigarettes! Where did you get them, Irish?”

“Aw, I always carry some. I like to get away and have a little smoke by
myself now and then. Have one.”

“You’ve been smoking all the time we’ve been up here? Say, don’t you
know the Chief sends a guy home right away if he’s caught smoking?”

“What of it? He has to catch us first, and nobody ever comes here. Don’t
chew the rag so much; light up and be happy.” Gallegher winked again.

“Naw—I’m in training for boxing practice with the Lieutenant,” said
Blackie uncomfortably. “Smoking is bad for the wind, and I got to have
good lungs to be a good scrapper.”

“Aw, one won’t hurt you,” Gallegher jeered. “Know what I think? I think
you’re scared you’ll get caught. You’re just yellow, like all the rest
of the babies at this camp.”

“I’m not scared. Here, give me one, Irish. I’ll show you.”

Blackie seized one of the white cylinders and hastily lighted the end.
Gallegher lit another and settled back on the fallen tree trunk, puffing
away expertly.

“Pretty soft, eh?”

“Not bad,” agreed Blackie, fumbling amateurishly with the lighted
cigarette. He coughed and wiped away the tears that formed in his eyes
as the smoke blew into them. “Say, are you sure nobody ever comes around
here?”

“Sure they don’t—especially on a rainy day. I’ve had a quiet little cig
here lots of times. Don’t get scared, kid—we’ll be safe. Besides, now we
both got the honor emblem, we can get away with lots of stuff. If you
wear one of these things on your chest”—he indicated the green swastika
and the “L” upon his sweater—“you can put over stuff that would be too
raw for other guys to get away with. I’ve been kind of layin’ low
lately, but believe me, there’s goin’ to be some fun around this camp
pretty soon, and I’m goin’ to get back at the guys that kicked me out of
the Stuck-Up initiation. Are you with me, Blackie? They did the same
dirty trick to you.”

“Sure—sure I’m with you, Irish.”

“Have another fag, then.”

“No, one is enough for me.”

“Come on, have another. What are you afraid of? We can eat a hunk of
candy before we go back to camp, and nobody will ever know a thing about
it.”

Blackie accepted another, but threw the stump away before he had smoked
much of it. He didn’t like it, but the idea of sitting there hidden in
the woods doing a forbidden act that would be heavily punished if it
were known gave him a devil-may-care, excited feeling.

Later, after they had sneaked back to camp for swim, he did not feel
quite so dashing. The secret act now appeared sordid. He felt
uncomfortable and guilty; he could not forget what he had done, and went
to bed that night with an uneasy fear that he might be discovered any
minute. He dropped off to sleep assuring himself that never again would
he let Gallegher or anybody else persuade him to break a camp rule and
do an unworthy, hole-in-the-corner deed.

He awoke some time later. A pocket flashlight was shining in his face,
and he blinked fearfully for half a minute before he came to his senses.
Dimly he heard Wally whisper close to his ear.

“Get up and put on your bathrobe, Thorne. I want you to come up to the
lodge with me.”

“Wha—what for?”

“You’ll find out later.”

He could hear the heavy breathing of his tent-mates about him as he
struggled into his bathrobe; but when he stepped outside the tent he was
surprised to find that all of them were not asleep. Gallegher, also
attired in his bathrobe, stood waiting outside on the path with Wally,
who had not yet undressed for the night.

“What time is it, Wally?” asked Blackie.

“About ten-thirty. Now, keep quiet and don’t wake up the rest of the
fellows. Come along.”

The two boys followed him up to the lodge. The rain had stopped, and a
crisp, bracing wind was blowing up from the lake. As they mounted the
steps leading to the lodge porch, they saw a light still burning in the
little office in one corner of the building. The Chief had not gone to
bed yet, either. Wally opened the outer door, and stepped inside to let
them enter.

“This way, you two.”

The boys exchanged scared glances. There was no time to do more. They
stepped inside. The Chief turned in his chair and bent a serious look
upon them.

“Sit down, Gallegher, Thorne. Come on in, Mr. Rawn. Now, I have had your
leader bring you boys up here because I wanted to ask you some
questions.”

Gallegher slumped in his seat with a scowl. Blackie shivered; he did not
dare to face the Chief, but looked away, fearing what was to come.

“Mr. Rawn tells me,” continued the Chief in an even tone, “that to-night
at Taps, he noticed that something fell out of Gallegher’s pocket as he
was undressing. He brought this object to me. Here it is.”

Blackie stole a glance at the man’s outstretched hand. It was as he
feared. The Chief was holding a crumpled paper package of cigarettes.

“I asked him to bring Gallegher to me right away. He was seen going into
the woods this morning, and as Thorne was with him, I asked that both of
you be brought up to talk with me. The directors of Camp Lenape, knowing
that smoking is injurious to the health of growing boys, have a rule
that any boy who smokes while at camp will be sent home in disgrace at
once. Have you both heard that rule?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yes, Chief.”

“I am going to ask each of you a question, and you are on your honor to
answer it truthfully. Gallegher, have you smoked cigarettes while at
Camp Lenape?”

There was a moment of silence. Gallegher bit his lip and considered. He
was caught with the goods. He shrugged and mumbled, “Yes, sir.”

Blackie felt the Chief’s eyes upon him. “Thorne, have you been smoking
at camp, too?”

He must not be sent home! Blackie shifted in his chair and tried to
think. Sent home in disgrace, away from all the wonderful times at camp;
sent back to town, to face his mother’s disappointed eyes, to be in the
city and know that he had missed the big camp show, the boat regatta,
the swimming meet—— The Chief and Wally couldn’t be sure—Gallegher
wouldn’t give him away——

“Answer me, Blackie.”

There was only one way out. “N-No, Chief.”

He had done it! He had lied; deliberately he had told an untruth to save
his own skin. He was glad the Chief was not looking at him any more, but
had turned his attention to Gallegher. Blackie stared at the floor.

“Gallegher, I’m glad you haven’t made it any worse by lying about your
act,” the director was saying. “Now, because you’ve owned up to it like
a man, and because I know that you have lived in a bad neighborhood back
in town and might in that way have picked up some wrong ideas about
things, I’m going to give you a choice that may permit you to stay on
here at camp. You can either leave camp to-morrow, or stay here and chop
wood for the kitchen three hours a day. You’ll lose your honor emblem,
of course. Which is it—stay or leave?”

Gallegher turned away, so that the Chief could not see his face. “I’ll
stay and chop wood,” he muttered with a catch in his voice. “And—thanks,
Chief.”

“I’m glad you took that choice, Gallegher. Camp has done a lot for you,
and I’d hate to lose you now. Mr. Rawn, you may all go back to your tent
now. Good-night!”

Wally nodded briefly, and the three left the lighted office. Not a word
was spoken; they walked slowly and thoughtfully back to Tent Four, and
turned in silently.

Between his blankets, Blackie drew a deep breath for the first time
since he had been awakened. If Gallegher only did not give him away,
nobody would ever know, and things would be just the same as before.
Nevertheless, he did not find it easy to get to sleep, and woke before
dawn to lie wretchedly in his bunk until the activity of the day would
begin and he might win forgetfulness in the rush of the day’s program.

The first blow fell just before breakfast, when the entire camp strength
was lined up after flag salute and morning Call to the Colors. Hungrily
expectant and waiting for the command to march in to mess, the arrayed
campers were surprised to find that the Chief delayed in giving the
command. He stood beside the flagpole with a stern look in his eyes. The
boys stirred in the ranks, shifted their feet curiously,
uncomprehendingly.

“Why doesn’t he tell us to go to breakfast?”

“Gee—I never saw him do this before!”

“Quiet in the ranks!” came the command of Mr. Avery, the officer of the
day. “Attention!”

The expectant bodies stiffened. The Chief cleared his throat.

“Timothy Gallegher, five paces forward!” he said.

A ripple of astonishment ran down the line. Blackie felt a movement at
his side; Gallegher had left his place and now appeared in front of the
Chief, standing with a strange white look on his drawn face, swaying
slightly in his place.

“Timothy Gallegher, you have been guilty of conduct unbecoming to a
Lenape camper. You will here, in the sight of all your comrades, be
stripped of the honor emblem which you have been found unworthy to
wear.”

The crowd gasped. Gallegher never moved, staring in front of him with a
blind tenseness. The Chief reached into his pocket and drew forth a
clasp-knife, opened one of the sharp small blades. From the end of the
line came a muffled tattoo; little Pete Lister, trap-drummer in the camp
orchestra, was sounding a rattling roll on his drum, as he had been told
to do.

Slowly, in the sight of all, the swastika-L on the front of Gallegher’s
sweater was cut away. The thin blade slit the stitches, and the Chief’s
hand tore away the green and white emblem of honor. Blackie watched
Gallegher’s face, fascinated. He should be out there, too, taking his
medicine, suffering along with the Irish boy; he was just as guilty, and
more so, for at least Gallegher had not lied about his guilt. Blackie
wanted to cry out, to tell them all that he should be standing there,
too, with the Chief tearing away his own badge; but he stood rooted in
his place with a dry tongue and pale cheeks beneath his tan.

Now it was too late. The Chief had put the emblem and the knife into his
pocket; the drumming had stopped; Gallegher shambled doggedly back to
his place in the line, beside Blackie and the other boys of Tent Four.
The chance to confess was past. Blackie rather envied Gallegher; he had
owned up and taken his punishment, and however hard the work on the
woodpile might be, at least he would have no ugly stain on his
conscience.

“Right face! Forward—march!” The files trailed up toward the lodge
steps, and instantly a curious babel of voices broke out.

“Gee, what did you do, Irish?”

“Say, you must have done something pretty wild to get stripped like
that!”

“Aw, shut up!” said Gallegher. “Key down, see? That’s my business.
Maybe, if the guys that run this camp knew their stuff, I wouldn’t be
the only one to get stripped.”

“What do you mean?” asked Slater.

“I don’t mean a thing, see? Not a thing.” He looked darkly at Blackie,
who pretended he had not heard. The boys of Tent Four clattered up the
steps. There was a smell of breakfast in the air; everything was
forgotten at the thought of heaping dishes of cereal, hot biscuits,
steaming cocoa. But Blackie took his seat in worried silence, bowing his
head for grace. As he looked down, there showed before him the emblem
sewed on his jersey, the swastika-L he had won but had disgraced and now
wore dishonorably. He had a sudden, unreasoning desire to pluck it from
its place and throw it to the floor. It wavered before his eyes, the
burning badge of his shame.



                               CHAPTER XI
                             KANGAROO COURT


The day dragged on miserably for Blackie.

He had a feeling that the eyes of his tent-mates were always furtively
upon him; when he would face them suddenly they would look away, but he
could feel their silent condemnation. Gallegher spent the morning hours
at work on the woodpile; Blackie saw him now and then bent over his job,
toiling alone. They had not spoken together since Wally had wakened them
both the night before; they did not speak at dinner or in the tent
during siesta hour afterwards. Blackie felt that the Irish boy was
avoiding the very sight of him.

When Recall sounded after siesta and the boys of Tent Four tumbled out
for the afternoon’s fun, Blackie did not leave his bunk. He found
himself alone with little Nightgown Guppy, who sat on the tent step
busily scooping out a section of birch wood for a bird-house. He worked
along in silence, but finally raised his head curiously and put a
question.

“What’s the matter, Blackie? Are you feeling sick or something?”

“No, I’m not sick, you fool!” growled Blackie, turning over on his
pillow.

“Well, then, why don’t you get out and play baseball with the bunch? The
campers are playing the councilors to-day, and you ought to be in the
game. I never thought you were a guy that would spend all his time doing
bunk-duty.”

“Who cares what you think? Shut up and beat it. I’m sick of hearing you
babies bawling around all the time.”

Guppy worked on for a minute. “What are you sore about, Blackie?” he
asked after some time. “Is it because you’re scared the Chief will know
you were smoking?”

Blackie sat up with a jerk. “How do you know I was smoking?”

“Oh, everybody knows.”

“If Gallegher said anything, I’ll knock his block off!”

“He didn’t have to say anything. We all know you were in on it, and lied
out of it to the Chief.”

The bunk creaked as Blackie jumped up and advanced toward the smaller
boy with doubled fists. “You say I’m a liar? By Jimmy, I’ll fix you for
this!”

“Don’t hit me!” said Guppy, dropping his tools and edging away. “All I
said was——”

“You said enough!” Blackie scowled fiercely, seized the lad’s arm
roughly, and gave it a wrenching twist until Guppy cried out with pain.
“That’ll teach you to keep your mouth shut around me! Now, will you be
calling me a liar any more? Will you? Will you?”

“Ow!” screamed Guppy. “I only said——You let me be, Blackie Thorne, or
you’ll be sorry——”

Blackie gave the arm another vicious turn. “If I hear you ever say again
that I was smoking with Gallegher, I’ll kill you, do you hear?”

“No, you won’t,” said a new voice. Blackie looked up. Facing him were
Ken Haviland, Gil Shelton, and a group of older boys who had approached
unnoticed.

“Get him!” called Gil in a low tone. He and Sunfish jumped and caught
Blackie’s arms.

“Don’t try to struggle, or it’ll be worse for you,” continued Ken. “All
right, Gup—he won’t bother you any more.”

Blackie found himself pinioned on both sides, and a husky guard of four
veteran campers formed about him. They put him, still struggling, on a
locker in the center of the tent. Ken Haviland assumed a seat on top of
an upper bunk, where he could look down upon the prisoner.

“The Kangaroo Court will now convene,” he said solemnly.

“What’s the idea?” protested Blackie. “Gil, I thought you and Sunfish
and Soapy Mullins were friends of mine!”

“Silence before the judge,” warned Gil. “You are now in court. We’ll let
your arms loose if you promise not to run away.”

“But why? If one of the leaders comes along now, you guys will sure look
stupid.”

“All of the leaders are down at the baseball field,” Sunfish assured
him. “Anyway, it’ll be worse for you if any of them hear tell of this.
Now, shut up! The court-martial is beginning.”

Ken Haviland, on his perch above, cleared his throat and began to speak.
“Gentlemen of the Kangaroo Court, you have been called together to try
the case of Blackie Thorne of Tent Four, Camp Lenape. You will see that
justice is done.”

The boys seated themselves about on boxes and bunks. There were eleven
of them, all from different tent-groups, and all boys who had spent at
least one season at Lenape. Ken looked sternly at Blackie.

“Prisoner, you are charged with breaking the camp law against smoking
and deliberately lying about your act when questioned on your honor. Are
you guilty or not guilty?”

“So Gallegher’s been squealing, huh?” exclaimed Blackie. “Well, what of
it? What right have you to treat me like a convict?”

“The right of the Kangaroo Court. You’re a tenderfoot at camp, so I’ll
explain to you what we’re doing here. The Chief and the councilors have
nothing to do with it now. You were asked on your honor if you had
broken a camp rule, and we know that you told a lie. Instead of owning
up and taking your punishment like a man, you broke your word and
sneaked out of it. The Chief accepted your word; that’s all he could do.
But the campers of Lenape have something to say about how a fellow like
you shall be treated. This court represents every boy in camp, and every
boy will stand by our decision. Are you guilty or not?”

Blackie sneered. “And I suppose if I say I am, you and this gang of
yours will run and tattle-tale to the Chief!”

“I said that the Chief has nothing to do with this. And you only hurt
yourself by acting ugly.”

“All right,” said Blackie sullenly. “I did it. What are you going to do
about it?”

“Gentlemen of the court, the prisoner has confessed his guilt. All in
favor of inflicting the usual penalty will rise.”

Every one of the eleven boys rose to his feet. Blackie looked from one
face to another of those who had been his friends, and read there only
reluctant determination. Ken Haviland tore a scrap of paper from a
notebook in his pocket, and scribbled on it with a pencil. Soapy Mullins
yanked Blackie to a standing position.

“Prisoner,” said Ken gravely, “the unanimous decision of the Kangaroo
Court is that you shall be given the Black Spot.” He held out the scrap
of paper, and Blackie took it wonderingly. There was nothing on it save
a rude pencilled black disc in the center. “From this moment you are
branded as a disgrace to Camp Lenape, and not a single camper will speak
so much as a word to you. Court’s adjourned!”

The members of the court departed toward the baseball field, taking
Guppy with them, and the culprit was left alone with the marked piece of
paper still in his hand. He crumpled it with an angry gesture, and
tossed it to the ground.

“Huh! They must think they’ve done something smart! The Black Spot!
Nobody will talk to me—we’ll see about that! And what if they don’t? A
lot I’d care if I never saw any of this bunch of Sunday-school kids
again!”

He caught up a hat and marched down to the ball field, drawn there by a
desire to brazen it out and see if his sentence meant anything. The
boys’ team was at bat, and Lefty Reardon, captain, was coaching off
third base.

“Hey, Lefty!” Blackie hailed him. “How about giving me a game?”

Lefty turned, looked him up and down quietly, and turned away again as
though he hadn’t heard the question. Blackie flushed, and after standing
uneasily for a minute, tried to look unconcerned and strolled down to
the gathering around the batter. There was a low ripple of whispers at
his approach; boys nudged each other and turned to look, turned away
with half-hidden smiles of contempt. He did not even dare to speak to
one of them. For the moment he was tempted to rough-house one or two of
the younger boys just to see whether or not they could be made to speak;
but he remembered what had happened when he had twisted Guppy’s arm, and
knew that any defiance of the unwritten code would be useless.

“What’s the score?” he asked of the world in general.

Not a boy answered him. Someone at his elbow snickered; no one looked in
his face. He felt like a ghost, a branded being who had no right among
that bunch of happy campers; he was lonely in a crowd.

The only reason he watched the game to its finish was because he refused
to give the boys the satisfaction of having driven him away. It was the
most wretched afternoon he had ever spent. He sat, drawn apart from the
rest, inwardly seething with fury and wondering how long he could stand
it. He forgot the exhilarating, breath-taking delights he had enjoyed at
Lenape; he could only remember the little dislikes he had acquired, the
humiliation of his ejection from the Stuck-Up initiation, the crude and
unceasing jokes that had been played upon him. He hated the Chief, the
leaders; with all the boys against him, staying at Lenape was
unbearable. He would leave the hateful place! It was the only thing to
do—run away from them all and never, never come back!

He sat there moodily, pondering the plan in his mind. It was easy enough
to decide to run away—but where should he go? If he went back to the
city, he would have to face his mother with a tale of disgrace, and the
boys of the camp would soon discover that their punishment had driven
him home like a whipped dog. If he slipped away and went east, toward
Elmville and the railroad, Wally would soon discover that he was
missing; a hunt would start, he would be easily traced and found before
he could get far, and he would be brought back to camp again, baffled
and more of an object of reproach than ever. But if he could manage to
get too far away to be traced, and stay hidden somewhere for three or
four days, they would think him dead, and when he finally did return
they would be so glad they would forget all about his crime, would be
sorry they had caused him to run off alone. The open road, that was the
thing! He would be a hobo for a while, might even bum his way to some
city miles off, having an adventurous time on the road while the Lenape
kids did their smart little tricks and acted like Sunday-school babies
and thought they were having a good time!

After some thought he decided not to leave immediately, but to wait
until supper-time. He was watched too closely now; every boy in camp
knew of his sentence and was covertly watching to see how he would take
it. But if he slipped away when the camp was assembled in the mess hall,
it was not likely that he would be seen. Wally might wonder what had
become of him, but would not take steps to find out until after the
meal; and by that time Blackie hoped to be several miles away in a
direction they would not expect him to take. He had seen the county map
which hung in the lodge, and knew that Newmiln Center, on Flatstone
Creek, was about ten miles as the crow flies northwest over the
mountains, in a rich farming region that was separated from camp by
miles of wilderness into which nobody ever penetrated. They would not
look for him on top of the ridges; they would never suspect that he
dared go there. Why, given a fair start and three hours of daylight, he
might even make Newmiln Center before dark closed in!

“I’ll do it!” Blackie muttered darkly to himself. “I’ll show them I
won’t knuckle under, no matter what they do!”

He would take his blankets, he decided, and also his flash-lantern, ax,
and compass. The next problem was food. That would have to be
taken—“hooked”—out of the kitchen somehow. But unless there was one of
the kitchen crew at work, the place was always kept locked. He would
have to manage, somehow.

He thought over his plans during the two hours before Retreat and the
evening flag-lowering ceremony. He did not appear for swim, but spent
the time making a neat roll of his blankets, which he hid along with his
flash-lamp, compass and ax in the bushes beside the road behind camp. He
knew that if his absence at the swimming dock was noted, the boys would
put it down to wanting to escape their silent contempt.

He was in his place when Retreat Call trumpeted out over the lake; but
when the usual evening rush to tables began and the files clattered up
the steps, he slipped around to the back door of the kitchen. He found
himself in the pantry; shelves of canned goods lined the walls, under
which were bins of vegetables, and the mirrored doors of the huge
ice-box took up one side of the room. During the hush that preceded the
saying of grace in the mess hall, he could hear Ellick whispering
directions to Leggy and his other dusky assistants, who were busied
dishing up the meal. This is what Blackie had counted upon, having the
kitchen crew so busy at this time that they would not see him. Hastily
he slipped a few potatoes and a can of peas into his shirt, and ran to
the ice-box. A cool, humid breath of air came out to him as he opened
the door and peered inside; it was dark within, and he felt about hoping
to locate something he could take. His hand touched a plate of cheese,
and he drew forth a good-sized chunk. There was a rattle of dishes from
the kitchen. Ellick’s voice came to his ears.

“Leggy, you just hurry up now and bring in de butter from de ice-box!”

Leggy’s dragging footsteps sounded across the floor. With frenzied haste
Blackie grabbed at whatever happened to be under his hand. It proved to
be a slice of ham. Slamming the ice-box door, he clattered across to the
exit and ran out of the skinny kitchen-helper’s sight. That had been a
close squeak! Pausing only to stuff the ham and cheese into the pockets
of his sweater, he darted around behind the wooden building that was
used for an ice-house and gained the rutted road that led toward the
mountains. Here he found his blanket roll and accouterments, slipped the
roll over his head and hooked the ax and lantern on his belt, and
trotted westward through the woods.



                              CHAPTER XII
                         THE HUT ON BLACK POND


Half a mile up the road, where it turned at right angles to climb the
mountainside, Blackie paused and took his first compass observation. His
course was northwest; but he remembered that if he looked at the compass
only now and then, he might go wide of his goal; the thing to do was to
take an observation, note a landmark ahead in line with the NW on the
compass, make straight for that place, and from there make a new
observation on another landmark. The little shifting needle showed him
that his first leg of the journey should take him diagonally up the
wooded mountain to a grayish, scarred slide of stones that showed ahead
in the dropping sun. He knew what that was, although he had never been
there. It was the terminal moraine Gil Shelton had pointed out to him
the day he had first landed in camp—the Devil’s Potato Patch, the
campers called it—a heap of blotched, round boulders known as a favorite
resort for rattlesnakes.

Blackie knew he must hurry if he was to reach the Flatstone valley
before dark. Pausing only to stow his plundered supply of food more
snugly in his pockets and to shift his blanket-roll to the other
shoulder, he set off across an expanse of marshy pasture land toward his
first goal. The deer-flies swarmed about his face and neck, stinging
pitilessly, and he increased his pace as much as he could to get away
from them. He had been prudent enough to wear his heavy hiking shoes,
but in several places he floundered into muddy pools and sank into dirty
water over his ankles. At last he reached the heavily-wooded base of the
mountain, and was forced to slow down and begin a determined climb
through the underbrush, up ledges of yellow, mossy rock, and across
slippery patches of shale where he had to go slowly and watch his
footing. Half-way up the mountainside, he gained the bottom of the
terminal moraine. Huge rocks, gray with lichens and scratched in rough,
random designs, stretched above him; he was forced to leap precariously
from rock to rock, always upward, several times catching himself just in
time to avoid a nasty headlong fall. Once, indeed, he slipped on a bit
of moss, and toppled sidewise into a cranny between two of the boulders.
His blanket-roll saved his body from being more than bruised; but in
falling one hand slipped under his body, and his heavy electric
flash-lamp banged down upon a rock, crushing one of his finger-tips
badly. The darting pain brought tears to his eyes, and he shook the
injured finger violently. Scrambling to his feet for fear he might have
fallen close to the hiding-place of some vicious, venomous
timber-rattler, he struggled on over the great rocks; and after what
seemed like hours of toilsome climbing, he at last gained the top of the
first ridge.

There, on the mountain’s top, the evening light was brighter, but in the
valley he had just left the shadows were long and cool. He turned and
faced toward the east. There was the lake, spreading like a polished
deep mirror that reflected the gold and blue evening sky, the serried
rows of trees along the margin. There were the ordered rows of white
tents, the top of the lodge roof with smoke wreathing lazily from the
stone chimney and with the bare flagpole standing up beyond. He could
see Camp Lenape as if it were a toy model spread out at his feet, almost
hidden in the gray-green foliage of the forest. A slight breeze brought
to him the faint clatter of trays from the mess hall, the confused hum
of campers’ voices. They would be almost finished supper, now. Wally and
Haviland and Gallegher and the rest would be sitting about the
mess-table, wondering where he had disappeared. Well, let them worry!

The thought of supper made him remember that he had had nothing to eat
since dinner-time. He pulled out the piece of cheese he had looted from
the ice-box, and began gnawing upon it. He could eat a little while he
rested. He turned a bit to the left. Beyond the pasture-land he had
crossed on his flight, he saw a line of trees that marked a lane. He
knew that lane; it was the one which led to the hermit’s house, the road
he had followed the night he had heard murder done by the two tramps,
Reno and Lew. He could barely make out the weather-stained, mottled
shingles of the roof of the house, and shivered slightly. He would be
glad to go anywhere, anywhere away from the neighborhood of that grim
house of crime.

Pulling out his compass, he marked a new line of march across the
undulating summit of the mountain. It pointed toward a blasted pine
taller than the rest, and he resolved to make for that. The going was
easier here on the mountain; the daylight was clearer, and the trees
were stunted and far apart, scrub pine and small oaks no more than
waist-high, for the most part. Blackie trotted along with assurance,
chewing upon a piece of raw ham torn from the slice in his pocket in
lieu of supper. He crossed a ravine and stumbled up the other side; this
took time, and now he could almost watch the sun dropping inch by inch
toward the line of trees in the west. There was not a sign that human
beings had ever passed that way; Blackie knew that no one ever
penetrated that desolate wilderness except deer-hunters and blueberry
pickers in the fall of the year. When he again gained level ground, he
found that somehow he had lost sight of the blasted pine he had picked
as a landmark. This did not trouble him much; he took out the compass
and again sighted toward the northwest. His finger was bothering him
more than anything else; the tip had swelled, and the nail was fast
turning an angry purple color. It felt double its size, and as the boy
swung along it throbbed and ached until Blackie was desperate with pain.

He had covered about a mile and a half since landing on the plateau on
top of the ridge when he came to a section that was marked by long
wooded swales, rank with rotting vegetation, crossing his path. The sun
was dropping lower and lower; it shone like a flaming, bloody ball close
to the horizon, and its slanting rays blinded his eyes until the woods
about him seemed dim and unreal. He determined not to deviate from the
line he had laid for himself, for fear of getting off the track; and
when he came to the giant bole of a fallen tree, he tried to climb over
it instead of going yards around. The knobs and splinters of the rotting
trunk caught at his clothing and his equipment; while scrambling over
the top he slipped and fell prostrate across it, knocking the breath
from his lungs. A train of white ants crossed his arm, and when he
crawled slowly and clumsily to his feet, he felt their red-hot stings on
his wrist and up his sleeve. It seemed that the insects were everywhere
under his clothing, jabbing their poisoned darts of pain into his skin.
He jumped from the top of the trunk, landing on his face and scratching
it until it was crossed by bloody lines. The ground now became marshy,
and he was beset by a humming tribe of mosquitoes. Still he staggered
on, until brought to a stop by a spread of green, scummy water that
barred his path completely.

Blackie considered. At the rate the sun was disappearing, and at the
rate he was taking to make a few miles across the mountains, he would
never reach Newmiln by dark. It would mean a night alone in this
unexplored region, a night of fighting mosquitoes and unceasing
watchfulness for rattlesnakes, night-prowling animals, and perhaps
worse. He remembered all the tales he had ever heard of lone travellers
caught at nightfall in strange and desolate solitudes, of attacks by
bears, wolves, ghosts of slain Indians. And suddenly, like a chilling
cloak, fear came to him and enveloped him. He felt the short hairs of
his neck rise and prickle; an icy finger trailed down his spine. He
would have to get on; he must cross the swamp somehow, anyhow!

The water in the slimy pool was only a few inches deep; through the
green scum he could see the muddy, coated bottom. Feverishly he looked
about him, and seized a number of fallen branches that lay on the
ground, filled with the idea of making a rough bridge by casting them
across the few feet of swamp ahead. He worked furiously, and soon had a
network of branches thrown ahead, across which he hoped to run and so
gain the far side. There was no room behind him for a clear take-off; it
would have to be a standing jump. He stood for a second, getting up his
nerve; and with a leap he landed upon the center of the improvised
bridge. There was a snapping crackle of branches—the ones he had chosen
were ground branches, and rotten. They gave under his feet, breaking and
sinking into the mud; and he fell headlong on his face into the sticky
ooze.

The swamp was a sucking enemy, trying to drag him under and hold him
close, until the foul waters should close over his head; it bubbled
under him, seeming to chuckle like a fiend. Frantically he fought his
way to an upright position; he was standing almost waist-deep in the
slime. Urged on by fear, he floundered forward, caught at an overhanging
bush, and pulled himself slowly to firm ground. There he lay for a
minute, gasping with exhaustion and terror after his exertion. The lower
half of his body was soaked with filthy mud; his face and blanket-roll
were draggled and stained from his fall. But he must not stop; he must
push on, onward to the northwest!

For ten minutes he wandered through the marshy swales, avoiding the
frequent pools whenever he could. The forest was too thick for him to
spot any landmark ahead, and he gave up the idea of climbing a tree for
an observation, because it would take up too much of his precious time.
At last the ground sloped upward again; open spaces began to appear; the
footing was easier. He pushed on, deadly afraid to halt in that
darkening place of horror.

Blackie never remembered afterwards very much what he did during the
remainder of that twilight march. He had a picture of himself—a hungry,
weary, frightened figure, dwarfed by the bigness and ominous vastness of
that solitude, caked with drying muck, scratched with twigs and thorns,
and ever followed by a cloud of stinging mosquitoes—fighting his way
through the desolation. He had the feeling of one in a nightmare, when
the dreamer is pursued by darkness and nameless horrors, and the very
ground seems to rise and clutch and hold him back. And he remembered
coming to the edge of the rhododendron thickets and feeling that he
could not go on.

The tangled network of the rhododendrons fronted an implacable barrier
to his steps. There was no way to go around. It offered little
resistance as he first plunged into it, but as steadily as he advanced,
as surely did the branching horns of the shrub take hold on him. It was
like trying to walk through a gigantic wickerwork basket, woven of tough
and intertwined saplings. Again and again he plunged like a line-bucking
football guard, and inch by inch fought his way. In one place he tried
to stoop and crawl beneath the clutching branches, and was caught among
the roots as in a vise, until he felt that he could move neither forward
nor backward, but would have to stay imprisoned in that dusky brake
until he died of thirst and starvation. He gave a frantic heave, and was
free to fight his way further. The shadows were lengthening; the clock
of the sky warned him that his time was short.

In the midst of his trouble he began talking desperately to himself; and
finally he broke into high-pitched, shouting song. Over and over again
he roared out to the brooding silence of the woods every hymn-tune he
had ever heard. Ridiculously, he thought this would protect him from the
unnamed evils of the place, and the singing certainly bolstered his
courage.

  “Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide,
  The darkness deepens—Lord, with me abide——”

He had lost his hat, he did not remember where. Plunge—plunge—forward
through the gripping coppice!

  “When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
  Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!”

At last! He gave a wild cry and broke through the last entangling
thicket, and the rhododendrons crackled closed behind him. He was free
again!

He did not pause to take any more compass courses, or to straighten his
clothing or pack, or to snatch a bite of food. He broke into a
staggering run. His flight took him for about half a mile, into the
bloodshot eye of the sun. He was dripping with perspiration, and heaving
great shaking sobs. A fallen pine tripped him and he rolled heavily down
a steep bank. When he picked himself up he found that he was standing on
a dimly-traced path through the woods—a bare, almost invisible trail,
but a path nevertheless, leading in what he thought was the direction he
should follow.

A path meant that humans passed that way at some time or another, and
might lead to habitations and possible discovery. But the forest terrors
so clouded the boy’s mind that he welcomed any companionship, no matter
what kind. It would at least give him company and allies against the
loneliness that beset him. It was growing dark; a blue jay somewhere
overhead was bickering to himself among the pine branches. Blackie
trotted down the path.

It led him along a wooded ledge of naked rock, and down across a marshy
flat place where a brook widened and lost itself in a dense hedge of
rushes. He crossed on a series of flat stones, and ascended a little
hill. One look, and he gave a shout of surprise.

There, spread before him beyond the margin of the reeds, was a long flat
sheet of water, a mountain tarn whose unruffled surface, like a plate of
polished steel, gave off the last dying beams of sunset. He had come too
far to the south; he was off the course he had laid for Newmiln Center.
This must be Black Pond, the long body of water he had seen marked on
the map in the camp lodge.

The pond, hidden among the rocks and dark trees of the mountain, at no
time had a friendly look; now, at nightfall, it presented to the weary
boy a face full of sinister threat. He was several miles out of his way;
further progress that night was impossible. He would have to camp here
on Black Pond.

He was just turning away to locate a camping place, when his eye was
caught by something which he had not noticed in his brief survey of the
pond and its surroundings. Through the trees to the right a thin wisp of
smoke was curling up in a languid spiral.

Someone was camping beside the pond! Blackie did not hesitate; the fear
of spending the night alone offered no choice. He ran to the end of the
path. There, beside the still waters of Black Pond, was a small shack
rudely knocked together from rough pine slabs and chinked with moss. The
spreading wings and steel-edged talons of a hawk, shot at some time or
another, were nailed to the wall near the low door, in the usual
back-country fashion. The smoke of a fire came from a stone chimney at
one end. A small rowboat with a puddle in the bottom was drawn up on the
muddy shore.

Blackie paused for a moment. He didn’t like the looks of the place, but
beggars can’t be choosers; it was now quite dark, and the smoke
indicated a cheery fire inside. Some hunter or fisherman, who used this
small hut for his camp, must be inside. Blackie tiptoed to the door and
knocked hesitantly.

From beyond the rough barrier came a startled grunt, the sound of a body
moving swiftly across the hut. Blackie knocked again, growing more and
more concerned as the silence continued.

With a sudden jerk the door was flung open, and a man’s figure appeared
outlined in the firelight, with one arm menacingly upraised, wielding
what seemed to be a short iron bar. Blackie Thorne stared, and gave a
shrill scream of fright.

He was looking in the face of the man called Reno, one of the two tramps
he had overheard on the night of the snipe hunt planning to rob old
Rattlesnake Joe of his imaginary treasure! He could plainly see the
seamed face, the gray unshaven jowls, and the green eye-patch of that
sinister character.

The tramp was as surprised as the boy. “In the devil’s name, it’s a
kid!” he bellowed. “A kid, Lew! Nab ’im, quick!” He made a dive for
Blackie, but the boy, pulled by terror, had already taken to his legs
back up the path—away, away from that evil face in the hut. He stumbled
frantically through the dark—the further away from Black Pond, the
better! Behind him he could hear the baffled howling of Reno. He would
escape yet——

He stumbled, felt a pair of gripping arms about him, holding him tight
so that he could not struggle. A hoarse voice called, “Here he is, Reno!
Got the bloody little rat!”

“Good!” came the response. “Bring ’im here to the light. If he’s a spy,
I’ll pull out his little throat, blast ’im!”

Helpless and too weary to fight any more, Blackie felt himself being
picked up roughly and carried toward the hut on Black Pond that was the
hiding-place of the two murderous vagabonds who had done to death the
harmless old hermit of the Lenape hills.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                            ROBBERY BY NIGHT


“Bring ’im over here to the fire, Lew,” directed Reno, “and we’ll just
have a look at his ugly mug.”

The younger tramp carried Blackie to the hearth and threw him down on
his back, still gripping him about the body with both hands. Reno, the
man with the patch over his eye, stood up against the fireplace the bar
he had been using as a weapon. Blackie recognized that bar at once. It
was the object the hermit had shown them when the campers visited
him—his prized “thunderbolt” that had been the direct cause of his
death. Dazed, he watched Reno stir up the fire and draw forth a blazing
brand which he held up for a torch, close to the boy’s features.

“Glory be, it’s just a young kid!” snorted Lew. “From the way he was
fightin’ me, I thought it was a wildcat at least! What’s he doin’ here?”

Reno spat, wiped his mouth, and swore terribly with his face close to
Blackie’s. “You, now! Who sent you here?”

“N-N-Nobody,” the boy managed to stammer.

“No tricks, now!” warned the loathsome tramp. “If you’re alone, what are
you doin’ here?”

Blackie was terribly frightened, but kept his head. These men were
dangerous; he was alone with them, miles from any help. They could not
guess that of all the people in the world, he alone had witnessed the
death of the hermit at their hands. But if he admitted that he came from
Camp Lenape, they would wonder why he was away from camp by himself, and
would suspect that there were others near. He must depend upon his wits,
now; and with the shadow of the great lie at camp hanging over him, he
felt that one lie more or less would not matter now.

“I’m on the road, Mister Reno,” he said. “I didn’t know you were
here—I’m bumming around by myself, honest!”

The tramp laughed nastily. “On the road, huh? Well, we need a kid about
your size. Stick with us, see, and you’ll be rich some day. Frisk ’im,
Lew.”

The weak-chinned man called Lew was rapidly going through Blackie’s
pockets and unstrapping his belt. “We’re in luck!” he said. “Grub and a
light and blankets! An ax, too; the kid can use it to chop more wood for
our fire. Look, Reno—we’ll have a regular banquet—peas and ham and
spuds!”

“About time,” yawned Reno, moving back to the fire. “Get a move on and
dish up supper. Blast my eyes if I ain’t sick to death of livin’ on fish
and berries.”

Lew permitted Blackie to get up. “Well, what did ya expect to live on
while we was waitin’ for the Big Job to blow over——” he began, but Reno
stopped him with a hasty gesture.

“Shut up! If the sheriff was to hear ya say that——” he threatened. Lew
turned away, muttering, and with Blackie’s hand-ax chopped open the can
of peas and began cooking the meal at the fire.

Blackie, unharmed for the present but stripped of his supply of food and
all his equipment, was allowed to sit in a corner and wonder how he
could get out of his plight. Escape for the present was impossible; he
was too closely guarded to get out of the hut, and even if he did so, he
would be lost in the dark wilderness where every horror in the world
might lurk.

The supper cooked, the two tramps set to in surly silence and gobbled up
every scrap of food Blackie had brought. He did not dare ask for a
share, but hungrily watched them devour the meal to the last morsel.
Reno finished first, wiped his greasy mouth on the back of his sleeve,
yawned loudly, took one of Blackie’s blankets and an old quilt he picked
up somewhere, and laid out his bed on the floor of the hut. His back was
against the low door, the only means of exit from the place, and before
turning in, he took the ax and placed it under his ragged coat, which he
had doubled to serve as a pillow. Lew, leaving the dirty dishes on the
rough table, took the remaining blanket and sprawled out on the floor
near the fire.

Blackie ventured a question. “Excuse me, Mister,” he said, “but where
can I sleep?”

Reno rolled over and glowered. “A lot I’d care if ya never slept, ya
dirty whelp! Shut yer face!”

“But—you have all the blankets, and——”

Lew reached out a booted foot and kicked the boy viciously. “I’ll kill
ya if ya don’t stow yer gab!” he growled. “Kids like you don’t need
covers. If I hear any more out of ya, I’ll jam my foot in yer mush!”

Blackie spent that unforgettable night squatting on the hearth beside
the fireplace. Now and then he would drift off into a restless sleep,
troubled by dreadful dreams and startled awakenings. His finger-tip
ached continually, and the nail had turned so black that he knew he
would lose it. He crouched miserably by the dead fire, shivering from
the damp chill that rose from the pond and listening to the heavy
breathing of the two sleepers who barred his way to escape. His teeth
chattered as much from fear as from the cold, for he could not forget
that he was in the terrible company of a pair of desperate murderers who
would twist his throat if they guessed he knew anything about their
crime. Once he dreamed that he was back in Camp Lenape, lying stretched
out in his bunk at Tattoo, with the stars bright over the pines, the
friendly feel of happy boys about him, and Wally sitting beside the
tent-pole reading vespers out of his Bible. He woke with a start, and
saw the two ugly figures sprawled on the floor in the dim firelight.
Camp was behind him; he had left all that, and was “on the road.” His
cheeks were wet; he had been crying softly to himself in his sleep.

Gray dawn came at last. The two hoboes roused themselves, and permitted
Blackie to wash his face and hands at the edge of the pond, making fun
of him for a delicate greenhorn as they watched him. Shortly after, Reno
disappeared into the woods and after about an hour, returned with a hat
full of huckleberries, upon which he and Lew breakfasted, neither
offering any to Blackie nor allowing him to find any for himself. He was
not out of the sight of one of them during that whole dragging day. Save
for a muttered curse or a blow on the head, they treated him as though
he did not exist. The men played with a grimy deck of cards most of the
morning, making large wagers against each other and swearing
blasphemously when they lost, although the boy could not see that either
of them had a penny to win or lose. Around noon, as near as Blackie
could judge, Lew took a fishing line and rowed out upon the pond in the
leaky old boat. He was gone for several hours. Reno spent the time
chewing tobacco and playing a game of solitaire, or else snoring with
his back against the door.

Lew returned from his fishing expedition empty-handed and in an ugly
humor, and conferred with the older tramp in muttered whispers. Blackie
was driven to the other end of the small hut while they spoke, but
listened as hard as he could and managed to catch a word now and then.
Once he heard distinctly the phrase, “Flatstone Creek,” and again, “the
kid can do it.” At the end of the talk, Reno rose angrily and shouted,
“I’m sick of yer snivelling like a yellow cur! The whole thing has all
blown over by now—anyways, they haven’t anything on us to prove we done
it!” He began stamping out the fire, rolled the blankets in an ungainly
bundle, and stuck the ax in his belt. Lew also made up his blankets, to
which he attached the flash-lamp.

“Here, you kid!” he said, “grab these bundles and tote ’em for us. We’re
clearin’ out of here.”

This completed the preparations for departure. Leaving the hut in a
litter, with the door hanging open, the two tramps led the way north
around the edge of the pond, followed by Blackie, who stumbled along
blindly under the burden of the blankets and quilt and the lantern. Reno
led at a lazy gait, turning west after the end of Black Pond was rounded
and strolling through the forested ridge for about three hours. At each
step Blackie grew more weary; he was, after more than twenty-four hours
of fasting, almost ready to keel over with starvation. He was only
allowed to drop his bundles and rest a few minutes now and then, when
the men felt like stopping. He had no idea where the hoboes were going
or what they intended to do.

At sundown, Reno called a halt. Blackie wondered if the mountain would
ever end. He threw down the blankets and fell upon them wearily; but to
his surprise the two tramps lay on their faces and peered out westward
through a clump of bushes. His curiosity overcoming his fatigue, Blackie
crawled over to their side, dodged a kick from Lew, and looked in the
direction Reno was pointing with outstretched arm.

They were on the edge of a steep bluff fronting on a pretty little green
valley in the center of which ran the silver ribbon of a brook. Beyond
rose, purple-clad, a low range of hills that Blackie judged might fringe
the Delaware. He was sure the creek below must be the Flatstone—they had
been heading into the sunset for the past hour. To the boy, enslaved by
the loathsome vagrants and unable to escape from their abuse and
dangerous company, the peaceful valley looked like a promised land.
Green, cool pastures spread on each side of the brook, where cattle
grazed, fat little cows looking small enough, viewed from the grim
cliff, to have come out of a toy Noah’s ark.

Almost under them, at the base of the steep mountainside, a white
farmhouse lay near an orchard of gnarled apple trees fronting on a
yellow dirt road running north and south. Across the road was a rambling
red barn, a farmyard full of chickens, and the remains of an old
lime-kiln.

“That’s the place I saw yesterday,” said Reno. “Nobody there at night
but the old guy and his wife—the hired man lives up at the Center. I
found out that much.”

“I’m starved,” muttered Lew. “How long have we got to wait?”

“Aw, these hicks go to bed early. If we wait a couple hours, they’ll be
so much asleep you couldn’t wake ’em up with a cannon. We’ll take
anything they got, and then beat it over to Pennsylvania for a while.
Lots of good places across the river where we can lay low—this district
will be gettin’ too hot to hold us pretty soon.”

Nothing further was said for some time. Smoke curled from the chimney of
the farmhouse; evidently the people inside were eating dinner. A hearty
country meal it would be, Blackie thought, and his mouth watered as he
visioned smoking joints of meat, thick bread and jam, rich creamy milk,
golden-crusted slabs of pie, corn and squash and pickles and beets,
chocolate cake—— He tried to pass the time thinking of all the dishes in
the world that he liked; but soon had to stop because of the clawing
pangs of hunger that gripped him.

Reno and Lew lay watching the house like wolves awaiting the coming of
night before attacking a defenseless sheepfold. Once a horse-drawn buggy
with one occupant passed along the road, driving away from the Center
that showed dimly as a cluster of white houses and a church tower to the
north, where a bridge spanned the stream. The sun disappeared; a few
lights blinked forth in the house below, giving it a cheerful, friendly
look amidst the mysterious dark of the valley.

Blackie, left to himself, thought of nothing but the chances of escape
from the ugly pair he had been thrown in with by the fortunes of the
road. If he could squirm away unnoticed, and make a sudden dash down the
side of the cliff, he might get clear and find his way to one of the
houses in the valley. He was more than willing to risk a broken ankle in
the dark to win free of the tramps. He rolled over as quietly as he
could, and began to worm his way across the ground; but he made the
mistake of putting his weight upon a branch which snapped and gave way
beneath him, and Reno jumped up and caught him by the collar with a
snarl.

“No tricks like that, my hearty!” he muttered. “Try that again, and
you’ll be black and blue for a month! I’ll skin ya, so I will!”

Blackie bowed his head under a rain of blows that stunned him and made
his ears ring. He lay quietly after that, and did not move until, after
about an hour, the two men rose to their feet with an air of
determination. By this time the lights in the farmhouse below had
disappeared, one by one; evidently the inhabitants were all fast asleep.
Reno led the way to the left, picking his path by the aid of Blackie’s
flash-lantern shielded under his coat; Blackie followed, still stumbling
beneath the weight of the blankets; while Lew brought up the rear,
cursing softly when he stumbled on the treacherous ground. They picked
their way down the steep slope of the mountainside, and after half an
hour of slow going, came out on the dirt road near the barn. Here Reno
snapped off the light, and without even a moon to guide them the tramps,
like the thieves and night marauders they were, sneaked cautiously
through the orchard until they reached the back of the farmhouse, and
stopped a few yards from the low cellar-door.

Here they paused for a brief consultation, and then Reno crept toward
the house, while Lew watched him, meanwhile holding Blackie’s arm in a
vise-like grip. No sooner had he vanished in the direction of the house
than the night was full of the rousing bark of a dog.

“Curse the luck——” began Lew; but on the instant the bark died away in a
blood-curdling, stricken howl; and afterwards there was silence again.
He listened in a strained attitude, still clutching Blackie, who could
hear his heart beat so loudly that it seemed as if the inhabitants of
the house must hear those throbbing thumps between his ribs and waken in
alarm. Finally Reno came back to them, moving like a shadow in the
starlight.

“It’s all clear!” Blackie heard him whisper hoarsely. “The watch-dog
heard me and almost give the show away, but I cut his throat right
quick. I tried all the doors and windows, and everything is tight as a
drum—but there’s a little window in the kitchen that the kid might be
able to get through.”

“Send him along,” said Lew. “Does he know what to do?”

“He’d better know!” whispered Reno sharply. “Listen, kid—ya got to help
us. I’m goin’ to boost ya through a window into the kitchen, and you
pass out all the grub you can find. While I was around lookin’ at the
windows, I found a gunny-sack they use for a doormat, and we can stuff
it full of grub and take it with us.”

“But—but that’s stealing!” exclaimed Blackie.

Reno grasped his throat swiftly, and choked the words in the boy’s
throat. “Shut yer trap—do ya want the whole house down on us? And what
if it is stealin’? Ya ain’t above that, are ya, ya little ladylike
brat?”

“But what if they catch me in there?” moaned Blackie through his teeth.

“Ya better not let them catch ya, that’s all. But let me tell ya, it’d
be a sight better to have the old farmer catch ya and put a shotgun full
of buckshot into ya than to come back to me without a pile of grub!”
There was an edged threat in his voice, and Blackie did not dare say
another word. If only he had stayed at camp and obeyed the rules, he
would not now have to choose between robbing a house and being beaten
within an inch of his life by a murderous tramp!

He allowed Reno to push him around to a small, high window at the rear
of the house. “There it is, kid,” whispered the man in his ear, “and if
ya see anything else worth takin’, pass it out to me!” He lifted the boy
to the ledge, and Blackie fumbled with the catch. The window opened
outwards with a slight creaking noise, leaving an aperture about half a
yard square. Making no further protest, which he knew would be useless,
Blackie squirmed through after some trouble, and lowered himself slowly
into the silent kitchen of the sleeping house. He had a new plan in his
head now, and permitting himself to be pushed inside the farmhouse was a
necessary part of it. It was his duty to rouse the owner of the farm and
warn him of the danger lurking without. If there was a telephone in the
place, perhaps help could be speedily summoned in time to capture the
murderers outside; if not, at least the house could be barricaded and
the tramps driven off. The farmer would give Blackie shelter for the
night, he hoped, and anyway he would be free of the domination and
driving of the two vagrants; but unless the farmer was awakened with
care and quickly comprehended what Blackie would tell him, he might
misunderstand and take the boy for a robber before he could explain.
Nevertheless, Blackie felt that he must carry out his plan no matter at
what danger to himself.

He found himself in a sort of pantry leading off from the spacious farm
kitchen. A low red fire still glowed in the stove, and he could make out
the walls lined with jars and cans and boxes and cooking utensils of all
kinds. A low hiss from the window warned him that Reno was still on the
lookout. He would have to work rapidly.

Looking about him hastily in the dull light, he found a door that seemed
to lead to the other parts of the house. Tiptoeing across the uncarpeted
floor one careful step at a time, he reached the door and entered a long
hallway. This he followed for a yard or two, feeling his way along the
wall, until his hand touched a railing that seemed to be part of the
front stairs. He would have to climb those stairs to reach the bedrooms.
He advanced one foot cautiously, and was just climbing the first step,
when a loose board in the floor creaked with a sickening noise. It
sounded to the terrified boy like the crack of Doom.

Instantly his feet were knocked out from under him as a heavy body
leaped at him like a football tackle, and he fell with a toppling crash
to the floor. Someone was upon him, holding him in a resistless clutch!
The wind was knocked from his lungs, and he gagged and fought for
breath. The stabbing glare of a flashlight hit his eyes.

Then the strangest event of all that strange night happened. His unknown
assailant gave a little whistle of surprise, and broke forth into
speech. Only one word, but that word the boy’s name.

“Blackie!”

The flashlight twisted around; the stranger was showing it upon his own
face. Blackie gasped, and almost shrieked with relief. The person who
had captured him in that dark, lonely farmhouse was his own tent leader,
Wally Rawn!



                              CHAPTER XIV
                            THE SPRING-HOUSE


“Wally! What are you doing here?”

Wally Rawn relaxed his iron grip and helped Blackie to his feet. In the
glow of the flashlight the boy could see that Wally was fully-dressed in
corduroy trousers, blue flannel shirt, and high woodsman’s boots with
laces dangling. The councilor must have thrown his clothes on in a
hurry.

“I might ask the same of you, Blackie,” he said with a slight grin.
“Have you become a burglar all of a sudden?”

The words recalled Blackie to his mission in the farmhouse. “Shh! Not so
loud—they’re still outside!”

“Who’s outside?”

“The two tramps! They’re the ones that killed poor old Rattlesnake Joe,
and they made me climb in the window to steal some food for them. The
older one stabbed the dog outside so he wouldn’t wake the house, and——”

Wally pursed his lips in a low whistle. “So that’s who shut up the dog
so suddenly! The barking woke me up, and I thought I’d prowl around here
and see what was happening. You say these men are—murderers?”

“Yes—the sheriff is after them! Don’t let them catch me again, Wally!
They kicked and beat me all the time, and wouldn’t let me have anything
to eat, and I’m scared of them!”

“Don’t worry—they can’t get in here. But if the sheriff wants these men,
we might have a try at capturing them. You say they’re waiting for you
outside? Well, you might be able to get them to bite on the hook. Are
you game to take a chance on locking them up where they belong?”

Blackie’s face fell. “Why, sure, I’ll try if you help me. But how can I
catch them? They’d kill me in a minute if they thought I was giving them
away.”

Wally considered. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed softly. “Listen—out there
in the orchard there’s a spring-house where the farmer’s wife keeps
butter and meat and stuff to cool. I remember it has a strong lock on
the door. If you could get them in there, and snap the bolt on them, we
could hold them there until Kingdom Come. It’ll be touch-and-go with you
if you can’t get them inside, but a pair like that should be under lock
and key as soon as possible. Will you try?”

Blackie nodded. “If you think that’s the best way——”

“Good. I’ll wake up the old man, and we’ll be on the lookout at an
upstairs window to protect you in case the scheme doesn’t work. We can’t
show ourselves or they’ll get suspicious and we’ll never have the chance
again. Now, skip back to the kitchen—they’ll be wondering where you
went. Good luck!”

Wally began to tiptoe silently up the stairs, and Blackie hastened back
down the hallway to the kitchen. On his way to the pantry window he
grabbed two or three jars of preserved vegetables and a loaf of bread.
He found Reno at the window, almost crazy at the delay.

“What took ya so long, ya little fool?” he raged under his breath. “I
thought I heard noises inside, and thought ya were bagged for sure.”

Blackie handed out the jars. “I was just looking around for grub, Mister
Reno,” he said. “There isn’t very much here—at least I can’t find it in
the dark. This is all I saw.”

Reno grew ferocious with anger. “Well, that’s better than nothin’—but
after all our trouble, all ya could get was a mouthful! I’ll fix you for
this later! Come on, climb out—don’t stand here jabberin’ all night!”

He helped the boy out through the narrow window, and together they crept
back to where Lew was standing guard.

“Any trouble?” he asked.

“Aw, the brat couldn’t find enough to make a lunch for a flea.” Reno
held out the jars and the bread. “We’ll have to try this game somewheres
else.”

Disgruntled, he led the way back through the orchard toward the road.
Blackie could barely make out the white-washed side of the spring-house
to their left. He plucked Reno’s ragged sleeve.

“Say, I bet that place is full of grub! Let’s have a look!”

Reno turned with a sneer. “Go and see.”

Blackie knew that if he argued, it might breed suspicion. He waded
through the tall grass to the low door and felt its rough face with his
hand. Sure enough; the outside bore a strong bolt. As he opened the
door, a draft of chill, damp air came forth, mingled with the smell of
fresh cream and cheese. He stumbled in.

It was the usual type of country spring-house. In the center bubbled up
a rill of icy water that was contained in a deep stone basin, filled
with tall cans of milk. The two men, attracted by Blackie’s easy
entrance into the place, followed him quickly, and found him busily
gobbling a generous chunk of apple pie, washing it down with milk from a
pitcher at his elbow. Hungry as he was, however, Blackie had not lost
sight of the deed he had to do; it was part of his plan to entice the
men inside. Lew rose to the bait, and began seizing foodstuffs with both
hands; but Reno cautiously stood square in the doorway, covering the
retreat. His mouth full, Blackie pushed past him, stuffing cookies into
his pockets.

“Pass the stuff out, Lew,” Reno was saying “I’ll stick it all in our bag
here.”

Blackie had meanwhile gained the outside, and stood facing the back of
the man in the doorway. “Why don’t you go in too, Mister Reno?” he
asked. “You might miss something if you don’t.”

Something in his tone made the man whirl about suspiciously. “What do
you mean, you little roach? If you think you can——”

Blackie saw his only chance, and took it. With a sturdy rush, he butted
against Reno’s legs. The tramp, caught off balance, grabbed at the
doorway to right himself, and Blackie, with all the force of his body
behind it, plunged his doubled fist into the man’s stomach. It was a
lucky blow that landed right on the solar plexus, and for a moment Reno
was paralyzed. He gave a pained grunt and keeled backwards into Lew, who
fell over a tall milk-can and tumbled sidewise into the pool of icy
water. Before either of them could flounder to their feet, Blackie had
slammed the strong door and shot the bolt upon his prisoners.

He sat down in the trampled, dewy grass, overcome with the reaction that
sets in after a trying period of strain and excitement. And suddenly,
without knowing why, he began to laugh, laugh until his sides hurt,
unable to stop.

Wally Rawn came to him on the run from the house, carrying a
long-barreled shotgun in his hands. He tested the soundness of the lock
on the spring-house door, and then clapped Blackie on the shoulder.

“Neat work, son! You’ve got them shut up in there like a couple of
sardines in a can. Say, what’s the matter with your funny bone?”

“He—he looked so crazy!” gurgled the boy. “I knocked the wind out of
Reno, and he fell over and pushed Lew into the water!”

From within the spring-house came an angry racket. Reno must have
scrambled to his feet again and was shouting at the door; both men were
cursing a blue streak, and Reno was making the most terrifying threats
as to what he should do if Blackie did not release the bolt on the
instant.

Wally patted Blackie’s arm soothingly. “Don’t you worry your head about
that.” He stepped to the door and called commandingly, “Listen, you
inside there! I’ve got a gun here, and if you make one more sound I’ll
wing you both! You’re here to stay, and don’t forget it!”

The serious depth of his voice must have impressed them, for they
maintained a puzzled silence while Wally strolled back to Blackie with a
cheerful smile.

“Guess that’ll stop their howling for a while. Now, as I was telling
you, I woke up the old farmer—he was snoring away as peaceful as a
sheep—and now he’s telephoning to Sheriff Manders at the Center. The
sheriff will be along in his car as soon as he can make it, and until
then I guess these birds will stay in their cage. They’d better!” he
finished grimly. “Now tell me how you happened to be housebreaking here
in the dead of night in such bad company.”

Growing more calm, Blackie began his tale, relating how on the night of
the snipe hunt he had overheard the two hoboes planning to rob the old
hermit, and how he had followed them and heard the scuffle in the house
and the scream which had driven him to fly in horror.

“You should have told me or the Chief about that,” was Wally’s only
comment. “It would have saved a lot of trouble.”

“I was too scared,” confessed Blackie, “and besides it all seemed like a
dream that couldn’t be true.”

He told briefly how he had fallen in with the tramps again at Black
Pond, and how they had later forced him to enter the house to plunder
it. When he had finished, Wally said nothing for a while, but shook his
head once or twice in somber amusement.

“Well,” he said finally, “guess after all these adventures you won’t
mind going back to old Lenape for a rest. I’ve come to take you back to
Tent Four.”

“But—how did you know where I was? Why are you here?”

“I didn’t know where you were, but I had a pretty good guess. You
slipped away from camp, and I figured it was up to me to catch you
again. The Chief sent Mr. Lane in the car toward Elmville to look out
for you along the road to the railway, and there were quite a number of
fellows scouting around for your tracks on the campus. I wasted some
time after supper down at the south end of the lake, thinking you might
have headed that way toward home, and it wasn’t until this morning that
I got the brilliant idea that you would head right into the big timber
for a while. I found your trail up on the ridge, and believe me, you hit
some pretty rough going in spots! Right in the middle of a swamp I found
a hat with your name on it, stuck in some bushes; and then I knew my
guess was right. But after clawing my way through a regular jungle of
rhododendrons I lost your track, and naturally thinking you would make
for Newmiln, I raced over to the Center. I had no idea you would swing
down into Black Pond.”

“What did you do then? Gee, you must have been a wizard to follow me
that far!”

“I spent the rest of the day sweeping the Flatstone valley for traces of
you; I knew that if you had passed this way somebody must have seen you.
When I got no news, I came back over this side and the old farmer—his
name’s Jacob Woods, and he’s a friend of mine; I brought a group of
bikers over here last year—he offered to let me stay here to-night and
to go back into the mountain with me in the morning to look for you. He
was telling me tales of lost hunters and mysterious accidents back in
these hills until I almost went out to look for you with a lantern. It
was just a crazy coincidence that your hobo friends decided to pick this
house for their midnight robbery—but I’m glad I was the one that hopped
on you in the dark; somebody else might have been rough.”

Blackie had been drinking in every word. “Say, Wally,” he said, “those
tramps are awful quiet. I wonder if they’re up to anything?”

“We’ll see.” Wally, with his gun held at ready, circled about the little
stone building warily, and was just in time to see Lew, the weak-chinned
younger tramp, sticking his head through an aperture he had made by
removing a stone where the overflow from the spring found its way out.
“Get back there, you!” shouted Wally. He pretended to aim a kick, and
the startled hobo, who had counted on tearing away the stones and
escaping by the back way, withdrew his head so speedily that he bumped
it. Wally closed the opening with several rocks.

The sound of an auto horn from the road made Blackie jump. “That must be
the sheriff!” cried Wally. “Hi! Over this way, Mr. Manders! Over here in
the orchard!”

Three men came tramping across through the grass, two of them carrying
rifles. The taller of them Blackie recognized as the man who had been
conferring with the Chief on that fateful rainy Tuesday when he had
fought with Chink and smoked with Gallegher. It was Sheriff Manders, and
he pulled out two pairs of handcuffs while Wally was explaining things
to him. Another man he introduced as his deputy, a rugged farmer with
red chin-whiskers showing in the light of the lantern he carried. The
third, garbed in a pair of overalls hastily donned over his
night-clothing, proved to be Mr. Woods, owner of the farm, who since
telephoning had been watching at the roadside to direct the officers of
the law as soon as they arrived.

The sheriff heard Wally to the end, and then turned to Blackie. “You’re
a real smart boy, if what Mr. Rawn says is true. I’ll be over to your
camp-ground later and get your affidavit on all you’ve told him; and
likely you’ll be wanted at the trial.”

He stamped over to the door and knocked upon it loudly. “In the name of
the law, I call upon you to submit to arrest!”

When the door was flung open, two cowed and shaken vagabonds shambled
out to face the weapons of Wally and the officers. Their short
imprisonment had broken what spirit of bravado they possessed, and under
the watchful eyes of the law they appeared as a brace of craven and
revolting blackguards caught in the midst of crime. They submitted to
being handcuffed, and were bundled off toward the car in short order.

“I’ll go with you and see these fellows safe in jail,” volunteered
Wally. “No—you won’t be needed, Blackie; you’ve done more than your
share this night. You just trot off to bed with Mr. Woods here, and
forget all about everything.”

He disappeared after the two prisoners and their guards, leaving Blackie
with the aged farmer. The latter led Blackie back to the house, where
his wife was fussing about the kitchen in a faded red wrapper, stirring
up the fire and raising a most tantalizing smell of cooking. Mr. Woods,
with rare forbearance, did not bother Blackie with questions, but every
now and then he caught the farmer looking at him with a puzzled frown,
shaking his head and muttering to himself, “Wal, who would have thought
it?” His wife mothered Blackie, making him wash his face and hands and
seating him at the table, where she piled hot food before him and
watched him gorge himself on sausage and fried potatoes, pressing him to
eat more pie and cookies until he felt as though his eyes must be
bulging with repletion. When he could eat no more, she packed him off
upstairs to bed, and left him with a gentle good-night. He undressed,
almost dozing off once or twice in the process, climbed into a high
four-poster bed, and lay snugly stretched out under a
brilliantly-colored old-fashioned crazy quilt. He fell asleep as soon as
his head touched the pillow.

A short time later Wally returned and woke him to say that he had seen
the tramps safely under lock and key in the jail at Newmiln Center, and
that he need not worry any more. Blackie hardly heard the words before
he was asleep again. Wally blew out the lamp and crawled in beside the
sleeping boy, and once more all was peaceful in the farmhouse at the
foot of the mountain.



                               CHAPTER XV
                             THE LAST RACE


Blackie and Wally were up at the first crack of dawn; it was to prove an
active day for them, and they had no mind to get a late start. After a
hearty breakfast provided by Mrs. Woods, they took the road south on
foot. The grateful farmer offered to harness his team and drive them
back to camp, but Wally knew that he was needed to tend his stock, and
courteously refused.

“We’ll take the road down the valley and over the mountains,” explained
Wally as the two hiked side by side down the yellow road. “It’s a bit
longer than straight over the ridge, but we’ll avoid a lot of tough
going, and save time in the long run.”

Blackie was not sorry to be tramping along in Wally’s company on that
bright summer morning. His clothing had been neatly brushed and cleaned
by the farmer’s motherly wife, and his rescued blankets were strapped
over one shoulder. The sky was a lustrous, enamelled blue; the fields
and thickets sparkled with dewdrops; and a cheerful chorus of birds
chirruped a marching song for them. The way led down the valley of the
Flatstone, running on a wooded height above the wandering creek.
Occasionally they passed orchards and farmhouses, lazy in the sun; once
they climbed a spur of the hills and looked down upon a great red mill,
with a plashing race of water leaping down through the dripping teeth of
a clacking wooden wheel. Several times they were passed by farmers
driving wagons or cars, but always they were heading the opposite way,
toward the Center; and the two hikers were not fortunate enough to get a
lift. As they went they chatted gaily, and all the grim hours of
Blackie’s flight and bondage seemed like the half-remembered fragments
of a nightmare.

By ten o’clock they had reached the crossroads, beside a steepled little
schoolhouse with a yard overgrown with weeds, and halted several minutes
before turning eastward.

“This route is longer than I thought,” observed Wally. “We’re only about
half-way back to Lenape now, and we still have the hardest part of the
journey ahead. I thought we might be back in camp by this time. You see,
to-day we hold the big regatta and water-sports. Every fellow in Camp
Shawnee will have come down from Iron Lake to compete with our swimmers
and divers, and I should be on hand to take the entries and run the
meet.”

“It’s my fault you’re not there now,” said Blackie. “If I hadn’t run
away, everything would have been all right.”

“If you hadn’t run away, two desperate characters wouldn’t be in jail
to-day, facing trial for murder,” pointed out the leader. “That’s the
way of the world—there’s no situation so bad that courage and brainwork
can’t mend it, and many a bad start has ended with a whirlwind finish.”

“Then if I hadn’t told a lie in camp, I wouldn’t have been kangarooed
and would never have left, and would never have found Lew and Reno up in
the mountains. But all the same, I’m done with lying—forever.”

“That’s a peach of a resolution to make,” agreed Wally. “Lying is either
cowardly or silly, and a Lenape camper doesn’t want to be either. And
now let’s be off; we won’t get back to camp just by talking about it.”

He leaped to his feet and they trudged off up the mountain road at a
smart pace. Blackie’s short legs had some difficulty in matching the
mile-devouring stride of the councilor, but he did not complain,
although it had grown exceedingly hot and dusty, and it seemed as if the
succession of ridges across which they passed would never end. Each time
they would surmount a summit, Blackie told himself that it must be the
last; and each time he would find another belt of road stretching on
ahead and another ridge to cross. A little after noon they sighted a
fine-looking farm in the center of the hills, and on the shady porch sat
a red-cheeked man with drooping mustaches. He was clinking out a lively
tune on a banjo, but dropped the instrument when he saw them approach,
and called out a cheery hail.

“Hi, Mr. Rawn! Ain’t seen you sence last year! Come on in and talk
things over—the old woman’ll lay a couple extra dishes for dinner. It
ain’t often we have the honor of company for meals, and we like to make
the most of them!”

Wally accepted the invitation, and after he and Blackie washed the dust
from their faces, they sat on the porch and chatted with the farmer
until the smoking hot meal was served. The leader was impatient to be
off, but the pleasure of the farmer and his wife at having visitors was
so great that it was some time before he could break away. The dinner
was leisurely and abundant, and afterwards nothing would do but they
must chat with the garrulous farmer about every subject he could think
of, from hog cholera to philosophy; and he insisted on playing his
entire stock of old country tunes on his banjo before they finally
parted.

“It’s not far now,” said Wally as they again took the road. “The last
ridge is only about a mile ahead.”

This cheered the plodding Blackie a little, but all the same it seemed
as if that mile was the longest in the world. At last they reached the
summit, and instead of another dreary stretch ahead they were rewarded
with an exhilarating prospect of the lake below and the flat countryside
beyond in the direction of Elmville. As they paused to get their breath,
a bugle call trilled up to them from the lodge.

“Come down and wash your dirty neck——” sang Wally, keeping time to the
trumpet-call. “He’s sounding Swim Call. That means they must be starting
the swimming meet! Hurry, Blackie—it must be at least two o’clock;
everybody will be streaking down to the dock. See that bunch of fellows
over in the baseball field? That must be the gang from Camp Shawnee.”

The two broke into a run which took them past the spring and down to the
signal tower. Here they left the road, which bent at right angles, and
plunged down the hillside through the green woods, following the trail
beside the pipe-line. Inside of twenty minutes they were stumbling into
Tent Four, where they sat on their bunks to catch their breaths.

They found the tent rows deserted; evidently every camper was assembled
down beside the lake. Wally recovered his breath first, and urged by the
necessity of going on duty at the dock, slipped out of his clothes and
into his swimming suit. Blackie, after five minutes’ rest, began to
undress slowly.

“You’re not so crazy for a swim you want to hustle right down now, are
you?” asked Wally in surprise. “You better take a nap, son.”

Blackie shook his head. “I’ve got to get in the meet, Wally! It’s my
last chance—you know I have to leave camp to-morrow; I’m only signed up
for the first two weeks. And you’ve put in a lot of time teaching me the
Australian crawl stroke, and I want to show what I can do in a real
swimming meet. Will you enter me in the distance swims and the high
dive?”

The councilor grinned. “You sure are a glutton for punishment! I
wouldn’t think, after the last couple of days, you’d have steam enough
left for swimming contests! But I admire your gameness, and I’ll sure
put your name down.” He buttoned the strap on his bathing suit, thrust
his feet into a pair of tennis shoes, and dashed off down the path
toward the dock, from the direction of which came a confused babble of
shouting and cheering. The swimming meet was already in full swing.

Blackie went down to the lake only a few minutes later, meeting no one
on his way. The boat dock and the shore were lined with swimmers and
spectators; about a hundred of them were strange boys and leaders,
wearing the red arrowhead of Camp Shawnee, who had hiked down from Iron
Lake to accept Lenape hospitality for the day and contest Lenape
superiority in the water. The life-saving boats were stationed further
out than usual, and Wally Rawn, with a whistle about his neck and papers
and a megaphone in his hands, was stationed on the upper deck of the
tower, directing the events, assisted by the chiefs of the two camps.

The first person Blackie encountered as he stepped on the dock was Ken
Haviland. The aide gave him a stare of contempt.

“Humph!” he snorted. “So you came crawling back to camp just as I knew
you would! Well, you might just as well have stayed away. What’s the
idea of the bathing suit? You needn’t think we want a fellow like you to
represent us against Shawnee.”

“Wally has entered me in the meet,” said Blackie stoutly. “You shouldn’t
kick if he thinks it’s all right.”

“Wally’s running the meet, and what he says goes,” admitted Ken
grudgingly, “but as far as the campers are concerned, you don’t count.”
He turned away, refusing to speak further.

“Third event—underwater swim, junior class!” came Wally’s voice through
the megaphone. The six contestants, three from each camp, lined up at
the end of the dock and when the whistle sounded took off with flat
racing dives. The spectators cheered as the boys hit the water; and the
wearers of the arrowhead gave a happy yell as their contenders took
first and third places. Steffins of Lenape ran a close second with a
fast breast-stroke.

“What’s the score now?” Blackie asked the boy next to him. It was Slim
Yerkes, and he favored Blackie with a stare.

“I’d keep quiet if I were you,” he said. “Don’t forget you’re still on
the blacklist around here.” He moved off, and Blackie sat down weakly on
a rock on shore. He had hoped that by this time the edict of the
Kangaroo Court had been forgotten and that he could once more speak
freely with his comrades; but since his return not one of them had
spoken to him in friendship or asked about his adventures.

He did not try to talk with anyone again, but sat where he was and
watched the progress of the swimming meet with dull eyes. The Shawnee
team was a good one; a red-headed, slightly-built lad named Lawrence
took honors in the junior class in diving, winning several first places
in the form and fancy events, and a husky kid whom his Shawnee
camp-mates called “Hobo” starred in the sprints. They both helped to
give Lenape the worst of it, and at the end of the junior contest the
score was Shawnee, 37; Lenape, 23.

Blackie caught sight of Irish Gallegher among the groups on shore, but
did not want to speak to him. The senior diving events were now called,
and Blackie answered to his name among those competing in high-diving.
There were about seven contestants entered from each camp, and every
entrant was entitled to three dives. They assembled on the upper dock
platform, where a runway and springboard jutted out over the end of the
piers. In this event Lenape, thanks to Wally’s careful training, was in
its glory and took all three places. Steve Link, who was a member of the
life-saving crew, took first; Blackie, in spite of his weariness, won
second; and Terry Tompkins came third. Blackie had conquered his tired
muscles and performed a very creditable back jack-knife dive, but not
one of his team-mates shook his hand or dropped him a “Well done!”
Disgruntled, he retired to his place on the rock and watched the Lenape
team slowly shorten the difference in score as the senior events
progressed.

The “funny dive” came last of all, and was won by Fat Crampton, the
pudgy lion-hunter. He had been entered at the last moment by the
joke-loving Sax McNulty, and his victory came as a surprise to
everybody, but most of all to Fat himself. He had timidly approached the
board, for he was not used to diving in any form; and while he stood at
the end debating with himself what to do, his foot slipped and he
toppled heels over head into the water. His arms became entangled in his
legs as he fell, and he came up with such a pop-eyed, startled look on
his puffy face that the judges immediately awarded him the blue ribbon,
although he had to be pulled out by a delegation of volunteer
life-savers.

The diving events in the senior class were finished, and the score stood
somewhat closer, with Lenape standing 42 against Shawnee’s 48. Wally
summoned the contestants in the fifty-yard dash, in which Blackie had
not entered, wishing to save all his power for the more demanding
distance events. A rangy, sandy-haired youth with the emblem of the
Junior Red Cross on his jersey stepped forward and was hailed by a
volley of cheers from the wearers of the red. “Dunning! Show ’em how to
do it, Dunning!” He was evidently their champion, and he had a confident
smile on his face which might betoken bad news for the Lenape
supporters.

As a matter of fact, Dunning did win the fifty-yard with ease, although
his triumph was offset by Link and Gil Shelton, who took second and
third places for the Lenape side of the score. The representatives of
the green and white also took first and second in the underwater swim,
making the tally read Shawnee, 52; Lenape, 50, with only three more
events yet to be contested.

“Hundred-yard swim!” came Wally’s voice hoarsely through the megaphone.
“Shawnee team—Dunning, Coombes, Lipsky; Lenape team—Haviland, Link,
Thorne!”

Blackie rose and walked stiffly to the end of the dock; he was more
tired than he had thought, for no boy can hike with a heavy pack through
mountain roads for seven hours and still hope to be fresh and springy in
a gruelling distance swim the same afternoon. He lined up with the six
contenders, between the confident Dunning and Ken Haviland. The latter
twisted his mouth when he saw Blackie beside him.

“Still trying, huh? Well, let me tell you, Thorne, I’d rather lose the
meet than have a fellow like you help to win it—and every fellow in
Lenape thinks the same!”

Blackie said nothing, but a red tide of resentment climbed to his brain.
So that was what they thought of him! But at least they couldn’t say he
was a quitter; he would do his best in spite of what any of them said!
He clamped his jaw, and stared out over the sparkling waters of the
lake, over the course that had been marked out by two of the life-boats,
trying to recall everything that Wally had taught him about the
crawl-stroke—trudgeon kick, powerful overhand pull with the arms,
measured breathing once in four strokes.

“Ready—set——”

The shrill purl of the starter’s whistle sounded, and six lithe bodies
cleaved the water. Blackie, full of anger and determination, put every
ounce of his waning strength into his strokes, fighting to keep his head
and time his muscles scientifically. He did not dare look around to see
how the other contestants were coming, although he was aware of a sandy
head driving through the water a little to his left and half a length
ahead. The course seemed short, but a stiff hundred-yard swim will try
the power of even a swimmer in the best of training. He headed for the
line stretched between the two boats, his arms moving over his head in a
steady rhythm that kept time with the beat of his legs, his face buried
in cool bubbling water. He’d show them! Summoning up his last straining
ounce of power, he spurted to win ahead of the swimmer to his left, and
passed him just as the shadow of the life-saving boat fell upon their
faces.

“Thorne wins!” came the voice of one of the judges from the boat.
“Dunning second, Coombes third!”

There was an uneasy silence among the Lenape supporters, but after half
a minute there rose a belated cheer from the wearers of the red
arrowhead, who were disappointed that their favorite had not won, but
who consoled themselves with the thought that Shawnee was still in the
lead.

Blackie took his time paddling back to the dock. He did not expect
congratulations for his victory; but he was now beyond the stage of
caring. All he had wanted to do was to show Ken Haviland that he was
game; and the taunts of the aide had given Blackie just that extra ounce
of vitality that had enabled him to spurt ahead of Dunning. He climbed
unassisted to the dock, and stood watching the next event, breathing
deeply to get his wind in preparation for the concluding event of the
meet, the two-hundred-yard swim that was the most demanding of all
contests upon the grit and capabilities of the racer.

Some thirty boys were lined up for the next contest, a free-for-all
marathon over a triangular course that led around two boats stationed
some yards apart in front of the dock; and at the summons of the whistle
there ensued a scrambling battle-royal for places in the water. Most of
the bunch dropped out before the first boat was reached, but among the
remaining swimmers there was a desperate contest to see who would touch
the wharf first. The Lenape cohorts broke into mad cheers when they
found that their entrants in this helter-skelter marathon had placed
first and third, and the yells of all the spectators grew and swelled
out over the water when it was found that the tallies for the last two
events had brought the score to a dead tie, with 57 points for each
camp.

The excitement was at fever heat as the contenders lined up for the
final event of the afternoon’s sport, the two-hundred-yard swim. The
entries were almost the same as for the shorter distance, except that
Link had been replaced by Soapy Mullins. Dunning, somewhat crestfallen,
eyed Blackie with a vengeful air, as if resolved to wipe out the memory
of his previous defeat. Coombes, who had placed third in the
hundred-yard event, looked pale and tired. Blackie stole a look at Ken
Haviland, who was again ranged at his side, but the aide paid no
attention. Blackie saw him feeling the right side of his abdomen
tenderly, and thought he caught Ken making a slight grimace of pain; but
the signal for ready came at that moment, and Ken straightened his body
and gritted his teeth as the starter put his whistle to his lips.

Brr-r-r-r! The six racers took the water and the gruelling contest
began, with two hundred pairs of eyes fastened upon their shining
muscles, sleek heads, and straining bodies. The last race—the race upon
which depended the camp championship of the season, the victory of the
green and white or the red arrowhead! No wonder the air was filled with
cheers and shouts of encouragement! Once or twice Blackie caught the
sound of his own name rising from that bedlam of excited watchers. He
smiled to himself, filled with a great elation. He had whipped Dunning
before, and knew he could do it again. Turning his head with a jerk, he
saw that Coombes was already out of the race, had dropped behind, too
exhausted to continue. Beside Blackie, the speedy Dunning whipped
through the water, followed by Ken Haviland and Soapy Mullins and
closely pursued by Lipsky. It was to be a close race, in spite of the
distance.

Onward Blackie Thorne churned his way, tossing diamond-like drops from
his hair as he surged through the water. Ahead he could see the dipping
life-boats that marked the end of the journey. Tie score—if he nosed
Dunning out for first place, it was almost a sure thing that one of the
other Lenape contenders would finish ahead of the slow-going Lipsky, and
end the meet with a slender lead of two points that would, however, give
Lenape the day.

Ken Haviland was shooting ahead, and was now close on the flailing legs
of Dunning. Blackie, with his eyes on the goal, was slowly but surely
increasing his half-length lead over the Shawnee favorite, when he heard
a low cry that made him turn his head and halt his even stroke.

Ken was in trouble. His pallid face was twisting with pain, and his arms
floated helplessly at his side. “Blackie!” he gasped. “Cramps! I’m
done——”

Dunning forged ahead, either not hearing of Haviland’s plight or else,
still smarting from his defeat, determined that nothing should interfere
to lose him this last and decisive race. Blackie held his stroke, and
Dunning caught up with him in an instant.

For only a split second did Blackie hesitate. Two voices seemed to be
shouting in his ears at the same time, arguing against each other.

“Ken is out of it, but there’s still a good chance that Mullins will
beat Lipsky for third. Go ahead and win!” counselled the first.

“But Ken has cramps—he’ll drown if you don’t help him!” contended the
other voice.

“He hates you—don’t throw away your big chance to win just on his
account! He said himself he’d rather lose the meet than have you win!”

“No, he’s sick! He needs you!”

A clock was ticking somewhere in his brain, ticking off the fractions of
seconds in which he must make up his mind what to do. Already Dunning
was beyond him, plowing determinedly for the goal. Blackie made his
decision. In a few speedy strokes he was by Ken’s side.

“I’ll hold you up—don’t struggle!” he shouted in the aide’s ear, and put
forth a supporting arm. Ken’s face was blanched and torn with pain, and
he floundered about helplessly, the muscles of his limbs knotted in
paralyzing lumps, his abdomen gripped with shooting pangs. Blackie knew
that he must be very sick indeed.

Soapy Mullins passed them some yards to their right, followed by Lipsky
trailing unsteadily in his wake.

“Take it easy!” said Blackie. “Don’t get scared! It’ll pass off soon.”

Of a sudden Ken’s muscles relaxed, and he found he could move his arms
and support himself somewhat. “What happened?” he gasped. “Did they stop
the race?”

A voice through a megaphone from the boats answered his question.
“Dunning wins! Mullins, second; Lipsky, third. Shawnee wins the
meet—score, 61 to 59!”

From the shore came the wild hurrahs of the victors, and a sportsmanlike
cheer from the Lenape campers for those who had vanquished them. In the
excitement of the race, few of the watchers had noticed that Blackie had
gone to the aid of Ken, and most of them had assumed that the two had
merely dropped out, overcome by the cruel demands of the contest.

Ken’s face was a blank. “But—but that’s not fair! We ought to run the
race over again—you would have won easy if you hadn’t come to help me,
Blackie!”

Blackie shook his head. “The meet’s over. No use kicking up a fuss and
having the Shawnee bunch think we’re a gang of poor sports who start
crabbing when they lose. It’s our hard luck, and we might as well take
our medicine. If you feel better now, come on and I’ll tow you over to
the boat.”



                              CHAPTER XVI
                       THE END—AND THE BEGINNING


The campers from Iron Lake departed northwards about five o’clock in
holiday mood, singing their camp song as they hiked, more than contented
to have won the close-fought victory in the water. Some of the Lenape
tribe accompanied them a mile or two on the road, and were forced to
swallow a lot of good-natured chaffing about their defeat, which they
felt keenly.

Blackie did not go with them. He had helped Ken Haviland ashore, and
seen him carried off toward the hospital tent and the ministrations of
Dr. Cannon; and then he returned to Tent Four and dressed in a clean
outfit. He was agreeably tired, but the swim had braced him immensely,
and he was comfortable in body for the first time since he had run away.
His mind was far from easy, however, as he answered the bugle’s summons
and stood Retreat ceremony with the tent groups. He was still in
coventry; not a boy spoke to him, and many were the black looks cast in
his direction.

It was the same at supper. Wally presided over a quiet table that night.
Gallegher sat gloomily next to the vacant chair that belonged to Ken
Haviland. Fat Crampton, with his usual good humor, was attacking his
food with gusto, rather pleased with himself for winning a first place
in the diving; Guppy and Lefkowitz chattered together now and then; but
Slater could not forget how easily Lenape might have held the
championship had things been a little different.

Once Guppy turned to Slater and said, “Gee, that fellow Dunning wasn’t
any slouch of a swimmer, was he?”

“He was pretty good, all right—but he would have been beaten in that
last race if a certain guy—I won’t mention any names—wasn’t yellow. It
would have won us the meet, too.” Slater looked meaningly at Blackie,
who flushed and gazed down at his plate, biting his lip to keep back a
bitter retort.

After the dessert, Wally leaned over to Blackie. “The Chief wants to see
you in his office, son,” he said, “right after supper. He’s got a friend
of yours in there with him now.”

“All right, Wally.” Blackie knew who that friend of his was; a saddled
horse was tethered outside that could belong to no one but Sheriff
Manders. When the dismissal signal was given, he went over to the office
door with a pounding heart, and entered at the Chief’s cheery
invitation.

The Chief nodded as he saw Blackie. “Come in, Thorne. You’ve met Sheriff
Manders, I hear. He’s ridden over to get your affadavit against the two
men who attacked Rattlesnake Joe. Just tell him slowly everything that
happened, and don’t keep anything back.”

The sheriff had paper and pen before him, and with a gentle kindliness
asked Blackie many questions, writing down the boy’s answers in a round,
careless hand. The Chief said no word, but listened with increasing
attention as the tale of Blackie’s adventures was unfolded. When the
officer pronounced himself satisfied, he looked over at the Chief with a
quizzical air.

“Kind of a lot of trouble for a kid his size to get into, eh? Well,
you’ve helped the state to prosecute a pair of brutal criminals, young
Thorne, and I think I may venture to say that——”

The Chief cut in on his speech. “We won’t talk about that now, Mr.
Manders, if you don’t mind.”

“Just as you say. Well, I’ll be going now. Thank you both. ’Night!” He
stamped out of the office.

Blackie made no move to leave, but cleared his throat huskily. He had
the most distasteful task in the world before him, the job of admitting
that he was a coward who had sought to shield himself from punishment
behind a lie.

“Chief, I—I want to tell you something.”

“Go ahead, Blackie.” The Chief’s face betrayed nothing of what he might
be thinking. “They say that confession is good for the soul.”

“I lied to you the other night. I was with Gallegher when he broke the
camp rule against smoking, and I smoked too. I’m sorry I lied, and I’m
willing to take my punishment.”

“You know what that means?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right. You can go now.”

The Chief nodded that the affair was ended for the present, and Blackie
left the little office. He had done it. A great load was lifted from his
heart; he had confessed like a man, and things were understood between
the Chief and himself. However painful might be the outcome, at least he
had cleared away the black stain on his conscience.

A busy crew of stage-hands was arranging the lodge in the semblance of a
theater, for that night was to be given the musical show, “Coo-Coo,” in
which Sax McNulty and an imposing troupe of camp talent were to perform
for the amusement of the campers, a few visitors from the city, and some
neighboring farmers. As Blackie passed out to the porch, it was just
growing dusk. From the lake he could hear laughter and shouts of gaiety;
in spite of the afternoon’s defeat it was to be a night of merriment.
Chinese lanterns gleamed from the dock, which was crowded with campers
dressed in masquerade regalia; boat-loads of boys in costumes ranging
from African wild-man to pirate were rowing about amidst song and
fun-making, watching a canoe-tilting contest, at the end of which one
crew or another would be pushed over with a long bamboo pole and
precipitated into the water. Blackie turned away and headed for the
hospital tent. There was little happiness in his heart, and he did not
wish to be reminded of the gaiety of others.

Ken Haviland was sitting up in bed when he arrived, and invited him in
with a voice that showed he had quite recovered from the mishap of the
swimming race. “Sit down here on the bed, Blackie,” he said. “The Doc
filled me up with hot water and ginger, and I’m as well as ever, only he
won’t let me get up. It’s too bad, because I feel fine, and don’t want
to miss the big show.”

“That’s great, Ken.”

“What’s the matter? You look about as happy as a corpse.”

“Aw, the guys in the tent are still jumping on me because I didn’t win
the last race. Slater called me yellow at supper, and all the others
thought I was, too.”

“Did they? Well, soon as I get out of here, I’ll fix that! Wait till
they hear what really happened; they’ll be sorry they didn’t have better
sense. By the way, I’m passing around the word that the Kangaroo Court
decision is all off, and we’ve forgotten all about it. I’m sorry for
what I’ve been thinking of you all along.”

“I deserved it, Ken. I’ve been just a fresh kid ever since I hit camp—I
see it all now. I—I guess the gang will be glad to see me go back to the
city to-morrow.”

Ken leaned forward, and put his hand on Blackie’s shoulder. “Don’t you
think it! You’ve only been here two weeks, but you’ve done a lot for
Lenape. I don’t know what the Chief thinks, but as soon as Doc Cannon
lets me out of here, the bunch is going to find out what kind of a hero
you really are!”

“The Chief knows,” said Blackie dully. “He’s going to square up with me
in the morning.”

Blackie left the tent thinking of what the morning would be sure to
bring, and in a dejected mood went down to Tent Four. It was dark and
deserted; the whole camp was now assembled in the lodge, from which came
down to him the lively strains of music from the camp orchestra, the
overture of the show. The happiness of the campers only emphasized his
pangs of loneliness, and he slowly donned pajamas and climbed into his
bunk. The strain of the day soon proved too much for him, and lulled by
the music, he drifted off to sleep, from which he did not waken when his
tent-mates tumbled into their bunks when Call to Quarters sounded at
eleven o’clock.

Blackie woke in the misty dawn the next morning, and softly, so as not
to wake his slumbering tent-mates, dressed in his city clothes and began
packing his blankets and stuffing his camping-kit into his sea-bag.
To-day he would leave Lenape, leave the lake and the hills and go back
to the hot city. Well, that was the only thing to do. He was in bad with
the boys and the Chief, he told himself; he had failed in almost
everything he had attempted to do. After two weeks of the Lenape life,
he was not any better a camper than when he first landed in Tent Four.
True, he had won his honor emblem, but that was sure to be stripped from
him. He wore it on his jersey still, buttoned under his coat; but he
knew that he had no better right to wear it than Gallegher had, as
everyone would soon discover.

Reveille blew before he had finished his packing, and he continued
making ready for departure while the pajama crew went down for Indian
dip. He noticed that about a dozen other boys, who were also leaving at
the end of the first section, were also getting into their unaccustomed
travelling clothes and stowing their camp things into suitcases and
bags. By the time Assembly sounded, Blackie was ready to leave for the
station at a moment’s notice.

He lined up with his comrades before the flagpole. All during the
ceremony of flag salute and while the buglers were trumpeting Call to
Colors, his nervousness increased. He dreaded what was coming; it was
worse than a trip to the dentist. The Chief was sure to speak this
morning. In a few moments he would be disgraced before all the campers.
He looked toward the end of the line hastily. Little Pete Lister was
standing there with his drum strapped about his neck.

“Attention!” came the Chief’s command. He stood with dignified sternness
before them, and the files straightened.

“Blackie Thorne, five paces forward!”

There was a stir among the campers as Blackie marched forward with chin
up, arms at his side, and a set face. They, too, guessed what was coming
now.

“I wish I hadn’t said he was yellow yesterday,” whispered Slater behind
his hand. “That kid’s got nerve!”

“He sure has!” responded Gallegher. “I know what he feels like now, and
believe me, it’s no joke! But it was all my fault—I really dragged him
into it.”

“Silence in the ranks! Blackie Thorne, you have admitted to me that you
have been guilty of conduct unbecoming to a Lenape camper, and have
signified your willingness to abide by whatever punishment is inflicted.
Is that right?”

Blackie flushed, but looked his Chief straight in the eye. “Yes, sir.”

“You will here, in the sight of all your comrades, be stripped of the
honor emblem which has been made unworthy by your act.”

Blackie braced himself, waiting; the Chief stepped forward with the
blade of a knife gleaming in his hand. Now it was coming! He felt the
Chief pulling away his coat and cutting the stitches of the green and
white badge. The clattering tattoo from Lister’s drum was in his ears.
The Chief stepped backward, putting away the knife. Now it was all over.
Blackie made a move to return to his place in line.

“Stay where you are, Thorne!”

The campers started with surprise; they had not anticipated this.
Blackie waited, expecting some further reprimand.

“I still have another duty to do,” announced the Chief evenly. “But
first I want to tell a story which some of you may have read in a book
by Victor Hugo, a book called ‘Ninety-Three.’ It tells there of an
incident which happened on board a French warship. Through the
carelessness of the chief gunner, one of the huge cannons on the deck
broke away from its chains, and pitched about by the rough sea, rolled
from one end of the ship to the other like a monstrous metal
battering-ram on wheels, killing many sailors who could not get out of
its way, smashing the other cannons that were to defend the ship from
the enemy, and battering the timbers until the vessel was in danger of
sinking. It seemed impossible for the brutal rushes of the gun to be
checked; but one man, armed only with a handspike and a rope, jumped
down on the deck and struggled to halt its mad career. It was the chief
gunner, the man who was to blame for the deadly danger to the ship and
her crew; and after a superhuman battle in which he nearly lost his
life, he succeeded in overturning the cannon and lashing it so that it
could do no further harm.”

The Chief paused a moment. Blackie was listening in a daze, wondering
what this tale could have to do with him.

“When all was safe again,” continued the Chief, “the gunner was brought
to be judged by the general who commanded the ship. The general first
pinned upon the gunner’s jacket the cross of St. Louis, the medal for
military merit, as an award for his bravery in capturing the cannon. He
then ordered the man to be shot because his negligence had endangered
the ship. The gunner was executed with the cross of honor on his breast,
rewarded for his courage and punished for failing in his duty.”

Again the Chief paused; the boys looked at each other wonderingly.

“Sooner or later all of us get our just rewards for what we make of
ourselves, as that wise general knew. Blackie Thorne broke a camp rule,
told a lie to escape punishment, and ran away from camp rather than face
the consequences of his act. But when you hear what other deeds he has
done, you may agree that he has wiped out some of the counts against
him. Yesterday he threw away the glory of winning the swimming meet for
his camp in order to go to the assistance of a stricken tent-mate, a boy
whom he disliked; and afterwards he did not mention anything about his
reason for dropping out of the race, fearing to be a poor sportsman. The
winning of even a contest against Shawnee is, in my opinion, nothing to
be compared with the display of bravery shown by Blackie in the water
yesterday afternoon.”

A cheer rose from the campers, involuntarily bursting forth from their
lips. Excitement ran high. Blackie listened, abashed by this sudden turn
of favor.

“Blackie was again put to the test when he encountered a pair of
dangerous criminals who were wanted by the law. With courage and
discernment, he captured those men at great risk to himself. Now,
although he did not know about it, there was a reward offered for the
person who led to the arrest of these malefactors, and last night the
sheriff brought over to me a check for three thousand dollars, which I
am now presenting to Blackie Thorne.”

The Chief was unable to speak further; his words were drowned in a
torrent of cheers that made the mountains echo. Somehow the command to
march was given, and the hungry horde stamped off to breakfast, still
shouting Blackie’s name to the skies.

Blackie stood bewildered, clutching the check in his hand. Three
thousand dollars! Wally, who had left the line, put his arm around the
boy’s shoulder and looked down into his face.

“How do you like being rich, Blackie?” he laughed. “Does it feel funny
at first?”

“It sure does!” exclaimed Blackie. “Say, when I think how happy my
mother will be when I tell her I can buy lots of things we couldn’t have
before, I——”

“Don’t trouble to explain. By the way, when the Chief told me about this
check last night, I sent a telegram off to your mother asking her if you
could stay for the rest of the season if she didn’t have to pay any more
money. I didn’t break the news about your reward to her—you can do that
yourself—but just a little while ago I got a wire from her, and she
agrees that you can stay at Lenape clear up to September! Six weeks more
of camp for you, Blackie—how does that sound?”

“Great!” There was a lump in the boy’s throat as he looked out over the
campus he had come to love. Six weeks more of free, out-door comradeship
with Wally and the Chief and the whole gang of good fellows! “Say,
Wally, remember how you told me one day that there was a treasure around
here?” He looked down at the check in his hand. “I didn’t believe you
then, but I do now.”

“Blackie,” his councilor assured him solemnly, “you found that treasure
right in your own heart—the rich treasure of true Lenape spirit!”


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)





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