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Title: Westy Martin
Author: Fitzhugh, Percy Keese
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Westy Martin" ***

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WESTY MARTIN


[Illustration: HE MANAGED TO GET HOLD OF A BRANCH OF A SCRUB OAK.]


WESTY MARTIN

by

PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of
the Tom Slade Books
the Roy Blakeley Books
the Pee-Wee Harris Books

Illustrated

Published with the Approval of
The Boy Scouts of America



Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers :: New York

Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1924, by
Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.



                       THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO
                       THE ROTARY CLUB OF AMERICA

             WHOSE MEMBERS HAVE SHOWN THEIR VITAL INTEREST
             IN THE FUTURE CITIZENSHIP OF OUR COUNTRY BY
             THEIR SPLENDID WORK AMONG THE BOYS OE AMERICA



                                CONTENTS

                      I A Shot
                     II A Promise
                    III The Parting
                     IV The Sufferer
                      V A Plain Duty
                     VI First Aid—Last Aid
                    VII Little Drops of Water
                   VIII Barrett’s
                     IX On the Trail
                      X Luke Meadows
                     XI Westy Martin, Scout
                    XII Guilty
                   XIII The Penalty
                    XIV For Better or Worse
                     XV Return of the Prodigal
                    XVI Aunt Mira and Ira
                   XVII The Homecoming
                  XVIII A Ray of Sunshine
                    XIX Pee-Wee on the Job
                     XX Some Noise
                    XXI One Good Turn
                   XXII Warde and Westy
                  XXIII Ira Goes A-Hunting
                   XXIV Clews
                    XXV A Bargain
                   XXVI The Marked Article
                  XXVII Enter the Contemptible Scoundrel
                 XXVIII Proofs
                   XXIX The Rally
                    XXX Open to the Public
                   XXXI Shootin’ Up the Meetin’
                  XXXII The Boy Edwin Carlisle
                 XXXIII Mrs. Temple’s Lucky Number
                  XXXIV Westward Ho
                   XXXV The Stranger
                  XXXVI An Important Paper
                 XXXVII Parlor Scouts
                XXXVIII Something “Real”



                             WESTY MARTIN



                               CHAPTER I

                                 A SHOT


A quick, sharp report rent the air. Followed several seconds of
deathlike silence. Then the lesser sound of a twig falling in the still
forest. Again silence. A silence, tense, portentous. Then the sound of
foliage being disturbed and of some one running.

Westy Martin paused, every nerve on edge. It was odd that a boy who
carried his own rifle slung over his shoulder should experience a kind
of panic fear after the first shocking sound of a gunshot. He had many
times heard the report of his own gun, but never where it could do harm.
Never in the solemn depths of the forest. He did not reach for his gun
now to be ready for danger; strangely enough he feared to touch it.

Instead, he stood stark still and looked about. Whatever had happened
must have been very near to him. Without moving, for indeed he could not
for the moment move a step, he saw a large leaf with a hole through the
middle of it. And this hung not ten feet distant. He shuddered at the
realization that the whizzing bullet which had made that little hole
might as easily have blotted out his young life.

He paused, listening, his heart in his throat. Some one had run away.
Had the fugitive seen him? And what had the fugitive done that he should
flee at the sight or sound of a human presence?

Suddenly it occurred to Westy that a second shot might lay him low. What
if the fugitive, a murderer, had sought concealment at a distance and
should try to conceal the one murder with another?

Westy called and his voice sounded strange to him in the silent forest.

“Don’t shoot!”

That would warn the unseen gunman unless, indeed, it was his purpose to
shoot—to kill.

There was no sound, no answering voice, no patter of distant footfalls;
nothing but the cheery song of a cricket near at hand.

Westy advanced a few steps in the dim, solemn woods, looking to right
and left....



                               CHAPTER II

                               A PROMISE


Westy Martin was a scout of the first class. He was a member of the
First Bridgeboro Troop of Bridgeboro, New Jersey. Notwithstanding that
he was a serious boy, he belonged to the Silver Fox Patrol, presided
over by Roy Blakeley.

According to Pee-wee Harris of the Raven Patrol, Westy was the only
Silver Fox who was not crazy. Yet in one way he was crazy; he was crazy
to go out west. He had even saved up a hundred dollars toward a
projected trip to the Yellowstone National Park. He did not know exactly
when or how he would be able to make this trip alone, but one “saves up”
for all sorts of things unplanned. To date, Westy had only the one
hundred dollars and the dream of going. When he had saved another
hundred, he would begin to develop plans.

“I’ll tell you what you do,” Westy’s father had said to him. “You go up
to Uncle Dick’s and spend the summer and help around. You know what
Uncle Dick told you; any summer he’d be glad to have you help around the
farm and be glad to pay you so much a week. There’s your chance, my boy.
At Temple Camp you can’t earn any money.

“My suggestion is that you pass up Temple Camp this summer and go up on
the farm. By next summer maybe you’ll have enough to go west, and I’ll
help you out,” he added significantly. “I may even go with you myself
and take a look at those geezers or geysers or whatever they call them.
I’d kind of half like to get a squint at a grizzly myself.”

“Oh, boy!” said Westy.

“I wish I were,” said his father.

“Well, I guess I’ll do that,” said Westy hesitatingly. He liked Temple
Camp and the troop, and the independent enterprise proposed by his
father was not to be considered without certain lingering regrets.

“It will be sort of like camping—in a way,” he said wistfully. “I can
take my cooking set and my rifle——”

“I don’t think I’d take the rifle if I were you,” said Mr. Martin, in
the chummy way he had when talking with Westy.

“Jiminies, I’d hate to leave it home,” said Westy, a little surprised
and disappointed.

“Well, you’ll be working up there and won’t have much time to use it,”
said Mr. Martin.

Westy sensed that this was not his father’s true reason for objecting to
the rifle. The son recalled that his father had been no more than
lukewarm when the purchase of the rifle had first been proposed. Mr.
Martin did not like rifles. He had observed, as several million other
people had observed, that it is always the gun which is not loaded that
kills people.

The purchase of the coveted rifle had not closed the matter. The rifle
had done no harm, that was the trouble; it had not even killed Mr.
Martin’s haunting fears.

Westy was straightforward enough to take his father’s true meaning and
to ignore the one which had been given. It left his father a little
chagrined but just the same he liked this straightforwardness in Westy.

“Oh, there’d be time enough to use it up there,” Westy said. “And if
there wasn’t any time, why, then I couldn’t use it, that’s all. There
wouldn’t be any harm taking it. I promised you I’d never shoot at
anything but targets and I never have.”

“I know you haven’t, but up there, why, there are lots of——”

“There’s just one thing up there that I’m thinking about,” said Westy
plainly, “and that’s the side of the big barn where I can put a target.
That’s the only thing I want to shoot at, believe me. And I’ve got two
eyes in my head to see if anybody is around who might get hit. That big,
red barn is like—why, it’s just like a building in the middle of the
Sahara Desert. I don’t see why you’re still worrying.”

“How do you know what’s back of the target?” Mr. Martin asked. “How do
you know who’s inside the barn?”

“If I just tell you I’ll be careful, I should think that would be
enough,” said Westy.

“Well, it is,” said Mr. Martin heartily.

“And I’ll promise you again so you can be sure.”

“I don’t want any more promises about your not shooting at anything but
targets, my boy,” said Mr. Martin. “You gave me your promise a month ago
and that’s enough. But I want you to promise me again that you’ll be
careful. Understand?”

“I tell you what I’ll do, Dad,” said he. “First I’ll see that there’s
nobody in the barn. Then I’ll lock the barn doors. Then I’ll get a big
sheet of iron that I saw up there and I’ll hang it on the side of the
barn. Then I’ll paste the target against that, see? No bullet could get
through that iron and it’s about, oh, five times larger than the
target.”

“Suppose your shot should go wild and hit those old punky boards beyond
the edge of the iron sheet?” Mr. Martin asked.

“Good night, you’re a scream!” laughed Westy.

Mr. Martin, as usual, was caught by his son’s honest, wholesome
good-humor.

“I suppose you think I might shoot in the wrong direction and hit one of
those grizzlies out in Yellowstone Park,” Westy laughed. “Safety first
is your middle name all right.”

“Well, you go up to Uncle Dick’s and don’t point your gun out west,”
said Mr. Martin, “and maybe we can talk your mother into letting us go
to Yellowstone next year.”

“And will you make _me_ a promise?” asked Westy.

“Well, what is it?”

“That you won’t worry?”



                              CHAPTER III

                              THE PARTING


The farm on which Westy spent one of the pleasantest summers of his life
was about seventy miles from his New Jersey home and the grizzlies in
Yellowstone Park were safe. But he thought of that wonderland of the
Rockies in his working hours, and especially when he roamed the woods
following the trails of little animals or stalking and photographing
birds. The only shooting he did on these trips was with his trusty
camera.

Sometimes in the cool of the late afternoon, he would try his skill at
hitting the bull’s eye and after each of these murderous forays against
the innocent pasteboard, he would wrap his precious rifle up in its oily
cloth and stand it in the corner of his room. No drop of blood was shed
by the sturdy scout who had given his promise to be careful and who knew
how to be careful.

The only place where he ever went gunning was in a huge book which
reposed on the marble-topped center table in the sitting room of his
uncle’s farmhouse. This book, which abounded in stirring pictures,
described the exploits of famous hunters in Africa. The book had been
purchased from a loquacious agent and was intended to be ornamental as
well as entertaining. It being one of the very few books available on
the farm, Westy made it a sort of constant companion, sitting before it
each night under the smelly hanging lamp and spending hours in the
African jungle with man-eating lions and tigers.

We are not to take note of Westy’s pleasant summer at this farm, for it
is with the altogether extraordinary event which terminated his holiday
that our story begins. His uncle had given him eight dollars a week,
which with what he had brought from home made a total of something over
a hundred dollars which he had when he was ready to start home. This he
intended to add to his Yellowstone Park fund when he reached Bridgeboro.

He felt very rich and a little nervous with a hundred dollars or more in
his possession. But it was not for that reason that he carried his rifle
on the day he started for home. He carried it because it was his most
treasured possession, excepting his hundred dollars. He told his aunt
and uncle, and he told himself, that he carried it because it could not
easily be put in his trunk except by jamming it in cornerwise. But the
main reason he carried it was because he loved it and he just wanted to
have it with him.

He might have caught a train on the branch line at Dawson’s which was
the nearest station to his uncle’s farm. He would then have to change to
the main line at Chandler. He decided to send his trunk from Dawson’s
and to hike through the woods to Chandler some three or four miles
distant. His aunt and uncle and Ira, the farm hand, stood on the
old-fashioned porch to bid him good-by.

And in that moment of parting, Aunt Mira was struck with a thought which
may perhaps appeal to you who have read of Westy and have a certain
slight acquaintance with him. It was the thought of how she had enjoyed
his helpful visit and how she would miss him now that he was going.
Pee-wee Harris, with all his startling originality, would have wearied
her perhaps. Two weeks of Roy Blakeley’s continuous nonsense would have
been enough for this quiet old lady.

There was nothing in particular about Westy; he was just a wholesome,
well-balanced boy. She had not wearied of him. The scouts of his troop
never wearied of him—and never made a hero of him. He was just Westy.
But there was a gaping void at Temple Camp that summer because he was
not there. And there was going to be a gaping void in this quiet
household on the farm after he had gone away. That was always the way it
was with Westy, he never witnessed his own triumphs because his triumphs
occurred in his absence. He was sadly missed, but how could he see this?

He looked natty enough in his negligee khaki attire with his rifle slung
over his shoulder.

“We’re jes going to miss you a right good lot,” said his aunt with
affectionate vehemence, “and don’t forget you’re going to come up and
see us in the winter.”

“I want to,” said Westy.

Ira, the farm hand, was seated on the carriage step smoking an atrocious
pipe which he removed from his mouth long enough to bid Westy good-by in
his humorous drawling way. The two had been great friends.

“I reckon you’d like to get a bead on a nice, big, hissin’ wildcat with
that gol blamed toy, wouldn’ yer now, huh?”

“You go ’long with you,” said Aunt Mira, “he wouldn’ nothing of the
kind.”

Westy smiled good-naturedly.

“Wouldn’ yer now, huh?” persisted Ira. “I seed ’im readin’ ’baout them
hunters in Africa droppin’ lions an’ tigers an’ what all. I bet ye’d
like to get _one—good—plunk_ at a wildcat now, wouldn’ yer? _Kerplunk_,
jes like that, hey? Then ye’d feel like a reg’lar Teddy Roosevelt, huh?”
Ira accompanied this intentionally tempting banter with a demonstration
of aiming and firing.

Westy laughed. “I wouldn’t mind being like Roosevelt,” he said.

“Yer couldn’ drop an elephant at six yards,” laughed Ira.

“Well, I guess I won’t meet any elephants in the woods between here and
Chandler,” Westy said.

“Don’t you put no sech ideas in his head,” said Aunt Mira, as she
embraced her nephew affectionately.

Then he was gone.

“I don’t see why you want ter be always pesterin’ the poor boy,”
complained Aunt Mira, as Ira lowered his lanky legs to the ground
preparatory to standing on them. He _had_ been a sort of evil genius all
summer, beguiling Westy with enticing pictures of all sorts of perilous
exploits out of his own abounding experiences on land and sea. “You’d
like to’ve had him runnin’ away to sea with your yarns of whalin’ and
shipwrecks,” Aunt Mira continued. “And it’s jes a parcel of lies, Ira
Hasbrook, and you know it as well as I do. Like enough he’ll shoot at a
woodchuck or a skunk and kill one of Atwood’s cows. They’re always
gettin’ into the woods.”

“No, he won’t neither,” said her husband.

“I say like enough he might,” persisted Aunt Mira. “Weren’t he crazy
’baout that book?”

“I didn’ write the book,” drawled Ira.

“No, but you told him how to skin a bear.”

“That’s better’n bein’ a book agent and skinnin’ a farmer,” drawled Ira.

“It’s ’baout the only thing you didn’t tell him you was,” Aunt Mira
retorted.

Acknowledging which, Ira puffed at his pipe leisurely and contemplated
Aunt Mira with a whimsical air.

“I meant jes what I said, Ira Hasbrook,” said she.

“The kid’s all right,” said Ira. “He couldn’ hit nuthin further’n ten
feet. But he’s all right jes the same. We’re goin’ ter miss him, huh,
Auntie?”

But they did not miss him for long, for they were destined to see him
again before the day was over.



                               CHAPTER IV

                              THE SUFFERER


In truth, if this were a narrative of Ira Hasbrook’s adventures, it
might be thought lively reading of the dime novel variety. He had not,
as he had confided to Westy, limited his killing exploits to swatting
flies.

He was one of those universal characters who have a way of drifting
finally to farms. And he had not abridged his tales of sprightly
adventure in imparting them to Westy. He had been to sea on a New
Bedford whaler. He had shot big game in the Rockies. He had lived on a
ranch. His star performance had been a liberal participation in the
kidnapping of a despotic king in a small South Sea island.

Naturally, so lively an adventurer had nothing but contempt for a
pasteboard target. And though he did not wilfully undertake to alienate
Westy from his code of conduct, he had so continually represented to him
the thrilling glories of the chase, that Aunt Mira had very naturally
suffered some haunting apprehensions that her nephew might depart
impulsively on some piratical cruise or Indian killing enterprise.

These vague fears had simmered down at the last to the ludicrous dread
that her departing nephew (whom she had come to know and love) might,
under the inspiration of the satanic Ira, celebrate his departure from
the country by laying low some innocent cow in attempting to “drop” an
undesirable woodchuck. She had come to have a very horror of the word
_drop_ which occurred so frequently in Ira’s tales of adventure....

But Aunt Mira’s fears were needless. Westy had been Ira’s companion
without being his disciple. In his quiet way he had understood Ira
thoroughly, the same as in his quiet way he understood Roy Blakeley and
Pee-wee Harris thoroughly. The cows, even the woodchucks, were safe. The
shot which turned the tide of Westy Martin’s life was not out of his own
precious rifle.

He had not taken many steps after hearing the shot when he came upon the
effect of it. A small deer lay a few feet off the trail. The beautiful
creature was quite motionless and though it lay prone on its side with
the head flat upon the ground, its gracefulness was apparent, even
striking. It lay in a sort of bower of low hanging foliage and had a
certain harmony with the forest which even its stricken state and
somewhat unnatural attitude could not destroy.

As Westy first glimpsed this silent, uncomplaining victim, a feeling
(which could hardly be called a thought) came to him. It was just this,
that the cruelty which had wrought this piteous spectacle was doubly
cruel for that the creature had been laid low in its own home. The
friendly, enveloping foliage revealed this helpless denizen of the woods
as a sorrowing mother might show her dead child to a sympathizing
friend. Such thoughts did not take form in the mind of the tremulous boy
but he had some such feeling. He was thoughtful enough, even at the
moment, to wonder how he could have taken such delight in stories of
wholesale killings. One sight of the actual thing aroused his anger and
pity.

He approached a little nearer, this scout with a rifle over his
shoulder, and beheld something which startled, almost unnerved him. He
could see only one of the eyes, for the deer lay on its side, but this
eye was soft and seemed not unfriendly; it was not a startled eye. The
beautiful animal was not dead. He did not know how much it might be
suffering, but at all events its suffering was not over, and there was a
kind of resignation in the soft look of that single eye; just a kind of
silent acceptance of its plight which went to the boy’s heart.

Who had done this thing, against the good law of the state, and in
disregard of every humane obligation? Who had fled leaving this
beautiful inhabitant of the quiet woods in agony? The leaves stirred
gently above it in the soothing breeze. A gay little bird chirped a
melody in the overhanging branches as if to beguile it in its suffering.
And the soft, gentle eye seemed full of an infinite patience as it
looked at Westy.

He was face to face with one of the sporting exploits of that horrible
toy, the rifle. For just a moment it seemed as if the stricken deer were
looking at his own rifle as if in quiet curiosity. Then he noticed a
tiny wound and a little trickle of blood on the creature’s side. It made
a striking contrast, the crimson and the dull gray....



                               CHAPTER V

                              A PLAIN DUTY


_...And the great hunter crouching behind the rock brought his trusty
rifle to bear upon the distant stag. The keen-eyed marksman looked like
a statue as he knelt, waiting._

Westy recalled these words in the mammoth volume on the sitting room
table at the farm. He had admired, even been thrilled at the heroic
picture of the great hunter whose exploits in the Maine woods were so
flatteringly recorded. It had not at the time occurred to him that the
noble stag might have looked like a statue too. Well, here was the
actual result of such flaunted heroism, and Westy did not like it. It
was quite a different sort of picture.

Then, suddenly, it occurred to him that he was to blame for this pitiful
spectacle. He who shoots does not always kill. But he who shoots intends
to kill. If the fugitive had failed of his purpose it was because he had
been frightened at the sound of some one near at hand. The shooting
season was not on, it had been a stolen, lawless shot.

A feeling of anger, even of hate, was aroused in Westy’s mind, against
the ruthless violator of the law who had been forced to save himself by
flight before his lawless deed was completed. He had probably thought
the footfalls those of a game warden. To shoot game out of season was
bad enough as it seemed to the scout. To shoot living things seemed now
bereft of all glory to the sensitive boy. But to shoot and not kill and
then run away seemed horrible. This poor deer might suffer for hours.

Westy had seen a little demonstration of the kind of thing he had been
reading and hearing about. Through the medium of the alluring printed
page, he had been present at buffalo hunts, he had seen kindly,
intelligent elephants laid low, and here he was seething with rage that
the blood of this harmless, beauteous creature had been shed, and shed
to no purpose.

But Westy was more than a sensitive boy, he was a scout. And a scout has
ever a sense of responsibility. It was futile to consider what some
stranger had done while this poor creature lay suffering. All that he
had read and heard about hunting big game and all such stuff was
forgotten in the consciousness of a present duty. He, Westy Martin, must
put this deer out of its suffering; he must kill it.

The owner of the precious rifle, all shiny and oily, shuddered. He,
scout of the first class, must finish the work which some criminal
wretch had begun.

He was too essentially honest to take refuge in his promise not to shoot
at anything but a target. He had a momentary thought of that, and then
was ashamed of it. Phrases familiar to him ran through his head. Serious
boy that he was, he had always been a reader of the Handbook. _A scout
is helpful. A scout is friendly to all.... A scout is kind. He is a
friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt...._

Yet he was not friendly to all. He was enraged at the absent destroyer,
who had made it necessary for him to do something he could not bear to
do. He wished that Ira were there to do it instead. He who had admired
the great hunter crouching behind a rock, wished now that the mighty
hunter might be present to attend to this miserable business. He had
never dreamed of such an emergency, of such a duty. He wished that one
or other of the sprightly youngsters in the advertisements, who were so
ready with their firearms, might shoot for once in this humane cause.

Poor Westy, he was just a boy after all....



                               CHAPTER VI

                           FIRST AID—LAST AID


He never in all his life felt so nervous, and so much like a criminal,
as when he reached with trembling hand for the innocent rifle with which
he was to shed more crimson blood and destroy a life. He looked guiltily
at the deer whose eye seemed to hold him in a kind of gentle stare. It
seemed as if the creature trusted him, yet wondered what he was going to
do.

There was a kind of pathos in the thought that came to him that the
suffering deer did not recognize the rifle as the sort of thing which
had laid him low. The creature’s innocence, as one might say, went to
the boy’s heart.

He backed away from the stricken form, three yards—five yards. He felt
brutal, abominable. The cautious little bird had withdrawn to a tree
somewhat farther off where it still sang blithely. Westy paused,
listening to the bird. Then he stole toward the tree trying to deceive
himself that he wanted to see what kind of a bird it was, when in plain
fact all he was doing was killing time. The bird, disgusted with the
whole affair as one might have fancied, made a great flutter and flew
away to a more wholesome atmosphere. The bird was not a scout, it had no
duties....

Westy advanced a few paces, his rifle shaking in his hand. It was simple
enough what he had to do, yet there he was absurdly calculating
distances. Oh, if it had only been the white target there before him
with its black circles one inside another, the only hunting ground or
jungle Westy knew. Strange, how different he felt now.

He could not bear that soft eye contemplating him so he walked around to
the other side of the deer where the eye could not see him. Then he felt
sneaky, like one stealing up behind his victim. And through all his
immature trepidation hate was in his heart; hate for the brutal wretch
who had fled thinking only of his own safety, and leaving this
ungrateful task for him to do.

Suddenly it occurred to Westy that he might run to Chandler and tell the
authorities what he had found. That would be his good turn for the day.
Ira had always “guyed” him about good turns. That would seem like
running away from an unpleasant duty. To whom did he owe the good turn?
Was it not to this stricken, suffering creature?

So Westy Martin, scout of the first class, did his good turn to this
dumb creature in its dim forest home. The dumb creature did not know
that Westy Martin was doing it a good turn. It seemed a queer sort of
good turn. He could never write it down in his neat little scout record
as a good turn. He would never, _never_ think of it in that way. If the
deer could only understand....

The way to do a thing is to do it. And it is not the part of a scout to
dilly-dally. When a scout knows his duty he is not afraid. But if the
deer could only know, could only understand....

Westy approached the creature with bolstered resolution. He lifted his
gun, his arms shaking. Where should it be? In the head? Of course. He
held the muzzle within six inches of the head. A jerky little squirrel
crept part way down a tree, turned suddenly and scurried up again. It
was very quiet about. Only the sound of a busy woodpecker tapping away
somewhere. Westy paused for a moment, counting the taps....

Then there was another sound; quick, sharp, which did not belong in the
woods. And the woodpecker stopped his tapping. Westy saw the deer’s
forefoot twitch spasmodically. And a little stream of blood was trailing
down its forehead.

Westy Martin had done his daily good turn....



                              CHAPTER VII

                         LITTLE DROPS OF WATER


The feeling now uppermost in Westy’s mind was that of anger at the
unknown person who had made it necessary for him to do what he had done.
He felt that he had been cheated out of keeping his promise about
shooting. He knew perfectly well that what he had done was right and
that only technically had he broken his promise to his father. But he
had done something altogether repugnant to him and it turned him against
guns not only, but particularly against the sneak whose lawless work he
had had to complete.

It must be confessed that it was not mainly the fugitive’s lawlessness
or even his cruel heedlessness that aroused Westy. It was the feeling
that somehow this work of murder (for so he thought it) had been wished
on him. It had agitated him and gone against him, and he was enraged
over it.

He had not been quite the ideal scout in the matter of readiness to kill
the deer; he might have done that job more promptly and with less
perturbation. But he was quite the scout in his towering resolve to
track down the culprit and tell him what he thought of him and bring him
to justice.

It was characteristic of Westy, who was a fiend at tracking and
trailing, that this course of action appealed to him now, rather than
the tamer course of going direct to the authorities. There was something
very straightforward about Westy. And besides, he had the adventurous
spirit which prefers to act without cooperation.

“_By jumping jiminies._ I’ll find that fellow!” he said aloud. “I should
worry about catching the train. I’ll find him all right, and I’ll tell
him something he won’t forget in a hurry—I will. I’ll track him and find
out who he is. Maybe after he’s paid a hundred dollars fine, he won’t be
so free with his blamed rifle.”

It was odd how he had balked at putting an end to the wounded deer, and
then had not the slightest hesitancy to pursue, he knew not what sort of
disreputable character, and denounce him to his face and then report
him. Westy would not show up with the authorities, not he; not till he
had first called the marauder a few names which he was already deciding
upon. They were not the sort of names that are used in the language of
compliment. It is not to be supposed that Westy was perfect....

He was all scout now. Yet he was puzzled as to which way to turn. It is
sometimes easier to follow tracks than to find them. No doubt the
fugitive had been some distance from the deer when he had shot it. Where
had he been then? Near enough for Westy to hear the patter of his
footfalls, that was certain. Also another thought occurred to him. The
man’s shot had not been a good one, at least it had not proved fatal. He
was either a very poor marksman or else he had fired from a considerable
distance.

Westy’s mind worked quickly and logically now. He had easily the best
mind of any scout in his troop. Not the most sprightly mind, but the
best. He tried hurriedly to determine where the man had stood by
considering the position of the wound on the deer’s body. But he quickly
saw the fallacy of any deduction drawn from this sign since the deer
might have turned before he dropped. Then another thought, a better one,
occurred to him. The animal had been shot below its side, almost in its
belly. Might not that argue that the huntsman had been somewhat below
the level of the deer?

The conformation of the land thereabouts seemed to give color to this
surmise. The ground sloped so that it might almost be said to be a
hillside which descended to the verge of a gully. Westy went in that
direction for a few yards and came to the gully. He scrambled down into
it and found himself involved in a tangle of underbrush. But he saw that
from this trenchlike concealment, the animal might easily have been
struck in the spot where the wound was.

His deduction was somewhat confirmed by his recollection that it was
from this direction he had heard the receding footfalls. A path led
through this miniature jungle and up the other side where the pine
needles made a smooth floor in the forest.

Presently all need of nice deducing was rendered superfluous by a sign
likely to prove a jarring and discordant note in the woodland studies of
any scout. This was a crumpled tinfoil package which on being pulled to
its original size revealed the romantic words so replete with the spirit
of the silent woods:

                           MECHANIC’S DELIGHT
                            PLUG CUT TOBACCO

The tinfoil package was empty and destined to delight no more. But it
was not even wet, and had not been wet, and had evidently been thrown
away but lately.

It was immediately after throwing this away that Westy noticed something
else which interested him. It was nothing much, but bred as he was to
observe trifling things in the woods, it made him curious. The rank
undergrowth near him was besprinkled with drops as if it had been rained
on. This was noticeable on the large, low-spreading plantain leaves near
by. Surely in the bright sunshine of the morning any recent drops of dew
or rain must have dried up. Yet there were the big flat leaves
besprinkled with drops of water.

Westy remembered something his scoutmaster had once said. _Everything
that happens has a cause. Little things may mean big things._ Nine boys
out of ten would not have noticed this trivial thing, or having noticed
it would not have thought twice about it. But Westy approached and felt
of the leaves and as he did so, he felt his foot sinking into swampy
water. He tried to lift it out but could not. Then, he felt the other
foot sinking too. He hardly knew how it happened, but in ten seconds he
was down to his knees in the swamp. Frantically he grasped the swampy
weeds but they gave way. He could not lift either foot now. He felt
himself going down, down....



                              CHAPTER VIII

                               BARRETT’S


So this was to be the end; he would be swallowed up and no one would
know what had become of him. The silent, treacherous marsh would consume
him. He was in its jaws and it would devour him and the world would
never know. Nature, the quiet woods that he had loved, would do this
frightful thing.

Then he ceased to sink. He was in above his knees. One foot rested on
something hard. But it was not that which supported him. The marshy
growth below held him up. He was not in peril but he had suffered a
shocking fright. He managed to get hold of a crooked branch of scrub oak
which overhung the gully and drew himself up. It was hard to do this for
the suction kept him down. It was evidently a little marshy pool
concealed by undergrowth that he had stepped into.

For no particular reason, he purposely got one foot under the submerged
thing it had descended upon. He thought it was a stick. It came up
slantingways till with one hand he was able to get hold of it. It was
hard and cold. For this reason, he was curious about it and he kept hold
of it with one hand while he scrambled clear of the tiny morass. It was
dripping with mud and green slime. But he knew what he was holding long
before it was clear of its slimy, green disguise. _It was a rifle._

Then Westy knew the explanation of the wetness on the leaves. The rifle
had not been there long. It had probably been thrown there in panic
haste and the water had splashed up onto the low, dank growth which
concealed the frightful hole. The gun would never have been found but
for Westy’s observant eye and consequent mishap.

He wiped the dripping slime from the rifle and examined his find. The
gun was old and had evidently seen much service. On the smooth-worn butt
of it was something which interested him greatly and seemed likely to
prove more helpful than any footprints he might hope to find. This was
the name _Luke Meadows_, evidently burnt in with a pointed tool,
possibly a nail. Printed in another direction on the rifle butt, so that
it might or might not have borne relation to the name, were the letters
very crudely inscribed _Cody Wg_.

Even in his surprise, Westy recognized a certain appropriateness in the
word _Cody_ burnt into a rifle butt; it seemed a fitting enough place on
which to perpetuate the true name of Buffalo Bill. At the time he could
not conjecture what the letters _Wg_ stood for. But it seemed likely
enough that Luke Meadows was the name of the owner of the rifle.

The gun had certainly not been in the swamp long for no rust was upon
it. He believed that the owner of it, fearing to be overtaken with it in
his possession, had flung it into the little swamp before fleeing.

He was not so intent now on finding footprints. Surely the person who
had hidden the gun was the culprit, and it seemed a reasonable enough
inference that he belonged in the neighborhood. The quest seemed greatly
simplified; so simplified that Westy began formulating what he would say
to the marauder. Of one thing he was resolved, and that was that the man
should pay the penalty of his lawlessness.

Westy did not burden himself with two guns; he hid the one he had found
in the bushes, then bent his course eastward through the woods. If he
had been going straight to Chandler to catch the train, he would have
cut through the woods southeast, emerging at the edge of the town. But
he changed his course now and went directly east because he wanted to
reach the little settlement known as Barrett’s. This was on the road
which bordered the woods to the east and ran south into Chandler.

Westy would not exactly be going out of his way, he would simply be
losing the advantage of a short cut. Barrett’s was the nearest and
seemed the likeliest place from which one given to illicit hunting would
come. At Barrett’s he would inquire for Luke Meadows.

The name on the rifle saved him the difficulties and delays of tracking.
For with the culprit’s name, Westy felt that he could easily be found.

In about fifteen minutes, he emerged from the woods at Barrett’s. He had
been there before, but one sight of the place now made him glad that he
had not brought the telltale rifle with him. He felt that if he had,
Meadows or Meadows’ cronies might relieve him of it and put an end to
its availability as evidence. It was safe where it was....

Barrett’s was one of those places that grow up around a factory and
subsist on the factory. Sometimes quite pretentious little villages grow
up in this way and attain finally to the dignity of “GO SLOW” signs and
traffic cops. But in this case the factory having put Barrett’s on the
county map closed up its door and left Barrett’s sprawling. There was a
settlement and no factory to support it.

When the Barrett Leather Goods Company stopped making leather goods, a
couple of dozen men and as many more girls were thrown out of
employment. With the leather goods factory closed there was nothing for
the working people of Barrett’s to do but move away or subsist as best
they could by hook or crook. The better sort among the inhabitants moved
away. Those that remained soon became a dubious set whose professional
activities were, at the least, shady.

Barrett’s was a sort of hobo among villages, an ill-kept, prideless,
lawless place, having all the characteristics of a shiftless man who had
gone to the bad. The countryside shunned it. And it was not considered a
safe place for the youth of the surrounding villages, especially at
night. Every now and then, some one from Barrett’s was taken to Chandler
and thence sent to jail....



                               CHAPTER IX

                              ON THE TRAIL


Barrett’s was not accustomed to visits from nattily attired boy scouts
with rifles slung over their shoulders and the lolling youths of the
settlement stared at him and commented audibly as he passed.

“Hey, what’s that you got over your shoulder?” one of them called.

“That, oh, that’s a soup spoon,” said Westy, quite unperturbed. “Do you
know where Luke Meadows lives?”

“What d’yer want ’im fer?” one of the natives asked.

“Oh, I just wanted to see him,” said Westy.

“Whatcher want ter see ’im fer?”

“Oh, just for fun. Do you know where he lives?”

“He lives in that white house up the road,” said a rather more
accommodating boy. “Do you see the house with the winder broken? The one
with the chimney gone? He lives there, only he ain’t home.”

“He is too,” contradicted another informer. “I seen him go in his back
door half an hour ago; he come around through the fields from the
woods.”

“Thanks,” said Westy.

If Luke Meadows lived in the house indicated and had indeed returned
home through the fields, then he must have emerged from the woods at a
considerable distance from his home, an unnecessary thing to do except
upon the theory that he wished to throw some one off his track, or at
least avoid being seen. Westy thought he could sense the position in
which this man stood toward the game wardens of the county. He thought
it likely that there had been previous encounters between them. Hunting
game out of season is a pursuit which is pretty apt to be chronic.

Now that Westy was about to encounter this man, he felt just a little
trepidation. Perhaps it would have been better to go to Chandler first.
But then the matter would have been out of his hands. He wished first to
tell this man a thing or two which scouts know....

As he went along the narrow, dusty road, his uneasiness increased. He
was not exactly afraid but he was beginning to balk a little at the
prospect of denouncing a person who was probably many years his senior.

The little houses along the road, which must have been hopelessly
unsightly from the beginning, had fallen into a state of disrepair and
squalor which seemed in striking discord with the surrounding
countryside. A slum in the city is bad enough; in the fair country it is
shockingly grotesque.

These little houses were double, each holding two families, and some of
them were in blocks of three or four. They seemed to nestle under the
shadow of the big wooden factory back in the field. Every window of the
big factory was broken and a more forlorn picture of disuse and
dilapidation could scarcely be imagined. From this factory a rusty
railroad track disappeared into the woods; it had probably once joined
the main line at Chandler.

Beyond these little rows of cheap frame houses was one which stood by
itself. Its chimney was indeed gone and its window broken, but at least
it stood by itself, was of a different color and architecture from the
others, and had, in its shabby way, a character of its own. A little
girl was swinging on the fence gate, or would have been swinging if the
hinges had not been broken. A dried and curling woodchuck skin was
nailed to the clapboards beside the door, a dubious hint of the
predilections of the householder.



                               CHAPTER X

                              LUKE MEADOWS


“Does Luke Meadows live here?” Westy asked.

“Yes, sirrr,” said the little girl with a strong roll of her r’s.

“Could I see him?”

“I reckon you can,” said the little girl, then without going to the
trouble of entering the house, she called, “Dad, thar’s a boy wants to
see you.”

These were the first samples Westy had of that characteristic way of
saying _reckon_ and _thar_ which he had soon to associate with new
friends in a free, vast, far-off region. It occurred to him that if
Meadows wished to lie low, as the saying is, it might go hard with the
little girl who was so ready to admit his presence to a stranger.

The appearance and reputation of Barrett’s, as well as the unlawful
shooting, had conjured up a picture in Westy’s mind which had made him
apprehensive about his reception. And now he felt that the little girl
might also feel something of the hunter’s displeasure.

His kindly fear for her was quite superfluous, for presently there
appeared from within the house a youngish man who absently, as it
seemed, placed his arm around the child’s shoulder and drew her toward
him as he waited for Westy to make his business known.

The man was tall and raw-boned and wore nothing but queer-looking
moccasins, corduroy trousers and a gray flannel shirt. His cheek-bones
were high and he was as brown as a mulatto. What caught Westy and
somewhat disconcerted him, was the stranger’s eyes, which were gray and
of a clearness and keenness which he had never seen in the eyes of any
human being before. They were the eyes of the forest and the plains, the
eyes that see and read and understand where others see not. The eyes
that speak of silent and lonely places and bespeak a competence which
only rugged nature can impart. Such eyes Daniel Boone may have had.

At all events, they disconcerted Westy and knocked the beginning of his
fine speech clean out of his head. The man was calm and patient, the
little girl wriggled playfully in his strong hold, and Westy stood like
a fool and said nothing. Then he found himself.

“Are you Lu—— Are you Mr. Luke Meadows?” he asked.

“Reckon I am,” drawled the man.

“Well, then,” said Westy, gathering courage, “I came to tell you that I
know what you did in the woods because I—because I was the one that was
there—I was the one that shouted.”

“Yer seed me, youngster?” the man drawled, not angrily.

“No, I didn’t see you,” said Westy, “but gee, you don’t have to see a
person to find them out. You shot a deer and you know as well as I do it
isn’t the season. And then you hid your gun—I guess you thought I was a
game warden or something. But I found it, I’ll tell you that much and I
saw your name on it.

“Do you know what you made me do?” he added, becoming vehement as his
anger gave him courage. “You made me kill a deer, that’s what you made
me do! You made me kill a deer after I promised I’d never shoot at
anything but a target—that’s what you made me do,” he shouted in boyish
anger. “You didn’t even kill it, you didn’t! Now you see what you did,
sneaking and shooting game out of season! Now you see what you made me
do!”

There was something so naïve and boyish in putting the injury on
personal grounds that even Meadows could not repress a smile.

“I made a promise to my father, that’s what I did,” said Westy
indignantly.

The man neither confessed nor denied his guilt. It seemed strange to
Westy that he did not deny it since criminals always protest their
innocence. At the moment the man’s chief concern seemed to be a certain
interest in Westy. He just stood listening, the while holding the little
girl close to him and playfully ruffling her hair. Perhaps his dubious
standing with the authorities made him lukewarm about protestations of
innocence.

“Waal?” was all he said.

“And you’re not going to get away with it either,” said Westy.

Meadows drew a tinfoil package from his trousers pocket, took some
tobacco from it and replaced the package in his pocket. Westy saw that
the package was a new one and that it bore the MECHANICS DELIGHT label.

“You left the other package in the woods,” Westy said triumphantly, “and
that’s how I happened to find your gun.”

“Yer left the gun thar, youngster?”

“Yes, I did,” said Westy angrily, “and I know where it is all right.”
Then the true Westy Martin got in a few words. “The only reason I came
here first,” he said, “was because I didn’t want to seem sneaky. I
didn’t want you to think that I had to go and get the—the constables or
sheriffs—I didn’t want you to think I was afraid to face you alone. I
didn’t want to go and tell on you till I saw you first, that’s all.”

“Waal, naow yer see me,” drawled Meadows.

“And I’m going to do what I ought to do, no matter what,” Westy flared
up.

“S’posin’ yer run an’ play,” said Meadows to the little girl. Then, as
she moved away. “An’ what might yer ought ter do?” he asked quietly.

“You admit you shot that deer?” Westy asked. “Jiminies, you can’t deny
it,” he added boyishly.

“Waal?” said Meadows.

“Do you see this badge?” said Westy, pulling the sleeve of his scout
shirt around so as to display the several merit badges that were sewn
there. “That top one,” he said in a boyish tone of mingled pride and
anger, “is a conservation badge; it’s a scout badge.”

“Yer one of them scaouts, huh?”

“Yes, I am and I won that badge. It means if I know of anybody breaking
the game laws, I’ve got to report it, that’s what it means. I’ve got to
do it even if it seems mean——”

“Seems mean, huh?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Westy forced himself to say. “Because what right did
you have to do that? Gee, I don’t say you wanted to leave the deer
suffering, I don’t say that.” He had been fully prepared to charge the
offender with that but now that he was face to face with him, he found
it hard to do so. He put the whole responsibility for his purpose on his
conservation badge, in which Meadows seemed rather interested.

“What’s that thar next one?” he asked.

“That’s the pathfinder’s badge,” said Westy.

“Yer a pathfinder, huh?”

“Yes, I am,” said Westy, “but I guess maybe I’m not as good at it as you
are. But anyway, if you know all about those things—shooting and the
woods and all that—jiminies, you ought to know enough not to shoot game
out of season. Maybe that deer was a very young one, or maybe——”

“Haow ’baout my young un?” Meadows asked calmly. “How ’baout that li’l
gal yer seed?”

“Well, what about her?” demanded Westy angrily.



                               CHAPTER XI

                          WESTY MARTIN, SCOUT


“What makes yer say maybe I’m good at that sort of thing?” asked Luke
Meadows.

“I don’t know,” said Westy; “just sort of you seem that way. But anyway,
that hasn’t got anything to do with what _I_ have to do, has it? I got
that merit badge by passing six tests, if anybody should ask you. And
the last one of those tests is doing something that helps enforce the
game laws, and you can bet I’m going to keep on doing that too. You’ll
have to pay a fine, that’s what you’ll have to do, and it serves you
right.”

“Yer goin’ ter tell ’em in Chandler haow yer found my gun near the
spot?”

“Yes, I am and it serves you right,” said Westy. “You broke the law and
you made me shoot—— Do you think it was fun for me to do that?” he
flared up angrily.

“Waal, I reckon that’ll be enough fer ’em,” said Meadows. “It’ll cook my
goose. They’ve got the knife in me, as you easterners say.”

He sat down on the top step of his miserable home and seemed to
meditate. “Mis Ellis over yonder, I reckon she’ll look out fer the kid,”
he said. “’Tain’t been nuthin but carnsarned trouble ever sence we come
from Cody. If I could get one—_jes one_—good aim—_jes—one—good—shot_—at
the man that told me ter come east and work in that thar busted up
factory! The wife, she worked in it till she got the flu last winter and
died. And here we are, me ’n’ the kid—stranded like play-actin’ folk. I
can’t shoot them factory people nor that thar loon I run into in Cody,
so I get off in the woods ’n’ shoot. Yer can get ten dollars fer a
deerskin if yer kin get through without them game sharks catchin’ yer.
Yer a pretty likely sort o’ youngster, yer are. Never had that thar flu,
did yer?”

He said no more, only sat with his hands on his knees, occasionally
spitting. And for a few moments there was silence.

“Is Cody a town?” Westy asked.

“In Wyoming,” Meadows answered.

And again there was silence.

“That’s where Yellowstone Park is,” said Westy.

“’Baout thirty or forty mile,” said Meadows.

“That’s where I’m going to go,” said Westy.

Still again there was silence, and Westy felt uncomfortable. He felt
that he would like to know a little more about this man. And that was
strange seeing that he was going to Chandler to report him. It seemed
odd that Meadows did not threaten or try to dissuade him.

Then, suddenly the whole matter was roughly taken out of Westy’s hands.
Two men, with a leashed dog, came diagonally across the road. They had
evidently come out of the woods and their importance and purpose were
manifested by the group representing Barrett’s younger set which
followed them in great excitement, running to keep up and be prompt upon
the scene. There was no mistaking the air of vigorous assurance which
the men bore. But if this were not enough the badge upon the shirt of
one of them left no doubt of his official character. It was this one who
held the dog and the tired beast was panting audibly.

“Well, Luke, at it again, hey?” said the game warden, in that
counterfeit tone of sociability which police officials acquire.

[Illustration: “WELL, LUKE, AT IT AGAIN, HEY?” SAID THE GAME WARDEN.]

“H’lo, Terry,” drawled Luke, not angrily.

Surrounding the two men stood the gaping throng of curious boys. One or
two slatternly women gave color to the scene. Somewhat apart from the
group, a frightened, pitiful little figure, stood the child, Luke’s
daughter.

“You run over to Mis Ellis’,” Luke said to her. But the little girl did
not run over to Mrs. Ellis. She just stood apart, staring with a kind of
instinctive apprehension.

“Well, Luke,” said the game warden, “seems like you got some explainin’
to do this time. What was you doin’ in the woods? Killin’ another deer,
hey? When was you goin’ back to get him, Luke? Better get your hat,
Luke, and come along with us. Farmer Sands here seen you comin’ out
through the back fields——”

Then the little girl interrupted the game warden’s talk by rushing
pell-mell to her father. Luke put his big, brown hand about her and then
Westy noticed that his forearm was tattooed with the figure of a
buffalo.

“You run along over t’ Missie Ellis,” said Luke, “and she’ll show yer
them pictur’ books; you run like——”

Here he arose, slowly, deliberately, as if with the one action to
dismiss her and place himself in the hands of the law. Then, suddenly,
he lifted her up and kissed her. In all the long time that Westy was
destined to know Luke Meadows, this was the only occasion on which he
was ever to see him act on impulse.

But Westy Martin’s impulse was still quicker. Before the little child
was down upon the ground again he spoke, and his own voice sounded
strange to him as he saw the gaping loiterers all about, and the
astonished gaze of Terry, the game warden. In the boy’s trousers pocket
(which is the safe deposit vault pocket with boys) his sweaty palm
clutched the hundred and three dollars which he was taking home to save
for his trip to the Yellowstone He had kept one hand about it almost
ever since he left the farm, till his very hand smelled like the roll of
bills. But he clutched it even more tightly now. His voice was not as
sure as that unseen clutch.

“If you’re hunting for the fellow who killed the deer over in the
woods,” he said, “then here I am. I’m the one that killed the deer
and—and if—if you’re going to take—arrest—anybody you’d better arrest
me—because I’m the one that did it. I killed the deer—I admit it. So you
better arrest me.”

For a few seconds no one spoke. Then, and it seems odd when you come to
think of it, the dog pulled the leash clean out of Terry the game
warden’s hand, and began climbing up on Westy and licking his hand....



                              CHAPTER XII

                                 GUILTY


He took his stand upon the simple confession that it was he who had
killed the deer. He knew that he could not say more without saying too
much. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not make
him say more. Fortunately, he did not have to say more, or much more,
because Farmer Sands availed himself of the occasion to preach a homily
on the evil of boys carrying firearms.

“Who you be, anyways?” he demanded shrewdly.

Westy’s one fear was that Luke would speak and spoil everything. For a
moment, he seemed on the point of speaking. Probably it was only the
sight of his little daughter that deterred him from doing so. It was a
moment fraught with peril to Westy’s act. Then, it was too late for Luke
to speak and Westy was glad of that.

He was on his way to Chandler between the game warden and the farmer.

“Well, who you be, anyways?” Farmer Sands repeated.

It was Terry, the game warden, who answered him across Westy’s shoulder.

“Why, Ezrie, he’s jus’ one of them wild west shootin’, Indian huntin’,
dime novel readin’ youngsters what oughter have some sense flogged inter
him. I’d as soon give a boy of mine rat poison to play with as one of
these here pesky rifles. It’s a wonder he hit him, but that’s the way
fools allus do. What’s your name, kid? You don’t b’long round here?”

Westy, albeit somewhat frightened, was self-possessed and shrewd enough
not to beguile his escort with an account of himself.

“I told you all I’m going to,” he added. “I was going through the woods
and I saw the deer and killed him. Then, I went through to Barrett’s and
I was going to come along this road to Chandler. If I have to be taken
to a judge, I’ll tell him more if he makes me. Please take your hand off
my shoulder because I’m not going to try to run away.”

“Yer been readin’ Diamond Dick?” asked Farmer Sands, squinting at him
with a look of diabolical sagacity.

“No, I haven’t been reading Diamond Dick,” said Westy.

“Wasn’t yer stayin’ up ter Nelson’s place?” the game warden asked.

“Yes, he’s my uncle,” said Westy.

“He know yer got a gun?”

“Sure, he does.”

“Well, you’d better ’phone him when you get to Chandler if you don’t
want ter spend the night in a cell.”

Westy balked at the sound of this talk, but he only tightened his sweaty
palm in his pocket and said, “He didn’t kill the deer. Why should I
’phone to him?”

Farmer Sands poked his billy-goat visage around in front of Westy’s face
and stared but said nothing.

In Chandler, the trio aroused some curiosity as they went through the
main street and Westy felt conscious and ashamed. He wished that Mr.
Terry would conceal his flaunting badge. As they approached the rather
pretentious County Court House, he began to feel nervous. The stone
building had a kind of dignity about it and seemed to frown on him.
Moreover in the brick wing he saw small, heavily barred windows, and
these were not a cheerful sight.

What he feared most of all was that once in the jaws of that unknown
monster, the law, he would spoil everything by saying more than he meant
to say. He was probably saved from this by the dignitary before whom he
was taken. The learned justice was so fond of talking himself that Westy
had no opportunity of saying anything and was not invited to enlarge
upon the simple fact that he had killed a deer. Probably if the local
dignitary had known Westy better he would have expressed some surprise
at the boy’s act but since, to him, Westy was only a boy with a gun
(always a dangerous combination) there was nothing so very extraordinary
in the fact of his shooting a deer. Fortunately, he did not ask
questions for Westy would not have gone to the extreme of actually
lying.

He stood before the desk of the justice, one sweaty palm encircled about
his precious fortune in his pocket, and felt frightened and ill at ease.

“Well, my young friend,” said the justice, “those who disregard the game
laws of this state must expect to pay the penalty.”

“Y-yes, sir,” said Westy nervously.

“It’s an expensive pastime,” said the justice, not unkindly.

“Yes, sir,” said Westy.

“I can’t understand why you did it, a straightforward, honest-looking
boy like you.”

Westy said nothing, only set his lips tightly as if to safeguard himself
against saying too much or giving way to his feelings.

“A boy that is honest enough to speak up and confess—to do such a
thing—I can’t understand it,” the justice mused aloud, observing Westy
keenly.

“It’s lettin’ ’em hev guns that’s to blame,” observed the game warden.

“It’s dressin’ ’em all up like hunters an’ callin’ ’em scaouts as duz
it,” said Farmer Sands. “They was wantin’ me ter contribute money fer
them scaouts, but I sez—I sez no, ’tain’t no good gon’ ter come of it,
dressin’ youngsters up ’an givin’ ’em firearms an’ sendin’ ’em out ter
vialate the laws.”

“They seem to know how to tell the truth,” said the justice, apparently
rather puzzled.

“He was gon’ ter hide in Luke Meadows’ place when we catched him
red-handed an’ he wuz sceered outer his seven senses an’ that’s why he
confessed,” said Farmer Sands vehemently.

“Nobody can scare me into doing anything,” said Westy, defiantly. “I
told because I wanted to tell and the reason you didn’t give money to
the boy scouts was because you’re too stingy.”

This was the second time on that fateful day that Westy had shot and hit
the mark. It seemed to amuse both the judge and the game warden.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                              THE PENALTY


“Has your uncle a telephone?” the justice asked, not unkindly.

“No, sir,” said Westy. “Anyway, I wouldn’t want to telephone him.”

“Could you get your father in Bridgeboro by ’phone?”

“He’d be in New York, and anyway, I don’t want to ’phone him.”

“Hum,” mused the judge. “Well, I’m afraid I haven’ much choice then, my
boy. The fine for what you did is a hundred dollars. I’ll have to turn
you over to the sheriff, then perhaps I’ll get in communication——”

Westy’s sweaty, trembling hand came up out of his pocket bringing his
treasure with it. Boyishly, he did not even think to remove the elastic
band which was around the roll of bills, but laid the whole thing upon
the justice’s desk.

“Here—here it is,” he said nervously, “—to—to pay for what I did.
There’s more than what you said—there’s three dollars more.”

There was a touch of pathos in the innocence which was ready to pay the
fine with extra measure—and to throw in an elastic band as well. Farmer
Sands looked shrewdly suspicious as the justice removed the elastic band
and counted the money; he seemed on the point of hinting that Westy
might have stolen it.

“Where did you get this?” the justice asked, visibly touched at the
sight of the little roll that Westy had handed over.

“I had about twenty-five dollars when I came,” said Westy, “and the rest
my uncle paid me for working for him on his farm.”

“There seems to be three dollars too much,” the justice said, handing
that amount back to Westy. The boy took it nervously and said, “Thank
you.”

The crumpled bills and the elastic band lay in a disorderly little heap
on the justice’s desk, and the local official, who seemed very human,
contemplated them ruefully. Perhaps he felt a little twinge of meanness.
Then he rubbed his chin ruminatively and studied Westy.

The culprit moved from one foot to the other and nervously replaced the
trifling remainder of his fortune in his trousers pocket. He was afraid
that now something was going to happen to spoil his good turn. He hoped
that the justice would not ask him any more questions.

“Well, my young friend,” said that dignitary finally, “you’ve had a
lesson in what it means to defy the law. I blame it to that rifle you
have there more than to you. Does your father know you have that rifle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Approves of it, eh?”

“N-no, sir; I promised him I wouldn’t shoot at anything but a target.”

“And you broke your promise?”

“Yes, sir.”

Still the judge studied him. “Well,” said he, after a pause, “I don’t
think you’re a bad sort of a boy. I think you just saw that deer and
couldn’t refrain from shooting him. I think you felt like Buffalo Bill,
now didn’t you?”

“I—yes—I—I don’t know how Buffalo Bill felt,” said Westy.

“And if Mr. Sands hadn’t got in touch with Mr. Terry and found that
deer, you would have gone back home thinking you’d done a fine, heroic
thing, eh?”

Westy did think he had done a good thing but he didn’t say so.

“But you had the honesty to confess when you saw that an innocent man
was about to be arrested. And that’s what makes me think that you’re a
not half-bad sort of a youngster.”

Westy shifted from one foot to the other but said nothing.

“You just forgot your promise when you saw that deer.”

“I didn’t forget it, I just broke it,” said Westy

“Well, now,” said the judge, “you’ve had your little fling at wild west
stuff, you’ve killed your deer and paid the penalty and you see it isn’t
so much fun after all. You see where it brings you. Now I want you to go
home and tell your father that you shot a deer out of season and that it
cost you a cold hundred dollars. See?”

“Yes, sir,” said Westy.

“You ask him if he thinks that pays. And you tell him I said for him to
take that infernal toy away from you before you shoot somebody or
other’s little brother or sister—or your own mother, maybe.”

Westy winced.

“If I were your father instead of justice of the peace here, I’d take
that gun away from you and give you a good trouncing and set you to
reading the right kind of books—that’s what I’d do.”

“I wouldn’ leave no young un of mine carry no hundred dollars in his
pockets, nuther,” volunteered Farmer Sands.

“Well, it’s good he had it,” said the justice, “or I’d have had to
commit him.” Then turning to Westy, he said, “Maybe that hundred dollars
is well spent if it taught you a lesson. You go along home now and tell
your father what I said. And you tell him I said that a rifle is not
only a dangerous thing but a pretty expensive thing to keep.”

“Yes, sir,” said Westy.

“Are you sorry for what you did?”

“As long as I paid the fine do I have to answer more questions?” asked
Westy.

“Well, you remember what I’ve said.”

“Yes, sir,” said Westy.

“Did you ever hear of Lord Chesterfield’s letters to his son?”

“N-no—yes, sir, in school.”

“Well, you get that book and read it.”

Westy said nothing. To lose his precious hundred dollars seemed bad
enough. To be sentenced to read Lord Chesterfield’s letters to his son
was nothing less than inhuman.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                          FOR BETTER OR WORSE


It was now mid-afternoon. The boy who had gone to work on his uncle’s
farm so as to earn money to take him to Yellowstone Park, stood on the
main street of the little town of Chandler with three dollars and some
small change in his pocket. This was the final outcome of all his hoping
and working through the long summer. He had just about enough money to
get home to Bridgeboro.

And there only disgrace awaited him. For he would not tell the true
circumstances of his killing the deer. He had assured Luke Meadows of
his freedom; he would not imperil that freedom now by confiding in any
one. His father might not see it as he did and might make the facts of
the case known to these local authorities. Westy thought of the little,
motherless girl clinging to her father, and this picture, which had
aroused him to rash generosity, strengthened his resolution now. Westy
was no quitter; he had done this thing, and he would accept the
consequences.

What he most feared was that at home they would question him and that he
would be confronted with the alternative of telling all or of lying. He
thought only of Luke Meadows and of the little girl. And being in it
now, for better or worse, he was resolved that he would stand firm upon
the one simple, truthful admission that he had killed a deer.

Yet he was so essentially honest that he could not think of returning to
Bridgeboro without first going back to the farm to tell them what he had
done. He knew that this would mean questioning and might possibly,
through some inadvertence of his own, be the cause of the whole story
coming to light. But he could not think of going to Bridgeboro, leaving
these people who had been so kind to him to hear of his disgrace from
others. He would go back himself and tell his aunt; he would be in a
great hurry to catch the later train and that would save him from being
questioned. Yet it seemed a funny thing to do to go back and hurriedly
announce that he had killed a deer and as hurriedly depart. Poor Westy,
he was beginning to see the difficulties involved in his spectacular
good turn.

He wandered over to the railroad, worried and perplexed. Wherever he
might go there would be trouble. He would have to face his aunt and
uncle, then his father and mother. And he could not explain. How could
he hope to run the gauntlet of all these people with just the one little
technical truth that he had killed a deer?

It was just beginning to dawn on him that truth is not a technical thing
at all, that to stick to a technical truth may be very dishonest. Yet,
he had (so he told himself) killed the deer. And that one technical
little truth he had invoked to save Luke Meadows.

He would not, he _could_ not turn back now.



                               CHAPTER XV

                         RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL


He could catch a train to Bridgeboro in half an hour and leave the
thunderbolt to break at the farm after he was safely away. Or he could
return to the farm and still catch a train from Chandler at
eight-twenty. He decided to do this.

He lingered weakly in the station for a few minutes, killing time and
trying to make up his mind just what he would say when he reached the
farm. The station was dim and musty and full of dust and aged posters.
One of these latter was a glaring advertisement of an excursion to
Yellowstone Park. It included a picture of Old Faithful Geyser, that
watery model of constancy which is to be seen on every folder and
booklet describing the Yellowstone. Westy looked at it wistfully. “See
the glories of your native land,” the poster proclaimed. He read it all,
then turned away.

The ticket office was closed, and in his troubled and disconsolate mood
it seemed to him as if even the railroad shut him out. Not a living soul
was there in the station except a queer-looking woman with spectacles
and a sunbonnet and an outlandish bag at her feet. Westy wondered
whether she were going to New York.

Then he wondered whether, when he reached Bridgeboro, he might not
properly say that he was very sleepy and let his confession go over till
morning. Then it occurred to him that he was just dilly-dallying, and he
strode out of the station and through the little main street where
farming implements were conspicuous among the displays. He paused to
glance at these and other things in which he had never before had an
interest. Never before had he found so many excuses for pausing along a
business thoroughfare.

He intended to return through the woods but a man in a buckboard with a
load of clanking milk cans gave him a lift and set him down at the
crossroads near the farm. He cut up through the orchard because he had a
queer feeling that he did not want any one to see him coming. It seemed
very quiet about the farm; he had an odd feeling that he was seeing it
during his own absence. It looked strange to see his aunt stringing
beans on the little porch outside the kitchen and Ira sitting with his
legs stretched along the lowest step. His back was against the house and
he was smoking his pipe. The homely, familiar scene made Westy homesick
for the farm.

“Mercy on us, what you doin’ here?” Aunt Mira gasped. “Westy! You near
skeered the life out of me!”

[Illustration: “MERCY ON US, WHAT YOU DOIN’ HERE?” GASPED AUNT MIRA.]

Ira removed his atrocious pipe from his mouth long enough to inquire
without the least sign of shock. “What’s the matter, kid? Get lost in
the woods and missed your train?”

“No, I didn’t get lost in the woods,” said Westy, with a touch of
testiness.

“Land’s sake, Iry, why can’t you never stop plaguin’ the boy,” said Aunt
Mira.

“I came back,” said Westy rather clumsily. “I came back to tell you
something. I’ve got something I want to tell you because I—because I
want to be the one to tell you——”

“You lost your money,” interrupted Aunt Mira. “I told your uncle he
should have made you a check.”

“Scouts and them kind don’t carry no checks,” said Ira.

“I came back,” said Westy, “because I want to tell you that I shot a
deer in the woods and killed him. It’s true so you needn’t ask me any
questions about it because—because I shot him because I had good
reasons—anyway, because I wanted to, so there’s no good talking about
it.”

Aunt Mira laid down her work and stared at Westy. Ira removed his pipe
and looked at him keenly yet somewhat amusedly. Aunt Mira’s look was one
of blank incredulity. Ira could not be so easily jarred out of his
accustomed calm.

“Where’d yer shoot ’im?” he asked.

“In the woods,” said Westy; “in—in—do you mean where—what part of him?
In his head.”

“Plunked ’im good, huh? Ye’ll have Terry after you, then you’ll have ter
give ’im ten bucks to hush the matter up. Just couldn’t resist, huh?”

“Ira, you keep still,” commanded Aunt Mira, concentrating her attention
on Westy. “What do you mean tellin’ such nonsense?” she questioned.

“I mean just that,” said Westy; “that I killed a deer and I did it
because I wanted to. Then I went through the woods to Barrett’s because
I decided to go to Chandler that way, and while I was talking to a man
there the game warden and another man came along because they must have
been—they must have known about it or something.

“Anyway, I told them I did it—killed the deer. So then I got arrested
and they took me to Chandler and the judge or justice of the peace or
whatever they call him, he said I had to pay a hundred dollars, so I
did. I’ve got enough left to get home with, all right. But anyway, I
didn’t want you to hear about it because I wanted to tell you myself.
I’ve got to stand the blame because I killed him and so that’s all there
is to it.”

It was fortunate for Westy that Aunt Mira was too dumfounded for words.
As for Ira, his face was a study during the boy’s recital. He watched
Westy shrewdly, now and then with a little glint of amusement in his eye
as the young sportsman stumbled along with his boyish confession. Only
once did he speak and that was when the boy had finished.

“Who was the man you was talkin’ with in Barrett’s, kid?”

“His name is Meadows,” Westy answered.

“Hmph,” was Ira’s only comment.

Indeed he had no opportunity for comment for Aunt Mira was presently
upon him and her incisive commentary on Ira’s qualities probably saved
Westy the discomfort of further questioning. He was such a thoroughly
good boy that now when he confessed to doing wrong, Aunt Mira felt
impelled to lay the blame to some one else. And Ira was the victim....



                              CHAPTER XVI

                           AUNT MIRA AND IRA


“Now you see, Iry Hasbrook, where your boastin’ and braggin’ and lyin’
yarns has led to,” said Aunt Mira, after Westy had gone. It had proved
impossible to detain him, and he had marched off after his sensational
disclosure with a feeling of infinite relief that no complications had
occurred. But he might have seen danger of complications in Ira’s
shrewd, amused look if he had only taken the trouble to notice it.

“He’s a great kid,” said Ira.

“A pretty mess you’ve got him in,” said Aunt Mira, “with your _droppin’_
this and _droppin’_ that. Now he’s _dropped_ his deer and I hope you’re
satisfied. ’Twouldn’t be no wonder if he ran away to sea and you to
blame, Ira Hasbrook. It’s because he’s so good and trustin’ and makes
heroes out of every one, even fools like you with your kidnappin’ kings
and rum smugglin’ and what all.”

“How ’bout the book in the settin’ room?” Ira asked.

Aunt Mira made no answer to this but she at least paid Ira the
compliment of rising from her chair with such vigor of determination
that the dishpan full of beans which had been reposing in her lap was
precipitated upon the floor. She strode into the sitting room where the
“sumptuous, gorgeously illustrated volume” lay upon the innocent worsted
tidy which decorously covered the marble of the center table.

Laying hands upon it with such heroic determination as never one of its
flaunted hunters showed, she conveyed it to the kitchen and forthwith
cremated it in the huge cooking stove. Then she returned to the back
porch with an air that suggested that what she had just done to the book
was intended as an illustration of what she would like to do to Ira
himself. But Ira was not sufficiently sensitive to take note of this
ghastly implication.

“Yer recipe for makin’ currant wine was in that book,” was all he said.

For a moment, Aunt Mira paused aghast. It seemed as if, in spite of her
spectacular display, Ira had the better of her. He sat calmly smoking
his pipe.

“Why didn’t you call to me that it was there?” she demanded sharply.

“You wouldn’t of believed me, I’m such a liar,” said Ira quietly.

“I don’t want to hear no more of your talk, Iry,” said the distressed
and rather baffled lady. “I don’t know as I mind losin’ the recipe. What
I’m thinkin’ about is the hundred dollars that poor boy worked to
get—and you went and lost for him.”

She had subsided to the weeping stage now and she sat down in the old
wooden armchair and lifted her gingham apron to her eyes and all Ira
could see was her gray head shaking. Her anger and decisive action had
used up all her strength and she was a touching enough spectacle now, as
she sat there weeping silently, the string beans and the empty dishpan
scattered on the porch floor at her feet.

“He’s all right, aunty,” was all that Ira said.

“I thank heavens he told the truth ’bout it least-ways,” Aunt Mira
sobbed, pathetically groping for the dishpan. “I thank heavens he come
back here like a little man and told the truth. I couldn’t of beared it
if he’d just sneaked away and lied. He won’t lie to Henry—if he wouldn’t
lie to me he won’t lie to Henry. I do hope Henry won’t be hard with
him—I know he won’t lie to his father, ’tain’t him to do that. He was
just tempted, he saw the deer and his head was full of all what you told
him and that pesky book I hope the Lord will forgive me for ever buyin’.
I’m goin’ to write to Henry this very night and tell him I burned up the
book and prayed for forgiveness for you, Iry Hasbrook—I am.”

Ira puffed his horrible pipe in silence for a few moments, and in that
restful interval could be heard the sound of the bars being let down so
that the cows might return to their pasture. The bell on one wayward cow
sounded farther and farther off as Uncle Dick, all innocent of the
little tragedy, drove the patient beasts into the upper meadow.

The clanking bell reminded poor Aunt Mira to say, “You told him he
couldn’t even shoot a cow, you did, Iry.”

“He’s just about the best kid that ever was,” was all that Ira answered.

“I’m goin’ to write to Henry to-night and I’m goin’ to tell him, Iry,
just what you been doin’, I am. I’m goin’ to tell him that poor boy
isn’t to blame. I know Henry won’t be hard on him. I’m goin’ to tell him
about that book and ask him to forgive me my part in it,” the poor lady
wept.

“Ask him if he’s got a good recipe for currant wine,” drawled Ira.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                             THE HOMECOMING


Aunt Mira’s tearful prayers were not fully answered, not immediately at
all events. Westy’s father _was_ “hard on him.” His well advertised
prejudice against rifles as “toys” seemed justified in the light of his
son’s fall from grace. Westy did not have to incur the perils of a
detailed narrative.

Mr. Martin, notwithstanding his faith in his son, had always been rather
fanatical about this matter of “murderous weapons” even where Westy was
concerned. He was very pig-headed, as Westy’s mother often felt
constrained to declare, and the mere fact of the killing of the deer was
quite enough for a gentleman in his state of mind. Fortunately, he did
not prefer a kindly demand for particulars.

“I just did it and I’m not going to make any excuses,” said Westy
simply. “I told you I did it because I wouldn’t do a thing like that and
not tell you. You can’t say I didn’t come home and tell you the truth.”

The memorable scene occurred in the library of the Martin home, Westy
standing near the door ready to make his exit obediently each time his
father thundered, “That’s all I’ve got to say.” First and last Mr.
Martin said this as many as twenty times. But there seemed always more
to say and poor Westy lingered, fending the storm as best he could.

It was the night of his arrival home, his little trunk had been
delivered earlier in the day, and on the library table were several
rustic mementos of the country which the boy had thought to purchase for
his parents and his sister Doris. A plenitude of rosy apples (never
forgotten by the homecoming vacationist) were scattered on the sofa
where Doris sat sampling one of them. Mrs. Martin sat at the table, a
book inverted in her lap. Mr. Martin strode about the room while he
talked.

They had all been away and the furniture was still covered with ghostly
sheeting. About the only ornaments at large were the little birch bark
gewgaws and the imitation bronze ash receptacle which Westy had brought
with him. This latter, which seemed to mock the poor boy’s welcome home
had Greetings From Chandler printed on it and was for his father.

“And that’s all I’ve got to say,” said Mr. Martin.

“Anyway, I didn’t lie,” said Westy, his eyes brimming.

“I never accused you of lying and I’m not laying all the blame to you
either,” thundered his father. “Three and three and three make nine. A
boy, a gun, and a wild animal make a killing and that’s all there is to
it.”

“Well, then let’s talk of something else,” said Mrs. Martin gently.
“Don’t you think this ash tray is very pretty? Westy brought it to you,
dear.”

“For goodness’ sake, don’t use the word _dear_ again, mother,” said
Doris, munching her apple. “I’ve heard so much about deers——”

“And the boy’s lost a hundred dollars!” thundered Mr. Martin, ignoring
his daughter. “When I was his age——”

“Well, he’s had his lesson,” said Doris sweetly. “A hundred dollars
isn’t so much for a good lesson.”

“No?” said her father. “It’s enough for you to make a big fuss about
when you want it. I said from the beginning that I was opposed to
firearms. I don’t want them around the house—look at Doctor Warren’s
boy.”

At this Doris sank into a limp attitude of utter despair, for the
accidental killing of the Warren boy had occurred before Westy was born
and it had been cited on an average of twice a day ever since Westy’s
rifle had been brought into the house under the frowning protest of his
father.

“Well, now, let’s settle this matter once and for all,” said Mr. Martin.
“And I don’t want to be interrupted either,” he added. “You’ve bought a
gun against my wishes,” he said, turning on Westy. “You had to have a
gun—nothing would do but a gun. Your mother saw no harm. Your sister
said there was—what did you say?—something heroic, was it, about a gun?
All right, you got the gun—repeater or whatever it is. I asked you not
to take it away with you but you must take it to shoot at targets. You
went up there to earn some money to go out to the Yellowstone. Now here
you are back again with hardly a cent in your pockets and you’ve broken
the law and the one thing I’m thankful for is that you haven’t shed the
blood of some other boy. Now this is the last word I’m going to say
about it——”

Doris groaned, Mrs. Martin looked sadly at her son who was listening
respectfully, shifting from one foot to the other, his straightforward
eyes brimming over.

“This is the last I’m going to say about it,” repeated Mr. Martin in a
way which did actually at last suggest something in the way of a
decisive end of the whole business. “Now, Westy,” he continued with a
note of feeling in his voice, “you’ve put an end to all my thoughts
about going to the Yellowstone with you.” Westy gulped, listening.
“You’ve paid the money you earned and saved to keep yourself out of
jail. Three and three and three make nine——”

“Just the same as they did before,” said Doris sweetly.

“—a boy, a gun, and a wild animal, those three things spell danger. Now,
my boy, I’m not going to go on blaming you and I’m not going to ask you
any questions because those three things answer the question good enough
for me. Boy—gun—— And you’ve lost a hundred dollars and had a good
scare. I don’t blame you that you don’t want to talk about it. The gun
spoke for itself; am I right?”

“Y-yes, sir,” Westy gulped.

“All right then, as they say, return the goods and no questions asked.
They say every dog is entitled to one bite and I suppose every boy that
has a gun gets one shot. Now you’ve had yours and paid a good price for
it. Now, Westy, you bring me that gun, here and now.” He clapped his
hands with an air of finality and there followed a tense silence.

“If—if I don’t—if I promise not to use—even take it outdoors——”

“No, sir, you bring me that gun here and now.”

Mr. Martin was grimly mandatory and neither his wife nor daughter
ventured a word, though Mrs. Martin looked the picture of misery. Westy
brought his precious rifle from his room and handed it to his father.
Mr. Martin held it as if it were a poisonous snake. The mirthful Doris
placed the apple she was eating upon her head as if to invite the modern
William Tell to shoot it off. But Mr. Martin was not tuned to this sort
of banter.

Unlocking the closet beside the fireplace he gingerly lay the rifle
inside it and locked the closet again, joggling the door to give himself
double assurance that it was securely locked. In his over-sensitive
state, Westy construed this last act as an implication by his father
that his son might later try to get the door open.

“You don’t have to lock it,” said Westy proudly.

“It isn’t you he’s thinking about, dearie,” said Mrs. Martin. “He’s
afraid about the gun.”

Very likely that was true. Mr. Martin had indeed lost some faith in
Westy’s ability to keep his promise where a gun was concerned, but his
confidence in his son had not diminished to a point where he believed
Westy would invade that forbidden closet. Probably Doris expressed her
father’s mental state accurately enough when she said later to her
mother, “He isn’t afraid that Westy will break in, he’s afraid that the
gun will break out. The rifle has got father’s goat as well as somebody
or other’s deer.”

“You shouldn’t use such slang, dear,” said Mrs. Martin gently.

The dungeon to which the rifle had been consigned was one of those holy
of holies to be found in every household. Mr. Martin had always been the
exclusive warden of this mysterious retreat.

As a little boy, Westy had supposed it contained a skeleton (he never
knew why he thought so) and that all his father’s worldly wealth was
there secreted in an iron chest of the kind which has always been in
vogue with pirates. Later, when he had learned of the existence of banks
he had abandoned this belief and had come to know (he knew not how) that
the closet contained books which had undergone parental censorship and
been banned from the library shelves. Doris had never regarded this
closet with the same reverential awe that Westy had shown for it; she
said it was full of moths and that its forbidden literature was easily
procurable through other sources.

But ever since Westy and Roy Blakeley had tried to peek in through the
keyhole of this closet to discover the skeleton there, the son of the
house had looked upon it as a place of mystery. And though it had lost
some of the glamor of romance as he had grown older, he knew that
whatever was in it never came out. It was a tomb.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                           A RAY OF SUNSHINE


Mrs. Martin gave Westy about ten minutes to regain his poise and then
followed him to his room where his open trunk stood in the middle of the
floor. Westy was sitting on the bed and the oilcloth cover of his
departed rifle lay like a snake upon the pretty bedspread. It was
evident that when he had gone to his room to get the gun in obedience to
his father’s demand, he had removed the cover to gaze at his treasure
before handing it over. Mrs. Martin lifted the limp thing and hung it
over the foot-board.

“I’m going to ask him to put the gun in it,” Westy said wistfully.

“I don’t think I would, dearie,” said his mother, sitting down on the
bed beside him. “I think I just wouldn’t say any more about it; let the
matter drop. If you speak to him again he will only flare up. Doris says
she thinks some ancestor of his may have been killed by a rifle back in
the dark ages; some cave man, that’s what she says. And she thinks the
fear of guns is in your father’s blood. He’s very nervous about such
things, dearie.”

“They didn’t have rifles in the dark ages,” said Westy.

“I know, but it’s just the way Doris talks; she’s very modern and
independent. She shouldn’t say that a hundred dollars isn’t a great deal
of money, for it is. Maybe it isn’t a great deal for Charlie Westcott
and those friends of hers, but it’s a good deal for you, dear.”

Westy sat on the edge of the bed half listening, his eyes brimming. And
it is odd, when you come to think of it, that no one save a rough farm
hand with an exceedingly varied and checkered career, had ever taken
particular notice of a certain quality in those gray eyes.

“Oh, my dear,” said Mrs. Martin with deep sympathy and affection, “I’m
so sorry, so sorry for the whole thing. Your father should never have
suggested your going to work on the farm. Now he says he never wants to
hear the Yellowstone mentioned. Doris says she thinks we may have to
take the yellow vase from the parlor because it will remind him of the
Yellowstone——”

“I don’t mind,” said Westy, getting command enough of himself to speak.
“I had fun working and I don’t mind about the hundred dollars.”

“And it was so noble and straightforward of you to tell your father what
you had done. I told him if he had only given you a chance you might
have explained. I told him that perhaps the deer was chasing you and
intended to kill you.”

Westy smiled ruefully.

“Was it?” his mother ventured to ask.

“No, deers don’t run after people,” Westy said.

“Well, I don’t know anything about them,” said his mother resignedly.

“It’s all right, mom,” said Westy.

“I’m only sorry you ever went up there,” mused Mrs. Martin. “But I want
you to promise me, dearie, that you won’t say another word about it to
your father; don’t speak about Yellowstone Park either, because he feels
very strongly about the whole thing.”

“I won’t,” said Westy.

“You know, dear,” Mrs. Martin observed with undeniable truth, “I’ve
known your father longer than you have. We must just say nothing and let
the whole matter blow over. Very soon he’ll be angry about his income
tax and then he’ll forget about this summer. He thinks that your Uncle
Dick shouldn’t have such men about his place as that horrible Ira, as
you call him. He blames that man more than you. He says that farms are
hiding places for good-for-nothing scoundrels who can’t get employment
elsewhere.”

“Ira isn’t a scoundrel,” said Westy.

“Well, he stole a king, and I’m sure a man that steals a king isn’t a
gentleman.”

There seemed no answer to this. But Westy moved closer to his mother and
let her put her arm about him.

“Now, dearie, it’s all over,” she said, “and it was a horrible nightmare
and I’m proud of my boy because he was straightforward and honest—and
I’m sure your father is too. But he’s very queer and we mustn’t cross
him. So now we’ll forget all about it and I’ve something to tell you.
Pee-wee Harris——”

At the very mention of this name Westy laughed.

For Pee-wee Harris, present or absent, spread sunshine in the darkest
places. But never in a darker place than in Westy’s room that night of
his return from his summer’s vacation.

“They’re back from camp, then?” he asked.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                           PEE-WEE ON THE JOB


“Yes, they’re back,” said Mrs. Martin, “and Pee-wee was here last
evening and talked steadily for two hours. He told me to tell you to
come to scout meeting to-morrow and vote——”

“Vote? What for?”

“I don’t know, it’s something about an award,” said Westy’s mother. “The
Rotary Club has offered some kind of an award for scouts, that’s all I
know. He told me to tell you to be sure to come and vote. He said it’s a
special meeting at Roy’s house and they’re going to have refreshments.”

“They won’t have any when he gets through,” said Westy wistfully.

“I’m so glad,” said his mother, rising, “that you can plunge right into
your scout work and forget all about this dreadful summer. At the
seashore we were very much disappointed, the gnats were terrible. I’m
glad we’re all home and that it’s over. Doris did nothing but dance and
she’s lost eight pounds instead of gaining.”

“All right, mom,” said Westy, letting his mother kiss him good night.
“I’m glad I’m home too; I’ll be glad to see the troop. It makes me feel
good just to hear you mention Pee-wee.”

“I’m sure he’ll cheer you up,” said Mrs. Martin. “I don’t know what to
think about what he says— I’m sure he always tells the truth.”

“Oh, yes, but sometimes he stands on his head and tells it so it’s
upside down,” laughed Westy; “that’s what Roy says.”

“He says that Warde Hollister found some sort of a job for a woman up
near camp so that the woman won’t have to send her little child to the
orphan asylum. He ran five miles through a swamp, Walter says. I hope to
goodness he had his rubbers on.”

“Was it a boy or a girl—the child, I mean?” Westy asked.

“I’m sure I don’t know, but I think the father is in jail. Anyway, the
boys want you to vote for Warde. Now will you promise me you’ll go to
sleep?”

Westy promised, and kept his promise that time at all events. If he had
known all there was to know about these matters perhaps he would not
have fallen asleep so easily.

He did not have to wait until the following evening, for the next
morning Pee-wee Harris (Raven and mascot) arrived like a thunder-storm
and opened fire at once upon Westy.

“Now you see what you get for going somewhere else and I’m glad I’m not
sorry for you, but anyway I’m sorry you weren’t there because we had
more fun at Temple Camp this summer than ever before and we’re going to
have the biggest hero scout in our troop and his picture is going to be
in _Boys’ Life_ and his name is going to be in the newspapers and I bet
you don’t know who it is, I bet you don’t!”

“Is it you?”

“Why?”

“Because you said the _biggest_.”

“Listen, you have to be sure to come to scout meeting to-night—they’re
going to have refreshments, but that isn’t the reason, but anyway you
have to be sure to come and I’ll tell you why—listen. You know good
turns? Listen! The Rotary Club—my father’s a member of it—listen!—they
offered a prize to the scout that did the biggest good turn involving
resources and powers—I mean prowess, that’s what it said, during this
summer. Only the scout has to be in a troop in this county, that’s the
only rule.

“Every troop in the county has a right to vote who did the biggest good
turn in the troop and then they send the name of that scout to the
Rotary Club and those men have a committee to read the reports sent from
all the different troops and then they decide which scout out of all
those scouts did the biggest good turn. All the good turns are big ones
because if they’re not they don’t get to the league and they decide
which is the biggest of all the big ones and then—listen! _Listen! The
scout that gets elected by those men gets a free trip to Yellowstone
Park next summer and all his expenses are paid, candy and sodas and
everything._ And after they elect him they’re going to have a banquet.
And do you know who’s going to the Yellowstone? Warde Hollister.”

“You mean they’ve voted already?” Westy asked.

“No, not till next Saturday night, but anyway we’re going to elect him
and send his name in and when you hear what he did you’ll vote for him
all right and I bet you’ll be proud he’s in your patrol. You needn’t ask
me what he did because you have to come and find out and there’s going
to be ice cream, too. So will you be there?”

“You bet,” said Westy, smiling, “but how about other troops all over the
county? They haven’t been asleep all summer.”

“Gee whiz, what do we care?” said Pee-wee.

“You’d better not be too sure,” Westy laughed.

“I bet you—I bet you a soda Warde’s the one to go,” vociferated Pee-wee.

“All right,” said Westy.

“Do you bet he won’t?” Pee-wee demanded incredulously. “_A feller in
your own patrol?_”

“They’ve got some pretty good scouts over in Little Valley,” said Westy.

“What do we care? You just wait. Will you surely be there—up at Roy’s?”

“You bet,” said Westy.



                               CHAPTER XX

                               SOME NOISE


It was good to see the familiar faces once again, to hear Roy’s banter
and Pee-wee’s vociferous talk. And now that he was back among them, the
summer did indeed seem like a nightmare, a thing to be forgotten. It was
not hard for Westy to forget his disgrace (or at least to put it out of
his thoughts) in the merry, bustling troop atmosphere.

[Illustration: NOW THAT HE WAS BACK AMONG THEM, THE SUMMER SEEMED LIKE A
NIGHTMARE.]

They met in the barn at Roy’s house up on Blakeley’s Hill, where a fine
troop meeting room had been fixed up, with electric lights and a radio
that never worked.

“Allow me to introduce the honorable Westy Martin,” shouted Roy,
standing on the old kitchen table which his mother had donated to the
cause of scouting; “Silver Fox in good standing except when he’s sitting
down. Hey, Westy, we’re going to have refreshments on account of all
being so fresh, that’s what my father says—I should worry. Hey, Westy,
Pee-wee says next summer you’re going to take your rifle to Coney Island
and shoot the chutes—he’s so dumb he thinks chutes are wild animals.”

“Next summer I’m going away with the troop,” said Westy.

“The pleasure is ours,” Roy shouted. “We can stand it if you can. Temple
Camp wasn’t like the same place without you—it was better. Did you hear
about Warde, how he’s going to get his head in the fly-paper, I mean his
face in the newspaper? He’s already rejected by an overwhelming
majority.”

“I don’t know anything but what Pee-wee told me,” said Westy, speaking
as much to Warde as to Roy, “but I’m for you all right.”

“And you ought to be proud of your patrol,” said the genial, familiar
voice of Mr. Ellsworth, their scoutmaster, trying to reach Westy with
his hand.

“Hurrah for the Silver-plated Foxes,” shouted Roy.

“If the leader of the Silver-plated Foxes will give me the floor for a
few minutes,” laughed Mr. Ellsworth, “we can get down to business and
then——”

“Have the refreshments,” shouted Pee-wee. “Everybody sit down.”

“Also shut up,” shouted Roy.

“Also listen,” said Mr. Ellsworth.

“Absolutely, positively,” said Roy. “First let’s give three cheers on
account of Westy being back, I mean three groans.”

“Then,” said Mr. Ellsworth, “as our sprightly leader of the Silver Foxes
would say, let’s have a large chunk of silence——”

“And very little of that,” shouted Roy.

“You’re crazy,” shouted Pee-wee.

“We’re proud of it,” shouted Roy.

“Shut up, everybody,” shouted Doc Carson.

“How can I shut up when I wasn’t saying anything?” thundered Pee-wee.

“Shut up, anyway,” shouted Roy. “Three cheers for Westy Martin down off
the farm. How are the pigs, Westy?”

“Pretty well, how are all _your_ folks?” Westy was inspired to answer.

“No sooner said than stung,” said Roy. “If I said anything I’m sorry for
I’m glad of it.”

“Suppose you say nothing at all,” laughed Mr. Ellsworth.

“The pleasure is mine,” said Roy, subsiding.

“Scouts,” said Mr. Ellsworth, having gained the floor at last. “This is
a special meeting for a purpose which you all know about except Westy——”

“I told him!” shouted Pee-wee.

“And he will become familiar with the matter as we proceed,” Mr.
Ellsworth continued. “As all of us know, the Rotary Club of Bridgeboro
has done a very splendid and public-spirited thing. This organization
has offered a reward to the scout of Rockvale County who shall be
selected as the one who has done the most conspicuous good turn during
the summer. This award, as we know, is a free trip to the Yellowstone
National Park, where a national jamboree for Boy Scouts is to be held.

“Special stress was laid upon one or two requirements which would lift
the good turn out of the class of simple every-day kindness and
helpfulness to others. That is, as I understand it, the winning good
turn must have something in the way of heroism in it. I don’t mean
simply physical heroism, of course, but heroism of soul, if I might put
it so. Sacrifice, courage—I think we all know what is meant.

“According to the printed letter received by our troop (and by every
troop in the county, I suppose) it is our privilege to select by vote
the scout among us who has done the most conspicuous good turn. On last
Monday, Labor Day, the period for performance of such good turn closed.
In accordance with the printed letter received we had an informal vote
and decided that Warde Hollister of the Silver Fox Patrol is entitled to
the award, so far as our troop is concerned. There was only one absent
member and that was Westy Martin. This, of course, we all know and I’m
just running over the matter so that our action may be thoroughly
understood and deliberate.

“In accordance with requirements I, as scoutmaster of a contesting
troop, have written a report embodying the deed or exploit which Warde
did and which we purpose to present to these gentlemen for their
consideration. I am now going to read this for the approval of all of
you and when I have finished I shall ask all of you to sign it. Your
signatures will be your votes, and in this sense they will be
perfunctory, as we have already had an unanimous vote. If any of you
scouts want to criticize or add anything to my description of the
exploit, sing out and don’t hesitate.”

“I will,” shouted Pee-wee at the top of his voice.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                             ONE GOOD TURN


Mr. Ellsworth unfolded a typewritten paper and read. Westy listened with
the greatest attention, for he was the only one who did not already know
of his scout brother’s exploit.

“The First Bridgeboro New Jersey Troop, B. S. A. respectfully submits to
the Rotary Club of this town, the following report of an exploit
performed by one of its scouts, Warde Hollister, while at Temple Camp,
New York, on the ninth of August this year. This report is made under
supervision and guidance of William C. Ellsworth of Bridgeboro, who is
officially registered at National Headquarters as scoutmaster of said
troop. Conclusive corroborative evidence is readily available to
substantiate truthfulness of this report and will be procured and
transmitted if desired.

“Whatever may be the issue in this contest, this troop wishes to express
its appreciation of the interest and kindness which the Rotary Club has
shown to the whole scout membership of this county, and indirectly to
the whole great brotherhood of which this troop is a part.”

“Gee, but that’s dandy language,” shouted Pee-wee.

“Unfortunately the award is not for fine language,” said Mr. Ellsworth.

Mr. Ellsworth continued reading, “On the date mentioned, Warde
Hollister, a scout of the first class, was hiking in the neighborhood of
Temple Camp and stopped in a small and humble shack to ask directions——”

“Tell how they gave him a drink of milk,” shouted Pee-wee.

“The people were very poor,” Mr. Ellsworth read on, “and the mother, a
widow, was on the point of sending her little child, a boy of six, to an
orphanage, prior to seeking work for herself in the countryside. She
seemed broken-hearted at this prospect and was much overcome as she
talked with Scout Hollister. The woman’s name is Martha Corbett and her
home is, or was, on the road running past Temple Camp into Briarvale.”

“There’s an apple orchard near it,” shouted Pee-wee.

Mr. Ellsworth read on, “That night at Temple Camp, Scout Hollister heard
that a wealthy lady living at King’s Cove, about seven miles from Temple
Camp in a direct line, was leaving for New York by auto that night. This
information was imparted to him by the lady’s son who was a guest at
Temple Camp. The lady, Mrs. Horace E. Hartwell, whose husband is well
known in financial circles, intended, among other errands in the city,
to secure a female servant for her country home at King’s Cove.

“It was known that she would motor to New York late that evening and
Scout Hollister, hoping to secure employment for the Corbett woman,
tried to get her on the telephone. He had reason to believe from
conversation with her son that the Corbett woman might prove available
for service if communication could be had with Mrs. Hartwell before her
departure for New York.

“Unable to get the Hartwell place by telephone, Hollister decided to go
personally to King’s Cove by a short cut through the woods. To do this
it was necessary for him to cross a swamp causing much difficulty to the
traveler. Hollister covered the entire distance of six miles (including
this swamp) in less than two hours, a very remarkable exploit in the way
of speed and endurance, and did, in fact, reach King’s Cove in time to
intercept the Hartwell auto which had already started for New York. It
was only by taking the difficult short cut and traversing the dangerous
swamp that Hollister was able to do this.

“Hollister made himself known to Mrs. Hartwell as one of the scouts at
Temple Camp and was the means of suspending her efforts to obtain a
servant in New York until he should have an opportunity to bring Mrs.
Corbett to see her.

“The sequel of this exploit was that Mrs. Corbett and her young child
were taken into the Hartwell home which seems likely to be a permanent
refuge for both.

“It is respectfully submitted to the Rotary Club that this good turn
contains both of the elements required for the winning of the
Yellowstone award, viz., generosity of purpose and prowess in the
consequent exploit.”

“How about that, scouts, all right?” Mr. Ellsworth concluded. “Anybody
want to add anything?”

“Three cheers for Warde Hollister!” two or three scouts shouted
instinctively.

“Oh, boy, we’re going to have a trip to Yellowstone Park in our troop!”
vociferated Pee-wee. “Will you send me some post cards from there?”

“Three cheers for the Silver Foxes,” shouted Roy; “we thank you.”

“You make me tired, _you_ didn’t do it!” shouted Pee-wee. “Any one would
think you were the one that did it, to hear you shout.”

“I’m the one that had the responsibility,” Roy shot back; “he’s in my
patrol.”

“How about _you_, Warde?” Mr. Ellsworth laughed. “All O. K.?”

“Sure it’s O. K.,” shouted Pee-wee; “it’s dandy language.”

“It sounds kind of too——” Warde began.

“No, it doesn’t,” Pee-wee shouted.

“Well, anyway,” Warde laughed, “I’d like to say this if I can have a
word——”

“Help yourself,” said Roy, “Pee-wee has plenty of them.”

“I don’t care anything about seeing my name in the papers,” said Warde.
“I never thought much about Yellowstone Park but I guess I’d like to go
there all right. I don’t think so much of that stunt now that it’s
written down. But if it wins out I’ll be glad; I’ll be glad mostly on
account of the troop——”

“Won’t you be glad on account of the grizzly bears?” thundered Pee-wee.

“Sure,” Warde laughed, “but I’ll be glad mostly because we have—you
know—an honor in our troop. I like this troop better than Yellowstone
Park. Anyhow this is all I want to say; I hope you fellows won’t be
disappointed if I—if we don’t get it.”

“What do you mean _don’t get it_?” Pee-wee roared.

“I mean just that,” Warde laughed, as he tousled Pee-wee’s curly hair.
“I hope we get it, but I’m not going to worry about it. And if we do get
it I’ll be glad on account of the troop. I always stuck to the troop; I
could have gone to Europe last summer but I wanted to go away with the
troop. And if I do—if I _should_—go out to the Yellowstone this is the
way it will be with me; I’ll feel as if I’m going for the troop.”

“That’s the way to talk,” said Mr. Ellsworth briskly.

“I was just going to talk that way,” thundered Pee-wee.

“Mr. Ellsworth saved us just in time,” said Roy. “Young Faithful was
going to spurt again. He’s got Old Faithful Geyser tearing its hair with
jealousy. Old Faithful spurts every hour, he spurts twice a minute.”

“Well,” laughed Mr. Ellsworth, “if this report strikes you all right,
suppose you all put your names to it.”

“I’ll put mine first,” shouted Pee-wee.

It was not until after Westy Martin had signed his name that he had an
opportunity of seeking out Warde and talking with him alone. How the
hero escaped Pee-wee would be difficult to explain; probably that
hero-maker was detained by a prolonged encounter with the refreshments.
Warde, always modest, was glad enough to get away from the clamorous
throng and walk part way home with Westy, whom he had not seen all
summer.



                              CHAPTER XXII

                            WARDE AND WESTY


“I said it was the troop I was thinking about,” Warde observed, “but I
guess it’s really that kid I’m thinking about as much as anything.”

“You mean Mrs. Corbett’s kid?” Westy asked.

“No, Pee-wee, Young Faithful. Huh, that’s a pretty good name for him,
hey?”

“He’s all there,” Westy said.

“_He’s_ not going to Yellowstone,” said Warde. “Not even a member of his
patrol is. Yet, by golly, here he is standing on his head on account of
me.”

“Yop, that’s him all right,” said Westy.

“How’d you make out this summer?” Warde asked. “We got a couple of cards
from you up at camp. Who’s that fellow in the snap-shot you sent me?”

“Oh, he’s a farm hand at my uncle’s; he’s been all over, on whaling
cruises and everything. My father calls him a contemptible scoundrel
because he’s—I don’t know just why—because he’s been a sort of tramp—I
guess. He helped start a war in a South Sea island and they kidnapped
the king.”

“That sounds pretty good,” said Warde.

“Now that we’re all alone,” said Westy, purposely avoiding the subject
of his own summer, “I want to tell you that was some stunt you did. I
signed my name and I signed it good and black; I think I broke my
fountain pen.”

“I’ll bring you one from the Yellowstone,” Warde laughed; “if I go,” he
added.

“I think you’ll go all right,” said Westy. “You know how it is, Hollie,
when a fellow gets home after being away; everybody seems kind of
strange. That’s the way it seemed with me to-night; that’s why I didn’t
say much, I guess. But now that I’m seeing you all alone I’ll tell you
that that was one peach of a thing you did. I’m expecting to get post
cards from you next summer showing the petrified forests and Inspiration
Point and the Old Faithful Inn and all those places—you see.”

“You seem to know all about them,” said Warde.

“Sure,” said Westy, with a note of wistfulness in his voice. “I’ve read
a lot about it; I was—eh— There’s another thing I want to say to you
while we’re alone. You said you didn’t go to Europe last summer so you
could be with the troop. You said the troop always comes first with you.
I guess you didn’t mean that as a shot at me, did you? Because I went
away somewhere else this summer?”

“What are you talking about?” Warde laughed, as he rapped Westy on the
shoulder and then gave him a shove almost off the sidewalk. “That’s you
all over, everybody says so; you’re so gol blamed sensitive. I wouldn’t
answer such a crazy question.”

“Because I’ve got the same idea that you have,” said Westy. “I’m always
wishing I could do something for the troop; the troop comes first with
me, you can bet. But, gee, I never seem to be able to do anything. Look
at Roy, his father gave the barn——”

“Come out of that,” laughed Warde. “Tell me what you were doing all
summer. We had _some_ summer at Temple Camp.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Westy, “nothing in particular. I went for a
special reason and I guess it didn’t pan out very well. I should worry
about it, because anyway it’s all over. I don’t want to talk about it.”

Warde glanced curiously at him but said nothing.

“You can bet I’m going to camp with you fellows next summer,” Westy
said. “Only probably _you_ won’t be there.”

“Oh, don’t be too sure of that,” Warde laughed. “There are a few other
troops to be heard from, Westy, old boy.”

“Well, I’d like to see that award given to our troop,” Westy mused. “I
don’t suppose it makes much difference who goes. If I had to choose a
fellow to go it would be you, and I did vote for you, you can bet. But
as long as our troop gets the honor it doesn’t make much difference who
goes. I’m glad I got back in time to vote. Gee williger, I’m proud to
vote for a stunt like that—and I’m glad you’re in my patrol. That’s
about all I’m good for, I guess—to vote.”

“Who taught me to hit a bull’s eye?” Warde asked. “What are you doing
to-morrow?” he broke off suddenly. “Come ahead over to my house and
we’ll try a few cracks at the target; what do you say?”

“Huh,” Westy mused wistfully. “I guess I’ll have to be getting ready for
school to-morrow. I’ve got to unpack my trunk, too.”

“We’ll see you Saturday night then? At the Rotary Club?”

“Will they let people go?” Westy asked.

“Sure, the more the merrier,” said Warde; “it’s a public meeting.”

“I’ll come and shout for you when they announce the decision,” Westy
said.

“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” laughed Warde.



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                           IRA GOES A-HUNTING


When Westy strode away after making his sensational announcement at the
farm, Ira Hasbrook watched the departing figure through a dense cloud of
tobacco smoke. He was puzzled. For a while he smoked leisurely,
submitting with languid amiability to the tirade of Aunt Mira. And when
she finally withdrew to the sitting room to write to Bridgeboro he
continued smoking and thinking for fully half an hour. Only once in all
that time did he make any audible comment.

“Some kid,” he mused aloud.

It would be hard to say whether this comment was in approval of Westy’s
sudden inspiration to kill a deer or in perplexity as to what he
actually had done. Certainly Ira would not have held it to the boy’s
discredit if he had killed a deer. He rather liked Westy’s unexplained
decision to reform and kill a deer. With such a fine beginning he might
some day even go after an Indian or run away to sea. Ira was greatly
amused at the naïve way in which Westy had suddenly come out into the
open as a lawless adventurer....

But he was puzzled. For one thing it seemed odd to him that Westy,
directly after his bizarre exploit, should have chanced upon Luke
Meadows, the leading poacher of the neighborhood and the bane of farmers
and game wardens for miles around.

Ira’s attitude with respect to Westy’s sensational confession was not
the moral attitude.

“I’ll be gol darned, I don’t believe he did it,” he mused. His thought
seemed to be that it was too good to be true.

He slowly drew himself to his feet, pulled his outlandish felt hat from
its peg, refilled his pipe, and sauntered over into the woods where he
soon hit the trail which formed the short cut to Chandler. He had not
walked fifteen minutes when he heard voices and presently came upon a
little group of people gazing at the carcass of the deer. Terry, the
game warden, and Farmer Sands were very much in evidence.

“What cher goin’ to do with him; drag him out?” Ira inquired without
wasting any words in greeting.

“H’lo, Iry,” said the game warden. “Work of the boy scouts; pretty good
job, huh?”

“Yere, so he was tellin’ me,” drawled Ira. “Plunked him right in the
bean, huh?”

“Who was tellin’ yer?” inquired Farmer Sands with aggressive shrewdness.

“The kid,” drawled Ira.

“Yer don’t mean he come back and told yer?” Farmer Sands inquired
incredulously.

“Uh huh, work of the boy scouts,” said Ira. “I was thinkin’ he might ’a
been lyin’ only I don’t believe he knows how ter lie any more’n he knows
how to shoot. Got a match, Terry?”

Ira leisurely lighted his unwilling pipe and proceeded in his lazy way
to examine the carcass.

“Plunked him twice, huh—one under the belly there.”

Ira wandered about, kicking the bushes while the men fixed a rope about
the head of the carcass.

“I s’pose you know all ’bout what happened then, if the boy went back to
the farm?” Terry called to him.

“Me?” Ira answered. “Naah, I don’t know nuthin ’bout what happened. I
know the kid lost a hundred dollars he was savin’ up. This here tobaccy
package b’long to you, Terry?”

“Where’d you find that?” Terry called.

“Over here in the bushes. Me and you never smoked such mild tobaccy as
Mechanical Delights or whatever it is. Howling Bulldog Plug Cut for us,
hey? Do you need any help, you men? Prob’ly the kid was smokin’
Mechanical Delights and didn’t know what he was doin’, that’s my theory.
He couldn’t see through the smoke.”

He stuffed the empty tinfoil package into his pocket and started ambling
through the woods toward Barrett’s.

“Thar’s the man ’at’s to blame fer this here vila-shun of the law,” said
Farmer Sands shrewdly. “Him’s the man ’at turned that thar youngster’s
head—I tell yer that, Terry.”

“Like enough,” said Terry. “Him and that scoutin’ craze.”

“Maybe it was the scouting craze that made him tell the truth,” said a
bystander, evidently a city boarder in the neighborhood. “It seems a
queer thing that a young boy should break the law and shoot big game and
then go and give himself up.”

“No, ’tain’t nuther,” said Farmer Sands. “He got sceered, that’s why he
confessed. He was sceered outer his skin soon as he clapped eyes on me
an’ Terry. You can’t fool me, by gum! I see jes haow it was the minute I
set eyes on the little varmint!”

But he hadn’t seen how it was at all. Nor had Terry seen how it was. For
the explanation of this whole business was locked up in that dungeon of
mysteries in Mr. Martin’s library. It had been under their very noses
and they had not so much as examined it. And now it was in that closet
of dark traditions away off in Bridgeboro, under the grim and autocratic
guard of Westy’s father. And there it remained until a stronger man than
Mr. Martin ordered him to bring it out.



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                                 CLEWS


Ira ambled along through the woods, emerging at Barrett’s where the
dubious rumors of his past career always assured him a ready welcome. He
had never been of the Barrett’s set, preferring the quiet of the farm,
and the adventurous game of quietly plaguing Aunt Mira. But they knew
him for a former sailor and soldier of fortune (or ill-fortune) and they
respected him for the dark traditions which were associated with his
name.

He sauntered along the shabby little street till he came to the house of
Luke Meadows. He had no better plan than just a quiet tour of
observation and inquiry. He intended to chat with Luke. But his
curiosity had been greatly enlivened since he had seen the deer.

But at Luke’s house he was doomed to surprise and disappointment. The
alien had gone away with his little girl. There had been no furniture
worth moving and the westerner’s few portable belongings (so the
loiterers said) had been taken in a shabby bag.

Luke had not vouchsafed his neighbors any information touching the cause
of his departure or his destination. There was a picture, unconsciously
and crudely drawn by “Missie Ellis,” the neighbor to whose care Meadows
had consigned his little daughter just before the scout had saved him
from arrest and jail. She seemed a motherly person, well chosen by the
man who, in his extremity, had thought only of his little daughter.

“I see them go,” said Mrs. Ellis, “and he was carryin’ her in one arm
and the bag in the other. They went up the road toward Dawson’s and I
says to my man, I says, sumpin is wrong and they’ve gone to git the
train. The county men was allus after him, houndin’ him and houndin’
him; Lord knows, I never knew him to do no harm but shoot game. And the
little kiddie, she was the livin’ image of her mother. I nursed the poor
woman when she died of the flu and Luke he jes stood there by the bed
and lookin’ at her and sayin’ not a word. Even after she went not a word
did he say.

“She was out of her head, she was, and she was sayin’ how they were back
in Cody where they came from and he says, ‘Yes, mommy, we’ll go back;
soon as you can travel we’ll go back.’ They was strangers here; I guess
they was allus thinkin’ and frettin’ about their big wild west. He says
once how he could see miles of prairies, poor man. Sech eyes as he had!
Seemed as if he could see across miles of prairies.

“To-day he had some trouble with Terry again. I don’t know what it was
all about, but there was a youngster over here, a fine likely lookin’
young lad and they took him away to Chandler. I says to my man, they’ve
gone to make the poor, frightened boy tell something and then come back
an’ arrest Luke. So I guess he goes away while it was yet time—Lord
knows what it was all about.”

Ira walked through the poor, little, deserted house and even he was
touched by its bareness. Curious, gossipy neighbors accompanied him,
commenting upon the brown, taciturn man who had gone and taken away with
him the one thing of value that he possessed, his little girl. If he had
gone for fear Westy might weaken, under some rustic third degree, and
incriminate him, he might have saved himself the slight inconvenience of
a hasty departure. The scout who had seen to it that the little
motherless girl and her father were not parted, was not likely to say
one word more than he intended to say to the authorities or to any one
else.

One thing Ira did find in the little house which interested him. This
was a collection of as many as a dozen empty tinfoil packages on the
wooden shelf above the cooking stove. According to the labels they had
contained Mechanic’s Delight Plug Cut tobacco.



                              CHAPTER XXV

                               A BARGAIN


Ira did not see anything remarkable in Westy’s having shot the deer
twice. He was surprised and amused at the boy, having shot it once; it
had caused him to regard Westy as a youthful hero of the true dime novel
brand. But he had not much respect for Westy’s skill as a marksman. And
he was quite ready to believe that two shots had been required to “drop”
the deer. Six or eight shots would not greatly have surprised him.

What puzzled him was the undoubted fact (established by the telltale
tobacco package) that Luke Meadows had very lately been in the
neighborhood of the killing. He had not attached any particular
significance to this package until he had seen similar packages in
Luke’s deserted home. Now he found himself wondering how Westy had
happened to be at Luke’s house, and why Luke had so suddenly gone away.

The true explanation of the whole business never occurred to Ira. That
anybody could voluntarily make the sacrifice that Westy had made was not
within the range of his conception. Probably he had never done a mean
thing in all his checkered career. But, on the other hand, he had
probably never done anything very self-sacrificing. To kidnap a
barbarous king was certainly not the act of a gentleman (as Westy’s
mother had observed) but it was not _mean_....

The nearest that Ira’s cogitations brought him to the truth was his
suspicion that somehow or other Westy and Luke Meadows had both been
involved in the lawless act of killing and that Westy (being the
financier of the pair) had been frightened into taking the blame. In
this case it seemed likely enough that Luke (aware of his dubious
reputation) would depart before Westy should have time to weaken and
incriminate him. This was about the best that he could do with the
rather puzzling circumstances, and several pipefuls of Howling Bulldog
Plug Cut were required to establish this theory.

He had no intention of reopening the unhappy subject with Aunt Mira. It
pleased him to have her believe that Westy was a daring and law-defying
huntsman. And the whole matter would probably have died out of his own
mind in the preoccupation of his farm duties, save for two incidents
which restored his curiosity and revived his interest. Both of these
happened the next day, Saturday.

On that afternoon, Ira took the milk cans to the little station at
Dawson’s and stopped in the post office on the way back. The postmaster,
Jeb Speyer, handed him a letter or two and a rolled up newspaper
addressed to Aunt Mira. On the wrapper of this newspaper were written
the words _marked copy_ and Ira contemplated the address and the
postmark with that ludicrous air of one who seldom reads.

“Guess it’s from that youngster yer had daown t’h’ farm,” commented Mr.
Speyer; “Bridgeberry, hain’t it? That youngster oughter be walloped, and
by gol, I’d be th’ one ter do it, I tell yer; shootin’ up th’ woods
outer season.”

“Well, I d’no,” drawled Ira, ruefully. “I’d kinder think twice ’fore I’d
wallop that kid. He jes soon shoot yer down as look at yer; shot a
school teacher fer givin’ him a bad mark last winter, I heerd.”

“_I want ter know!_” ejaculated Mr. Speyer.

“Yer got ter handle that kid with gloves,” said Ira. “He expects to be a
train robber when he grows up. Let’s have a paper of tobaccy, Jeb.”

“What yer reckon’s become of Luke Meadows, Iry?” Jeb asked.

“Him? Oh, I s’pect the kid killed him and hid him away somewheres. The
whole truth o’ that business ain’t out yet, Jeb.”

“Think so, huh?” said Jeb shrewdly.

“There’s queer things ’bout it,” said Ira darkly.

On the way home he paused at the house of Terry, the game warden. He had
no object in doing this but Terry’s little house was on the way and the
game warden was nailing the deerskin to the barn door, so Ira stopped to
chat. Terry was the terror of game law violators the county over, but he
was a thrifty soul, and benefited so much by illegal killings as to sell
deer and fox skins to the market. Thus poor Luke Meadows put money in
the pocket of Terry, the game warden. Ira’s broad code of morals was not
opposed to this sort of thing and he stood by, chatting idly with Terry
about the value of the skin.

“I got the bullets, I got the bullets,” said Terry’s scrawny little
daughter, exhibiting them proudly in the palm of her outstretched hand.
“See? I got the bullets.”

Half-interested, and more to please the child than for any other reason,
Ira glanced at the bullets. Then, suddenly, he took them in his own hand
and examined them closely.

What interested him about them was that they were not alike.

“These outer the deer, Terry?” he asked.

“Yop, ’n’ don’t you put ’em in yer mouth nuther,” said Terry, addressing
the child instead of Ira. “Them’s poison, them is.”

“I tell yer what I’ll do,” said Ira, fumbling in his pockets. “You give
me them bullets and I’ll give you ten cents an’ yer can buy ice cream
and lolly-pops and them ain’t poison, are they, Terry?”

Terry was too engrossed to review this proposition, but the child
complied with alacrity.

“Now me an’ you is made a bargain,” said Ira. “An’ if I get hungry I can
chew up the bullets ’cause poison don’t hurt me. Once down in South
Americy when I deserted from a ship I et poison toads when I was hidin’
from cannibals; you ask Auntie Miry if that ain’t so. Ain’t that so,
Terry?”

“Reckon it must be,” said Terry, preoccupied.



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                           THE MARKED ARTICLE


Here then was one undoubted fact; the deer had been shot by two
different guns. Ira cogitated upon this fact and tried to make up his
mind what he would do next, or whether he would do anything. And
probably he would not have done anything if it had not been for the
newspaper which he delivered to Aunt Mira. She did not give him this to
read for she still maintained a demeanor of coldness toward this
arch-seducer. But he found the paper on the sitting room table and read
the marked article.

“BRIDGEBORO SCOUTS CONTEST FOR ROTARY CLUB AWARD,” the heading declared.
The article below ran:

“Great excitement prevails among our local scout troops as a result of
the splendid offer of the Rotary Club of our town to send a scout to
Yellowstone National Park next summer. This rare opportunity is offered
to the scout of Rockvale County who, in the opinion of the Club’s
Committee, performed the most conspicuous good turn during the past
summer. Each of the three troops in Bridgeboro has elected a scout for
this contest. All of the deeds presented for the league’s consideration
reflect great credit on the young heroes who performed them.

“The First Bridgeboro Troop, our oldest and largest local unit, presents
Warde Hollister as candidate for the rare treat of a trip to the
Yellowstone. Warde did a great stunt at Temple Camp during the summer
involving both prowess and generous spirit and the First Troop scouts
are moving heaven and earth to secure for him the award which will be a
reflected honor to their splendid organization.”

On the same page with this article was a blank area surrounding an
advertisement and availing himself of this space, Westy had written:

    Dear Aunt Mira:—

    Maybe you’ll be sorry I can’t go to Yellowstone Park because
    I had to do something else with my money. Dad says for me to
    forget about going to Yellowstone. This article shows you
    how, sort of, I will go anyway probably. Because in a scout
    troop all the scouts are sort of like one scout so if Hollie
    goes it will almost be the same as if I went, and I’ll hear
    all about it anyway. So please don’t feel sorry because I
    can’t go to the Yellowstone. I had a dandy time at the farm.
    Give my regards to Ira.

                                                     Westy.

When Ira had finished his unauthorized perusal he lighted his pipe. Ira
could smoke and do anything else at the same time—except read. Reading
required all his effort and when he read, his pipe always took advantage
of his preoccupation to go out. When he had relighted it, he stuffed his
hands as far down as possible in his trousers pockets and went out and
gazed at the landscape. But he did not care anything about the
landscape.

“He’s—one—all round—little—prince,” he mused aloud. “_He’s jes one
nat’ral born little prince!_ They don’t make ’em, that scout club, them
as is like that jes has ter be born that way. By gol, I’d like ter know
what the little rascal act’ally did do.”

He came to the conclusion that what the little rascal had actually done
was to collaborate with Luke Meadows in the adventurous exploit of
killing the deer and then allowed himself to be frightened into assuming
all the guilt and paying the fine. Ira was artless enough, and ignorant
enough of scouting, to believe that this in itself would constitute a
claim upon the Rotary Club of Bridgeboro.

“I ain’t gon to see no kid gon out to the Yellowstone without them gents
knowin’ ’bout this here,” mused Ira. “I’m a-gon ter look inter this mess
summat. I ain’t satisfied with the looks o’ things.”

For a few minutes longer he stood, his back against the house, smoking
and considering. Then, delving into the abysmal depths of his trousers
pocket he disinterred a formidable nickel watch which was innocent of
chain or cord. He had exchanged a carved whale’s tooth for it in some
oriental sea town and it was his pride and boast. If Ira himself had
always been as regular as this miniature town clock no one would have
complained.

“I got jes about enough time ter ketch the six-twenty from Dawson’s,” he
said. “I’m gone ter hev a look at this here Bridgeboro.”

This was as far as he was willing to commit himself. He would go in the
rôle of idle tourist. There remained only one thing to do and that was
to saunter out to the kitchen porch and reach his outlandish felt hat
down from the peg which had been intended for a milk pail. If he had
been going to South Africa, he would have done no more than this. But he
did pay Bridgeboro the tribute of banging his hat against a porch
stanchion to knock the loose dust out of it. Then he sauntered up the
road toward Dawson’s.



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                    ENTER THE CONTEMPTIBLE SCOUNDREL


At eight o’clock that evening, an evening destined to be memorable in
the annals of local scouting, Ira Hasbrook stood upon the porch of the
Martin home and, having pushed the electric button, knocked out the
contents of his pipe against the rail preparatory to entering.

He wore khaki trousers which in some prehistoric era had been brown, a
blue flannel shirt and an old strap from a horse harness by way of a
belt. He was not in the least perturbed, but bore himself with an
easy-going demeanor which had a certain quality that suggested that
nothing less than an earthquake could ruffle it. He was not admitted to
the house by the correct man servant and seemed quite content to wait on
the porch until Mr. Martin (whom he purposed to honor with a call)
should make known his pleasure touching the scene of their interview.

“You want to see me; what is it?” that gentleman demanded curtly.

“You Mr. Martin, huh? Westy’s father?”

“Yes, sir, what can I do for you?”

“Well,” drawled Ira, “you can do a turn fer him, mebbe; and that’ll be
doin’ somethin’ fer me. I’m down off the farm up yonder—up by Dawson’s.”

“Oh, you mean you work for Mr. Nelson?”

“By turns, when I’m in the country. The kid happen to be home?”

“No, sir, he’s not,” said Mr. Martin curtly, “but I think I’ve heard of
you. What is your business here?”

“Well, I never was in no business exactly, as the feller says,” Ira
drawled out. “Kid’s gone ter the meetin’, huh?”

“I believe he has,” said Mr. Martin briskly. “Did Mr. Nelson send you
here? If there is anything you have to say to my son I think it would be
better for you to say it to me.”

“That’s as might be,” said Ira easily. “Would yer want that I should
talk to yer here?”

Mr. Martin stepped aside to let the caller pass within. Ira wiped his
feet but paid no other tribute, nor, indeed, paid the slightest heed to
the rather sumptuous surroundings in which he found himself. He followed
the lord of the establishment into the library and seated himself in one
of the big leather chairs. Mr. Martin did not trouble himself to present
Ira when his wife and daughter (fearful of some newly disclosed sequel
to Westy’s escapade) stole into the room and unobtrusively seated
themselves in a corner.

“Well, sir, what is it?” said Mr. Martin authoritatively.

“Well,” drawled Ira, “it’s ’bout yer son shootin’ a deer.”

“We know about that,” said Mr. Martin coldly.

“Yer don’t happen ter know if he used the rifle since, do you?”

At this there was an audible titter from Doris.

“Oh, yes, I know very well that he hasn’t,” said the official jailer, “I
have it under lock and key.”

“I’d like ter git a squint at that there gun.”

“That would be impossible,” said Mr. Martin.

“Yes?”

“Is there any claim that the gun doesn’t belong to my son? That he——”

“There’s a notion he ain’t been tellin’ the whole gol blamed truth ’bout
that there shootin’ an’ I’m here ter kinder look over the matter, as the
feller says.”

“Did you come here to charge my son with lying?”

“Well, as you might say, _no_.I come here ter charge him with bein’ a
little rascal of a prince. But _of_ course if I thought he was a liar
I’d tell ’im so and I’d tell you so. Jes the same as if I thought you
was a fool or a liar I’d tell yer so.”

“Isn’t he perfectly splendid,” Doris whispered in her mother’s ear.
“Isn’t he picturesque? Oh, I think he’s just adorable.”

“Well, now, my man,” said Mr. Martin, considerably jarred by his
caller’s frank declaration, “what is it? I think I’ve heard of you and I
think if it wasn’t for you that murderous toy wouldn’t be locked up in
that closet there.” Ira glanced toward the family dungeon. “As I
understand it, from what Mrs. Nelson says, you got my boy’s head full of
nonsense and he ran amuck. He told the truth and confessed it and lost a
hundred dollars and his gun and a trip out west. And the gun’s locked up
in that closet where it will never do any more harm. It will never shoot
any more deer in season or out of season—I suppose you’ve shot them both
ways.”

“Yes, sir, I have,” drawled Ira, “but I never used more than one gun at
a time; I never dropped an animal with two different kinds of bullets
like your boy did——”

Mr. Martin looked surprised.

“I was thinkin’,” said Ira, not giving Mr. Martin a chance to comment
upon this mystery, “that maybe not knowin’ much ’bout guns and bein’
sceered of ’em—I can always mostly spot folks that’s daffy ’bout
firearms—I was thinking maybe you was just crazy fool enough when you
was mad ter lock that murderous toy up while it was loaded. _Of_ course
if you done that you can’t exactly say it won’t do no more harm.”

This was exactly what Mr. Martin had done and a titter from his daughter
reminded him that he was at a slight disadvantage.

“I’d like ter see whether both shots has been fired outer that gun,” Ira
drawled on. “I’d jes kind of sorter like to look it over. And while I’m
at it, I’ll take out the cartridge that I think is still in it. Then it
can’t bite. Maybe I’ll be able ter tell yer somethin’ or other when I
get through. Now you jes get that gun out without any more foolin’
around or else yer don’t deserve ter be the father o’ that kid. Get it
out an’ don’t waste no more time; them gents is startin’ a meetin’ up
yonder.”



                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                                 PROOFS


Ira Hasbrook took no notice of the tribute paid him by the mother and
daughter and father who clustered about him evidently not in the least
afraid of the gun now that it was in his hands. Even Mr. Martin
contemplated it without a quiver. Upon the library table lay one
cartridge. The other had done its good turn.

“Yer see this here is one of them repeaters,” said Ira. “’Tain’t goin’
ter hurt yer. Yer see these here two cartridges I got in my pocket? They
come outer the deer. They ain’t the same size, yer see? Two guns. The
one I jes took out matches that there little one outer my pocket. This
here big one came outer another gun—that ain’t no repeater. Now looka
here, here’s what tells the story—the gol blamed little rascal of a
double barrel prince! Looka here—feel on the end of that barrel. Powder.

“Feel, mister, ’twon’t bite yer. Yer know what that means? That means
yer a proud father. I wasn’t gone ter shake hands with yer, but gol
blame it, I think I will! Feel it! Smell it! Powder, all right. That
means your boy was—about—gol, that toy o’ his wasn’t six inches from
that there deer when he shot it in the head.” He scrutinized and felt of
something near the end of the barrel. “Blood even! See that; that’s a
hair! I knowed I’d ketch the little rascal. _Mister, that boy o’ yours
shot that animal ter put it outer its suffering._”

There was a moment’s pause as they clustered about Ira where he stood
near the library table squinting curiously at the end of the barrel and
gingerly examining it with one finger. And only one sound broke the
silence; that was when an almost inaudible “_oh_” of astonishment and
admiration escaped from Doris. “It’s wonderful,” she said more clearly
after a pause.

“Be sure yer sins’ll find yer out, as the feller says,” drawled Ira.

“If it hadn’t been for you——” Mrs. Martin began.

“All right, mister,” Ira laughed, “yer don’t need ter be scared of her,
she’s empty. The only thing’s goner do any damage now is me. I’m goner
shoot up th’ Rotary Club. Now where’s this here meetin’ anyway? I’m
a-goner look it over.”



                              CHAPTER XXIX

                               THE RALLY


The assembly hall of the Bridgeboro High School presented a gala scene.
The whole thing had come about unexpectedly; it had been an
“inspiration” as Pee-wee would have said. The local newspaper at the
instigation of several public-spirited individuals and organizations of
town, had stirred up a festival spirit in the interest of the Boy Scouts
which must have surprised the kindly gentlemen of the Rotary Club who
had certainly never expected that the award they had offered would be
made the occasion of a public rally.

But Mrs. Gibson of the Woman’s Club had seen the opportunity for a “real
Scout night,” and the giving of the coveted award had been hooked up
with a well-planned rally. The Rotary Club was in it, the Woman’s Club
was in it, the Campfire Girls were in it, the Y.M.C.A. was in it, and
Pee-wee Harris was in it. He was not only in it, he was all over it.
Most of the troops in the county had lately returned from their summer
outings and they blew into Bridgeboro, tanned and enthusiastic. Not all
troops had elected candidates for the great award, but all were
interested. It was Scout Night in Bridgeboro.

“Our troop is going to sit in the front row,” shouted Pee-wee; “and
listen—everybody keep still—_listen_—when Warde gets called up on the
stage—that’s the way they’re going to do—when he—shut up and listen—when
he gets called up on the stage, don’t start shouting till I do. When I
shout——”

“I never heard you stop shouting,” said Roy.

“I have to start in order to stop, don’t I?” Pee-wee roared. “How can I
shout without being still first?”

“How are you going to get still?” Roy shot back.

“You leave it to me,” yelled Pee-wee. “Don’t anybody shout till I do.
Then when I start everybody shout—wait a minute—this is what you all
have to shout:

                           Yell, yell, yell,
                           Yell, yell, yell,
                           Yell, yell, yell,
                               Yellowstone!

I invented it because it’s got a lot of yells in it.”

“He thinks Yellowstone Park is named after a yell,” shouted Roy.

The First Bridgeboro Troop did sit in the front row and for a while
Pee-wee was silent—while he finished eating an apple. The first six or
eight rows were filled with scouts and their patrol pennants raised here
and there made an inspiring and festive show. Behind them was the
regular audience. On the stage a khaki tent had been pitched with logs
piled outside it and a huge iron pot hanging over them upon a rough
crane.

“Oh, boy, I wish that was filled with hunter’s stew,” Pee-wee whispered
to Dorry Benton who sat next to him. “Yum, yum, I wish I was on that
platform.”

“He’s so hungry he could eat an imitation meal,” Dorry whispered to Roy.

“Tell him to wait till the curtain comes down with a roll and he can eat
that,” whispered Roy.

There was singing, and a high scout official from National Headquarters
made a speech. The bronze cross was given to one proud scout, the Temple
life-saving medal to another. A patrol from Little Valley gave a skilful
demonstration of first aid. The Boy Scout Band from Northvale played
several pieces; they had a very snappy little band, the Northvale Troop.

Then, a scout was blindfolded and led to the tent. He promised to jump
up as soon as he heard the least sound of approach. Then a barefooted
scout stole up, while the audience waited in suspense, and had actually
started removing the bandage from the other boy’s eyes before the latter
knew he was near. This brought great applause. The Campfire Girls sang
in chorus and gave some interesting demonstrations. It was a pretty good
program.

It was after ten o’clock when Mr. Atwater, of the Rotary Club, arose
from among those seated on the stage and, drawing a batch of papers from
his pocket, started to address the audience.

“Three cheers for the Rotary Club of Bridgeboro!” some one called. And
three rousing cheers were given for that organization.

“Hurrah for Yellowstone Park!” one called.

“Hurrah for the scout that we don’t know who he is!” another shouted,
and there was much laughter.

“Yes, we do know, too!” arose the thunderous voice of Scout Harris.

“We’ll all know very soon,” laughed Mr. Atwater, “if you’ll give me a
chance to speak.”

A certain atmosphere of tenseness seemed to pervade the front rows of
the assembly hall. Scouts became restless, there were whispering and
demands for quiet. Mr. Atwater smilingly waited.

Then silence.



                              CHAPTER XXX

                           OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


“My good friends,” said Mr. Atwater, “Shakespeare tells us that some are
born great and some have greatness thrust upon them. The Rotary Club
seems to have greatness thrust upon it. In an evil moment, one of our
members suggested giving a trip to the Yellowstone Park as a reward for
the best scout good turn performed in this county during the past
summer. Through the press scout troops were invited to elect members
eligible, by reason of their deeds, to compete for this award. The
Rotary Club had no expectation of being dragged into the light of day
and fulfilling its promise before the multitude——”

“Don’t you be scared,” shouted Pee-wee.

“I think I can get through with it,” laughed Mr. Atwater, amid much
laughter. “I have seen much to-night and it is my pleasure and pride to
put one boy scout in the way of seeing more—that great, vast wonderland
of the west, the Yellowstone National Park! (Great applause.) To him
that hath shall be given, as the Bible tells us. The Rotary Club cannot
make a hero. But I think it can pick one. And that it has tried to do
impartially, fairly. (Applause.)

“The trouble with the Boy Scouts in Rockvale County is that they have
too many heroes; it isn’t a question of finding one, but more a question
of weeding them out. (Laughter.)

“When I was a boy I got a medal for washing my hands and face each day
(including under my ears) and twice on Sundays. I kept up with that
ordeal for a period of weeks and then I got the cleanliness medal—and
lost it. I have always been sorry that I washed my hands and face each
day—including under my ears. (Great laughter.) Because now I have
nothing to show for it. (Cheers and uproarious laughter.)

“So when this proposition of an award came up I said, ‘If we’re going to
give an award at all, let’s give something that can’t fall out of a
boy’s pocket. (Laughter.) Let’s give something that he can’t swap off
for a jack-knife—something that the teacher can’t take away from him.’”

“You said it!” shouted Pee-wee.

“When I was a kid (anticipatory laughter), a century or two ago,
everything I had sooner or later fell into the hands of my teacher.
(Broad smile from Principal Starky on the platform.) So I said let’s
give this young hero something he’ll always have! Let’s give him
mountains, and geysers and forests and grizzly bears, and lots to eat——”

“Oh, boy!” said Pee-wee.

“And if anybody can get those things away from him let them have them.”

If every laughing face in that audience had not been directed at the
genial speaker who had captivated all, perhaps some might have noticed
the boy who sat in silence looking wistfully at the speaker and
listening intently.

As Mr. Atwater passed on to more serious talk, that boy’s attention
seemed to concentrate and become tense. He saw neither Roy on his right
hand, nor Warde Hollister on his left, only the stage and the speaker,
and he seemed to be in a sort of trance. Only once did he speak and that
was when (under the spell of some alluring phrase of the speaker’s) he
said to Warde, “I hope you do get it, it’s our troop.” Then he said to
himself. “If it isn’t my trip it’s my troop.” Further than this, no one,
not even the restless and whispering Pee-wee, could draw his attention
from the speaker.

“The Yellowstone National Park,” Mr. Atwater continued, “is Uncle Sam’s
great playground. There you are welcome. The geysers jump up when they
see you coming; the grizzly bears hug you to death. (Laughter.) You can
shoot the rapids but you can’t shoot anything else. You can leave your
gun at home, young fellow, because that wonderland belongs to the deer
just as much as it belongs to you. You can’t kill deer in the
Yellowstone.”

Westy winced. Was the speaker looking at him? Of course not—foolish,
sensitive boy....

“Now, one of you scouts is going out to the Yellowstone next summer, on
the Rotary Club of Bridgeboro. The amount of money you will have to take
is just _not one cent_! You’re going to stay there for a month and bang
around—all expenses paid. You’re going to come back and say that old
Uncle Sam has some back-yard to play in. (Laughter.) You’re going to get
onto a friendly basis with forest rangers and bears, and deer, and trout
fishing and what all. No medal! No gewgaw to sew on your sleeve! No gold
piece to buy candy with! Just a trip to Uncle Sam’s Wonderland, the
Yellowstone National Park! (Great applause.)

“Now who is going to have this trip? Six gentlemen and four ladies have
decided and they’re all here on the platform. (Applause.) And they did
the best they could to decide. It becomes my duty now to announce the
winner of this award. Edwin Carlisle of the Second Westboro Troop will
please stand up.”



                              CHAPTER XXXI

                        SHOOTIN’ UP THE MEETIN’


A tense silence prevailed. Pee-wee gasped, speechless. Even the
exuberant Roy stared. “_What do—you—know—about—that!_” Doc Carson
whispered to Artie Van Arlen. As Westy had been staring spellbound all
along, no turn in his thoughts was visible in his features. Warde
Hollister, of all the boys in the troop, seemed unperturbed.
Level-headed and sensible scout that he was, he had let the others do
the hoping, and the shouting.

“We don’t get it,” whispered Dorry Benton.

“Look!” whispered Wig Weigand to Warde.

But the figure that came sauntering down the aisle was not Edwin
Carlisle, the hero. A queer enough figure he looked in that
representative assemblage in his faded trousers and blue flannel shirt.
Rough, uncouth and unaccustomed to such environment, he still bore a
certain air of serene heedlessness to all this pomp and circumstance, as
if he were concerned only with that which was really significant and
vital. One could not say of him that he _seemed_ at home, for that would
be paying the place an unconscious tribute. His calm assurance and easy
strength seemed to imply that the whole world was his home and that one
place was much like another to him.

He paused half-way down the aisle and then for the first time the boys
in the front row saw him, just as he began to speak. Westy Martin stared
aghast like one seeing a ghost and his heart thumped in his throat as he
listened.

“I d’no’s I oughter speak out ’n meetin’, as the feller says, but I got
somethin’ ter say in this here jamboree.”

A silence like the silence of the grave followed. One astonished girl
(it might have been Doris Martin) said something undistinguishable in an
amazed, audible whisper.

“I been in the Yallerstone,” drawled the speaker, “an’ I like what you
said—you gent. But I’m interested in somethin’ bigger ’n the Yallerstone
an’ that’s a kid yer got here. He’s big enough ter make the Yallerstone
look like one er them there city grass-plots I see. I’m talkin’ ter you,
mister, an’ before you go ter makin’ any plunge yer better listen. I was
goner speak out when you says somethin’ ’baout shootin’ deer, but I
didn’.

“I’m down off a farm up Dawson way owned by his uncle—this here kid I’m
talkin’ ’baout. And if he’s settin’ roun’ here anywheres an’ hears me
tell any lies ’baout him he can up an’ call me a liar. Then I’ll let him
have—jes—two—shots—that’ll shut ’im up.”

“Gracious!” Some lady said shuddering. “Is he a lunatic?”

“Two shots, one big and one little I got in my pocket and I’ll tell him
to his face that he’s a little rascal of a prince. Yer happen ter be
anywheres around, Westy?”

Silence, save for nervously fidgeting figures and people down in front
turning and craning to see this strange apparition.

“Stand up, Westy, cause yer got ter go through with it and I’m down off
the farm ter take care o’ that. Some o’ you youngsters make him stand
up, wherever he is.”

They made him stand up, and there he stood, nervous, ashamed, gulping.
He longed to be near Ira, to say “This is my friend,” yet he could not
bring himself even to look at him.

“There yer are—thanks, you boys. Now, mister, that there kid had a
hunderd dollars saved up ter go to Yallerstone Park; he worked fer it,
chorin’ roun’ on the farm, helpin’ me hayin’ an’ what all. He starts
home with his hunderd dollars an’ sees a deer in the woods what’s been
dropped but ain’t killed—don’t leave ’im sit down, you boys.

“Now, mister, he shoots that deer in the head and kills it ter end its
sufferings. He don’t know no more ’baout shootin’ than a drunken maniac
but at two or three inches he killed his deer. All right, mister. Then
he goes ter Barrett’s, a little settlement up our way. I d’no what he
goes fer. But I’m thinkin’ he goes ter see the man that shot that deer
first off. Leastways, when that man got the blame like he deserved, this
kid he up and says it was _him_ killed the deer. So ’twas, the little
rascal, but you see _how_ ’twas. Well, he gets arrested an’ he pays out
his precious hunderd dollars and comes home and says _he_ killed a deer
and gets a good tongue lashin’ and loses his gun, but he sticks fast.

“Now all I come here fer now is ter let you folks in onter that stunt o’
his an’ ask you if he gets his trip to the Yallerstone that he cheated
himself out of, or not. I don’t know nuthin’ ’baout kind turns ’cause I
ain’t never did none, but I wanter know if this here kid gets his trip
out Yallerstone way or not. Now, if I’m lyin’ he’ll tell yer so, ’cause
I understand these scout fellers don’t lie. I jes wanter know if he gets
his trip out Yallerstone way or not.”



                             CHAPTER XXXII

                         THE BOY EDWIN CARLISLE


Consternation reigned. In the front row, where the First Bridgeboro
Troop sat, confusion prevailed. Pee-wee, in accordance with the old
precept of “Off with the old love, on with the new,” forgot for the
moment Warde’s chagrin and shouted uproariously for Westy.

“_It’s going to be in our troop anyway!_” he yelled. “_It’s just the
same only different!_”

And meanwhile, a trim-looking boy, Edwin Carlisle, was standing in the
audience waiting patiently and smiling, somewhat embarrassed.

Mr. Atwater turned and conferred with his colleagues on the platform.
Pee-wee, restrained by his nearest neighbors, subsided into silence.
Westy (probably more utterly wretched than any one in the hall) tried to
silence excited questioners. “Who is he?” “Is it true?” “Is he crazy?”
“Did you ever see him before?” “I bet it’s the truth!” These and similar
whispered comments were showered upon him and he could only keep looking
about sheepishly, as if he were ashamed to have the spectators behold
this fuss.

The boy, Edwin Carlisle, standing quietly among his sitting colleagues
some distance off, made a rather pathetic picture. His was not an easy
rôle but he bore himself with a demeanor of patience and good humor.

And meanwhile, the outlandish stranger who had “shot up” the meeting
remained like a statue half-way down the aisle calmly awaiting an answer
to his question. Once it seemed as if he were on the point of lighting
his pipe, but he did not do that.

It was Mr. Atwater who put an end to this rather embarrassing interval.

“Just be seated—a few moments—my boy,” he said, addressing the Carlisle
boy. Then to Ira he said, “Suppose you come up here on the platform, my
friend, if you don’t mind; we’d like to speak with you.”

Ira did not seem to mind. He ambled the rest of the way down the aisle,
turned to the left past a troop of scouts who stared at him as if he
were a trapper or a cowboy, and up the steps to the stage. Then for the
first time everybody saw him. Mrs. Ashly (conspicuous in the Woman’s
Club) arose as if on a sudden impulse and shook hands with him
cordially. He looked out of place but not ill at ease. He had walked
through the audience as a man might walk through a forest.

Scarcely was he on the platform when something happened. A rather large
man, with a big, round, rugged face stood up in the audience. He was an
elderly man and dangled a pair of glasses as he spoke.

“May I join you ladies and gentlemen on the platform?” he asked.

“You bet you may,” came the genial response from Mr. Atwater. “If we had
known you were there, Mr.——”

“_It’s Mr. Temple! It’s Mr. Temple!_” whispered Pee-wee excitedly. “Oh,
boy, it’s Mr. Temple! Now there’s going to be something doing—_shhh_!”

“Listen to who’s saying _shhh_!” whispered Roy.

“_Shhhh_, there’s going to be something doing, there’s going to be
something doing,” said Pee-wee.

“There is,” said Roy grimly. “You’re going to be thrown out if you don’t
shut up.”



                             CHAPTER XXXIII

                       MR. TEMPLE’S LUCKY NUMBER


Mr. John Temple, philanthropist, founder of Temple Camp and friend of
scouting, had evidently sensed a delicate and perhaps difficult
situation, and had gone to the rescue. He was given a fine welcome on
the stage and the burst of applause by the audience showed that his
public spirit and generosity were well known.

Every town has its wealthy and distinguished citizen; the good work of
such men lives after them in libraries and hospitals. Mr. Temple was
Bridgeboro’s most distinguished character—next to Pee-wee. And even
Pee-wee paid him the compliment of declaring, “He buys more railroads
every day than I do ice cream cones.” If he did, he must have owned
practically all the roads in the country.

After an interval of suspense, which was seen in an acute stage among
the scouts, Mr. Atwater turned to the audience and said, “Stand up
again, Edwin Carlisle.”

The demeanor of this Carlisle boy was scoutish in the highest degree.
Many were already wondering what he had done to warrant his selection as
the winner of the great award. He had been on the point of receiving it
when Ira had “shot up” the meeting. He had stood patiently and
cheerfully waiting while he saw the honor that was his slipping away
from him with every sentence of Ira’s drawling talk.

He had reseated himself with no sign of disappointment or resentment
when told to do so. And now he stood again among his comrades, cheerful,
willing, obedient. And there he stood with Yellowstone Park dangling
before his eyes and knew not what to think, but seemed content to abide
by the issue. Mr. Temple had seen him (shrewd man that he was he had
watched him amid the tumult when no one else had watched him) and Edwin
Carlisle, scout of Westboro, was safe.

After a little while (it seemed an hour) Mr. Atwater withdrew from an
earnestly whispered conference and stood up to address the audience
again. Mr. Temple took a seat in the row of chairs facing the audience.
He seemed purposely to choose a seat beside Ira who sat, one knee over
the other, bending forward with his arms about his knee. The hunched
attitude was familiar to Westy and took him back to the kitchen porch at
the farm where he had listened to Ira’s dubious reminiscences. Mr.
Temple spoke genially to him from time to time, and once laughed audibly
at something Ira said. It might possibly have been the kidnapping
episode.

“Westy Martin,” said Mr. Atwater, “stand up.”

Westy stood, all bewildered. He was so close to the stage that one
nervous hand rested upon the molding which bordered it. A curious
contrast he seemed to the boy standing in the darkness of the hall some
distance back. But Ira Hasbrook caught his eye and winked a kind of
lowering wink at him, and Westy smiled back.

“You heard what this man said, Martin; is it true?”

“Y-yes, sir.”

“All true?”

“Y-yes—yes, it is.”

“Well, then, my young friend, it becomes my privilege to inform you that
you have won the award of the Rotary Club of Bridgeboro of a trip to the
Yellowstone National Park (great applause) next summer. Your troop is
congratulated (process of gagging Pee-wee) and you have the unstinted
and unanimous commendation of this committee for your generous and
self-sacrificing act. (Applause.) Your friend Mr. Hasbrook wishes me to
say how fortunate it was that you had your rifle with you and were not
afraid to use it.

“You will be glad to know that Mr. John Temple (who delights in taking
glory away from other people) has made a proposition which somewhat
amplifies the Club’s award. Indeed it puts our poor Club somewhat in the
shadow. He says that three is his lucky number. (Laughter.) And he,
therefore, proposes that a scout in your troop of whose exploit
honorable mention was to have been made, Warde Hollister, accompany you
to the Yellowstone at his expense.

“The scout to whom the honor was to have been awarded, Edwin Carlisle of
Westboro, receives also honorable mention for his exploit in putting out
a forest fire. He too is to be a recipient of Mr. Temple’s munificence
and is likewise awarded the honor of accompanying you.

“You, Martin, go as the Rotary Club’s winning candidate. Carlisle and
Hollister go with you as the two winners of special mention for their
exploits and are sent by Mr. Temple. I have suggested to him that you be
called the Temple Trio, but he insists that the name of the Rotary Club
shall be used. Your friend Mr. Hasbrook suggests that since probably
none of you know how to shoot, you be called the Bungling Bunch.” (Great
laughter suddenly increased to uproar by the thunderous voice of Scout
Harris.)

“It’s just like I said it would be, only more so!” he shouted.
“It’s—it’s—it’s—it’s like two helpings of dessert! We’re going to have
two of them in our troop! That shows even when I’m mistaken I’m right!”

And amid the tumult of cheers and laughter, Edwin Carlisle, scout of
Westboro, stood smiling, silent, obedient, till Mr. Atwater called to
him that he might sit down.

So it happened that Westy Martin not only went to the Yellowstone, but
went in company of two companions the following summer. It was natural
that in the long interval of waiting these three scouts should strike up
a sort of special comradeship, and by spring they were inseparable.

At last the big day came, and they were speeding westward in a
comfortable Pullman car, beguiling the tedious hours of travel by
matching their wits against a rather amusing stranger, a traveling man,
whose acquaintance they had made on the train.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV

                              WESTWARD HO


“Grizzlies? Oh, hundreds of them! But they’re away back up in the
mountains; you won’t see them.”

“They’re about the fiercest animals there, aren’t they?” one of the boys
asked.

“Well,” drawled the traveling man, working his cigar over to the corner
of his mouth and contemplating the boys in the shrewd way he had. “I
don’t know about that. The wallerpagoes are pretty ructious. But they
don’t bother you unless you bother them. Now you take a skehinkum, one
of the big kind——”

“You mean the kind with the whitish black fur?” Warde Hollister laughed.

The traveling man worked his cigar over to the opposite corner of his
mouth and looked at Warde with an expression of humorous skepticism.
“Don’t you learn about them in the boy scouts?” he asked.

“Oh, positively,” said Warde. “They’re all right is long as you don’t
feed them on gum-drops.”

The traveling man was having the time of his life with the three boys.
They called him the traveling man because they thought he looked and
talked like one. They had ventured to ask him his business and he had
told them that it was starting revolutions in South America. He had even
hinted that he was in a plot to blow up the Panama Canal, and had asked
them not to mention this to their parents. He had said that if they kept
his secret he might later let them in on a scheme to restore North
America to its rightful owners, the Indians. “Wrap it up and we’ll take
it and deliver it to them,” Warde Hollister had said.

Throughout the long journey they had wondered and speculated as to what
and who this amusing stranger really was. And they had decided in
conference that he was a traveling salesman. He seemed to have a hearty
contempt for the boasted prowess of boy scouts, but the three boys did
not dislike him for that. In the pleasant art of jollying they had been
able to hold their own. And he seemed to like them for that. But he
would not take them seriously.

They had told him about tracking and signaling and outdoor
resourcefulness and woods lore and he had been pleased to poke fun at
them about their skill and knowledge. He had appeared to derive much
entertainment from this pastime. Pee-wee Harris (Raven and mascot) would
have been able to “handle” him, but unfortunately Pee-wee was not on
this trip. So the responsibility for defending the dignity of scouting
fell to Warde Hollister, Edwin Carlisle and Westy Martin.

“And bandits?” Westy asked.

“Bandits? Oceans of them! They spurt right up out of the geysers,” said
the stranger.

“What could be sweeter?” said Eddie Carlisle.

“Can’t you answer a civil question?” Westy asked, the least bit testily.

“Things have to be civil to suit you, hey?” the traveling man said.
“Anything uncivilized: and——”

“We’re asking you if it’s true that there are train robbers and men like
that in the park?” Westy said.

“Sure there are,” said the stranger. “Where do you suppose they buy
their post cards to send home?”

The three boys seemed on the point of giving him up as a hopeless case.

“Why? Do you want to go hunting them?” the stranger asked.

“We wouldn’t be the first boy scouts to help the authorities,” Warde
said.

This seemed to amuse the traveling man greatly. He contemplated the
three of them with a kind of good-humored, sneering skepticism. Then he
was moved to be serious.

“Well, I’ll tell you how it is,” he said. “The Yellowstone Park is
really two places; see? There’s the wild Yellowstone and the tame
Yellowstone. The park is full of grizzlies and rough characters of the
wild and fuzzy west but they don’t patronize the sightseeing autos.
They’re kind of modest and diffident and they stay back in the mountains
where you won’t see them. You know train robbers as a rule are sort of
bashful.

“You kids are just going to see the park and you’ll have your hands
full, too. You’ll sit in a nice comfortable automobile and the man will
tell you what to look at and you’ll see geysers and things and canyons
and a lot of odds and ends and you’ll have the time of your lives.
There’s a picture shop between Norris and the Canyon; you drop in there
and see if you can get a post card showing Pelican Cone. That’ll give
you an idea of where _I’ll_ be. You can think of me up in the wilderness
while you’re listening to the concert in the Old Faithful Inn. That’s
where they have the big geyser in the back yard—spurts once an hour,
Johnny on the spot. I suppose,” added the stranger with that shrewd,
skeptical look which was beginning to tell on the boys, “that if you
kids really saw a grizzly you wouldn’t stop running till you hit New
York. I think you said scouts know how to run.”

“We wouldn’t stop there,” said the Carlisle boy; “we’d be so scared that
we’d just take a running jump across the Atlantic Ocean and land in
Europe.”

“What would you really do now if you met a bandit?” the stranger asked.
“_Shoot him dead_ I suppose, like Deadwood Dick in the dime novels.”

“We don’t read dime novels,” said Westy.

“But just the same,” said Warde, “it might be the worse for that bandit.
Didn’t you read——”

The traveling man laughed outright.

“All right, you can laugh,” said Westy, a trifle annoyed.

The stranger stuck his feet up between Warde and Westy, who sat in the
seat facing and put his arm on the farther shoulder of Eddie Carlisle
who sat beside him. Then he worked his unlighted cigar across his mouth
and tilted it at an angle which somehow seemed to bespeak a good-natured
contempt of the boy scouts.

“Just between ourselves,” said he, “who takes care of the publicity
stuff for the boy scouts anyway? Who puts all this stuff in the
newspapers about boy scouts finding lost people and saving lives and
putting out forest fires and plugging up holes in dams and saving towns
from floods and all that sort of thing? I read about one kid who found a
German wireless station during the war——”

“That was true,” snapped Warde, stung into some show of real anger by
this flippant slander. “I suppose you don’t know that a scout out west
in Illinois——”

“You mean out _east_ in Illinois,” laughed the stranger. “You’re in the
wild and woolly west and you don’t even know it. I suppose if you were
dropped from the train right now you’d start west for Chicago.”

The three boys laughed for it did seem funny to think of Illinois being
far east of them. They felt a bit chagrined too at the realization that,
after all, their view of the rugged wonders they were approaching was to
be enjoyed from the rather prosaic vantage point of a sightseeing auto.
What would Buffalo Bill or Kit Carson have said to that?

The traveling man looked out of the window and said, “We’ll hit Emigrant
pretty soon if it’s still there. The cyclones out here blow the villages
around so half the time the engineer don’t know where to look for them.
I remember Barker’s Corners used to be right behind a big tree in
Montana and it got blown away and they found it two years afterward in
Arizona.”



                              CHAPTER XXXV

                              THE STRANGER


Emigrant. The last stop on the long, long journey from New York. The
last stop till the thundering train would reach the Gardiner entrance of
the Yellowstone National Park. They were within thirty miles of that
wonderland.

Westy was glad that there was one more station to be reached before his
dream should be a reality. His nerves were so much on edge that the one,
poor, little station of Emigrant would act as a sort of valve to relieve
him of the tension that he felt. He was glad that they weren’t going to
reach their destination quite yet—he was too excited. Yes, he was glad
there was just one more station. Then, _then_——

As for the traveling man, he seemed to be about as excited and
anticipatory as if he were strolling across the street to buy another
cigar.

The train thundered along through the rugged Montana country, its
screeching whistle now and again echoing from the towering mountains.
On, on, on it rushed with a kind of disdainful preoccupation, going
straight about its business, circling the frowning heights, crossing
torrents, unhindered, invincible. Did anybody live or even venture in
those wild mountains, Westy wondered. Were there trails there? Could it
be that grizzly bears heard in their fastnesses the shriek of that steel
monster that was rushing straight to its end?

Only this roaring, swerving, thundering, rushing train stood between
Westy Martin and those uninhabited wilds. No smudge signal would save
him there. No approved device for helping the lost pilgrim in distress
would serve him in that endless, rugged wilderness. The leather seat of
the smoking car seemed good to him.

“Who’s going to look after you kids?” their traveling acquaintance
asked.

The boys, particularly Warde, did not like to hear it put that way but
he answered, “The auto is going to meet us at Gardiner; there’s a scout
official who’s going to be there and they’ll call our names out. They’re
going to take us to the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs. After that we go
on a kind of a tour. It’s all planned out for us.”

“Well, I’ll be with you as far as the Springs,” said the stranger, “so
if you don’t make connections all right I’ll get things fixed up for
you. How the dickens did you three kids happen to beat it out here
anyway?”

“If we told you, you’d only laugh,” said Ed Carlisle. “We did some
stunts, that’s how. We——”

“Don’t you tell him unless he tells us what _he’s_ doing out here,”
Warde said.

“All right, that’s a go,” laughed the stranger.

“I bet you’re just selling things to tourists,” said Westy. “I bet
you’re bringing a lot of souvenirs of Yellowstone Park from New York to
sell out here.”

“Yes, and how about you?” the stranger asked.

“We’re sent by the Rotary Club,” said Warde, “because we did three
things to win the award.” The traveling man cocked his head sideways and
listened in a humorously skeptical way which was very annoying. “You
found somebody who was lost in the woods?” he queried.

“No, we didn’t find somebody who was lost in the woods,” Warde said
somewhat testily.

“No? Well then they sent you because you’re the only three boy scouts
that haven’t done that. I congratulate you, here’s my hand.”

“This fellow, Westy Martin,” said Warde, “killed a deer that somebody
else had shot because he wanted to put it out of its suffering and he
let people think he was the one that shot it; he did that so they
wouldn’t punish the other person. But it was found out so they gave him
the good turn award. This other fellow put out a forest fire and I took
a long hike and got a job for somebody. So now what are you doing out
here? You didn’t even tell us your name.”

“Well, that’s very nice,” said their acquaintance; “my name is Madison
C. Wilde and I’m mixed up with the Educational Films——”

“You’re in the movies?” shouted Ed.

“Just at present,” said Mr. Madison C. Wilde. “I’m in the business of
getting snap-shots of wild animals to show you fellows when you happen
to have thirty cents to buy a ticket. Anything else you’d like to know?”

“I’d like to know if you’re really going up on that mountain, Pelican
Cove, like you said,” Westy asked.

“What do you suppose I’ve been hanging around Washington, D. C. for the
last two weeks for?” Mr. Wilde asked. “I’d rather stalk grizzlies on
Pelican Cone than stalk National Park Directors in Washington. I’d
rather go after pictures than permits, I can tell you that if anybody
should ask you. Grizzlies are bad enough, but park directors”—he shook
his head in despair—“that bunch in Washington,” and shook his head
again.

The boys stared at him. In their minds the pursuit of wild animals, for
whatever purpose, was associated with buckskin and cartridge-laden
belts. Yet here was a little man with a bristly mustache whose only
weapon was an unlighted cigar innocently pointing toward heaven. They
had already imbibed enough of the atmosphere of the legendary west to be
somewhat shocked at the thought of this brisk, little man, with all the
prosaic atmosphere of the city about him, going into the wilds to stalk
grizzlies. He did not seem at all like Buffalo Bill.

“Gee whiz!” ejaculated Westy. “I thought you were a salesman or
something like that.”

Mr. Madison C. Wilde gave him a whimsical look and proceeded to draw
forth from an inside pocket a mammoth wallet while the three boys stared
speechless. Could this man be just fooling them? The wallet was
formidable enough to stagger any grizzly. It was bulging with money,
which to the boys seemed to confirm the stranger’s connection with the
movies, where fabulous sums are possessed and handed about. Mr. Wilde
was as deliberate with his wallet as any hunter of the woolly west could
possibly have been with his gun. He screwed his cigar over to the end of
his mouth, tilted it to an almost vertical position, then closing one
eye he explored the caves and fastnesses of his wallet with the other.

His quest eventually resulted in the capture of a paper which he brought
forth out of a veritable jungle of bills and documents. “Here we are,”
said he, tenderly unfolding the document.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI

                           AN IMPORTANT PAPER


“With the exception of the Declaration of Independence,” said Mr. Wilde,
“this is the most valuable paper in the world.”

He handed it to Westy and the three boys, reading it together, saw that
it was a permit issued by the director of the National Park Service at
Washington to Mr. Alexander Creston, President of the Educational Film
Company of New York to “dispatch employees of said Educational Film
Company into such remote sections of the Yellowstone National Park as
should be designated by the local park authorities for the purpose of
securing photographs of the wild life, the use of traps and firearms
being strictly prohibited. This permit expires——” And so forth and so
forth. It concluded with the signature of the director of the National
Park Service.

“Gee williger!” said Westy.

“Talking about stalking!” said Ed.

“No wonder you laugh at us,” said Warde.

“Did you ever try stalking officials in Washington?” Mr. Wilde asked.

“We never stalked anything but robins and—and turtles and things like
that,” said Warde with a note of self-disgust in his voice.

“Never hit the red tape trail, hey? Well I guess turtles are pretty near
as slow as Washington officials. I’ve been just exactly three weeks in
Washington stalking this permit. Pretty good specimen, hey? That’s more
valuable than any grizzly, that is.” He gazed at it with a look of
whimsical affection and tucked it safely away in his wallet.

“It makes us feel kind of silly,” said Westy, “to think of the kind of
things you’re going to do. I guess it’s no wonder you make fun of us.”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Mr. Wilde not unkindly and with some
approach to seriousness in his voice and manner, “you scout kids are all
right. You get lots of fresh air and exercise and they’re the best
things for you. You go stalking June-bugs and caterpillars and it keeps
you out of mischief. It’s just the difference between the amateur and
the professional. Now you kids go in for these things as a pastime and
that’s all right. You’re having the time of your lives. I’m for the boy
scouts first, last and always. Stalking, tracking, etc., you make games
out of all those things, and they’re bully good games too. You’re a
pretty wide-awake bunch. But you’ll never do these things in a serious
way because you don’t _have to_. Get me?”

“We don’t get a chance,” said Westy.

“Now you take a kid born out in the wilds—like this kid I’ve got waiting
for me—Stove Polish or whatever his name is; he’s an Indian.”

“Who?” said Westy.

“What?” said Warde.

“_Stove Polish?_” gasped Ed.

“Shining Sun his name is,” said Mr. Wilde. “Sounds like some kind of
stove polish so I call him Stove Polish——”

“Where is he?” Westy asked, all excitement.

“He’s waiting out at the Mammoth Hotel at Hot Springs with Mr. Creston;
you’ll see him. He’s going up in the mountains with Clip and me. Now
that kid is what you’d call a scout, the little rascal. He had to be a
scout or starve. He didn’t read his little book and raise up his hand
and say he was going to be a scout. He just got to be a scout because he
had to.

“When you’re in the Rocky Mountains a couple of hundred miles from the
nearest town and the nearest town consists of one house, why, it’s a
case of you or the Rocky Mountains—which wins. See? If you stay lost you
starve. If you don’t know the signs you’re out of luck. If you don’t
know what herbs to eat you don’t get any dinner. If you can’t tell where
to look for a cave by the looks of the land, why then, you stay out in
the rain and snow. See? If you haven’t got a gun the only way you can
catch a bird is to fool him. So he knows how to fool them. You fellows
are scouts because you want to have a lot of fun. But Stove Polish is a
scout because he wants to live; he has to be one, or he did have to up
to a year or two ago. He knows how to run without making a sound because
if he made a sound it would be all up with him.”

“You said it,” enthused Warde.

“Why, a couple of years or more ago,” continued Mr. Wilde, “when that
little rascal escaped from the Cheyenne reservation right back here a
few miles, he got into the mountains and nobody heard a word from him
for a year and a half—never even sent a post card saying he was having a
nice time or anything. Beaver Pete found him up in the mountains and
brought him down to Yellowstone and Mr. Creston snapped him up like a
used Cadillac. Well now, that kid is a full-blooded Cheyenne Indian;
he’s a grandson of old Stick-in-the-mud who was in the Custer scrap.
You’ve heard of that old geezer, haven’t you?

“Well, sir, that kid could call like a hawk and bring the hawk near
enough so he could drop it with a stone—_absolutely_. Beaver Pete told
me that when he found that kid in the trapping season he was wearing a
bearskin from a bear he had caught and killed without so much as a
bean-shooter. Nature couldn’t freeze him or starve him. He could find
water by instinct same as an animal does. You see, boys, what you _have_
to do you can do. There is no such thing as scouting in the midst of
civilization or in neighbor Smith’s woods. Scouts are scouts because
they _have_ to be scouts; it isn’t an outdoor sport. A scout is a fellow
who has fought _because he had to fight_ with nature and has won out.
Scouts are silent people as a rule, I’ve met some of them. They’re
taciturn and silent. The boy scouts are the noisiest bunch I ever met in
my life.”

The door at the end of the car opened and the voice of a trainman put an
end to Mr. Wilde’s talk.

“Emigrant. The next stop is Emigrant.”



                             CHAPTER XXXVII

                             PARLOR SCOUTS


The three winners of the Rotary Club award were not altogether cheered
by the talk of their traveling acquaintance. They felt a trifle ashamed
and dissatisfied with themselves. Here was a brisk, resourceful,
adventurous man whose vocation seemed a very dream of romance. And he
looked upon them as nice boys playing an interesting game. He did not
take them seriously.

He regarded Shining Sun (or Stove Polish as he preferred to call him) as
a rare discovery—a real, all around, dyed-in-the-wool, little scout, a
scout whose skill and lore could be used in adventurous undertakings.
Amateurs! Nice boys! And they were about to have their reward of merit
for three exploits, the recital of which had not exactly staggered Mr.
Wilde. They were going to drive around Yellowstone Park in autos and
stop at the hotels and visit modern, well-equipped camps, and see the
petrified forests and the geysers.

And meanwhile an Indian boy was going into the unfrequented depths of
the vast park to do for white men what they could not do for themselves.
Descendent of savages though he was, and with the primitive vein
persisting in him, they took him seriously, these men; he was a real
little scout. Not a boy scout.

These were the thoughts, the reflections, of Westy Martin as he arose
saying in a rather disheartened tone, “Come on, let’s go out on the
platform and watch the scenery.”

The three boys staggered through the aisle of the car holding to the
seat backs as the rushing train swerved in its winding course among the
mountains. They had been but visitors in the smoking car and now in the
one next it they came to their own seats, which at night had been
transformed into berths.

On one of the seats lay a duffel bag containing the few camping utensils
which they had brought against the unlikely prospect of a night’s
bivouac in the open. Westy was glad that they had not exposed these
up-to-date devices to their acquaintance in the next car. He might have
commented flippantly on the collapsible or the folding frying pan. In a
previous encounter with that Philistine of the smoking car he had
inquired about the meaning of Westy’s treasured pathfinder’s badge, and
had said that when he was a boy he had often played hares and hounds and
hide-and-seek.

“Come on out in back,” said Warde.

They staggered on through the train holding the backs of seats to steady
their progress. All the passengers seemed weary, the cars littered and
hot and stuffy. Discarded newspapers and magazines lay on the seats and
floor. The passengers sprawled lazily in postures far from elegant. Only
the train seemed wide-awake and bent upon some definite purpose. It
roared and rattled and whistled and now and again a faint answering
whistle was heard from the distant mountains as if the ghost of some
locomotive long dead were concealed there.

In one of the cars a litter of sticky bits of tissue paper filled the
aisle in company of an empty box which had contained somebody or other’s
fresh lemon-drops. Westy was not the scout to pass by such a litter, he
had cleared up the luncheon rubbish after too many motoring parties for
that. But he did not stoop to this worthy task of the scout now. He was
not in the mood to be a menial, a housemaid scout; not with the exploits
of Shining Sun so fresh in his mind. He was thoroughly dissatisfied with
himself and he passed the litter by in proud disdain of it.

“Don’t you be a lemon-drop scout,” he said sneeringly to Warde, who was
just behind him.

“How did you know I was going to stoop?” Warde asked.

Ah, that was the question. It was because Westy Martin was a better
scout than he knew and like the true woodsman had eyes in the back of
his head.

“I’m kind of sorry we didn’t ask him if he’d let us go up in the forest
with him,” Warde said.

“A tall chance,” said Westy disconsolately.



                            CHAPTER XXXVIII

                            SOMETHING “REAL”


And so these three parlor scouts, winners of the Rotary Club award,
reached the rear platform of the last car and gazed upon the landscape
as it receded before their eyes. The whimsical Mr. Wilde had put them in
bad sorts and the great, vast, stupendous west seemed to confirm all
that their chance acquaintance had said.

How hopeless the lot of the lost wanderer here, how useless the good
scout handbook, how futile all the pleasantly primitive devices to find
one’s way home—when home is just around the corner. They were just boys
playing at scouting, nice boys, boy scouts. Well, at all events, it had
won them this trip to the Yellowstone where there would be much to
see....

There was certainly not much to see at Emigrant. If there had ever been
an Emigrant there it must have emigrated away, or been blown away as Mr.
Wilde had said of other western stopping places.

Certainly there was no sign of life there. Yet evidently the place was
useful to the railroad for the train stopped there, a visitation of life
and energy in a scene of desolation.

Not a living soul was there to welcome them. Even the companionable
noise of the train had ceased or died down to a slow pulsating sound of
the locomotive. It seemed an impatient sound as if the steel brute were
anxious to be on its way again. How lonesome, even forbidding the
landscape looked from the cozy, little refuge where they viewed it. Only
this little platform between them and the vast unknown.

Westy was a sensible, thoughtful boy and the bigness of the country
impressed him. It affected his mood. What Mr. Wilde had said would
probably not have been taken too seriously if Westy had been in the
east. It was not Mr. Wilde alone, but the whole environment as well,
which made all that Westy was and had accomplished paltry by comparison.
It all seemed to belittle his scouting and make it infantile and
ridiculous. Everything seemed to impart piquancy to Mr. Wilde’s home
truths. Here indeed was the land where men had fought with untamed
Nature and won out.

It seemed to Westy that he had been swimming with a life preserver. He
sat down on the car platform and rested his chin on his hands and gazed
about. It was not a propitious mood for a boy to be in who was about to
be shown the wonders of the Yellowstone National Park. He almost wished
that he had not met that disturbing person, Mr. Wilde. He could not get
Shining Sun out of his mind. To do anything on a _little_ scale seemed
contemptible to Westy. Was scouting after all a toy?

His two companions caught his mood though they were not as
impressionable as he. They sat down on the platform beside him and the
three made a rather disconsolate trio, considering that they were within
a score or so of miles of their hearts’ desire.

“I remind myself of Pee-wee, tracking a hop-toad,” mused Westy.

Ed Carlisle took him up, “Just because Mr. Wilde says this and that——”

“Suppose he had gone to Scout Headquarters in New York for a scout to
help them in the mountains,” said Westy. “Would he have found one? When
it comes to dead serious business——”

“Look what Roosevelt said about scouts,” said Warde. “He said they were
a lot of help and that scouting was a great thing, that’s what he said.”

“Why didn’t you tell Mr. Wilde that?” Ed asked.

“Because I didn’t think of it,” said Warde.

“Just because I get the Astronomy badge that doesn’t prove I’m an
astronomer,” said Ed.

“Nobody says a scout’s a doctor because he has the first aid badge,”
encouraged Warde.

Westy only looked straight ahead of him, his abstracted gaze fixed upon
the wild, lonesome mountains. A great bird was soaring over them and he
watched it till it became a mere speck. And meanwhile, the locomotive
steamed at steady intervals like an impatient beast. Then, suddenly, its
voice changed, there was strain and effort in its steaming.

“Guess we’re going to go,” said Warde. “Now for the little old
Yellowstone, hey, Westy? Wake up, come out of that, you old grouch.
Don’t you know a scout is supposed to smile and look pleasant? We should
worry about Mr. Madison C. Wilde.”

“If we never did anything _real_ and _big_ it’s because there weren’t
any of those things to do,” said Warde. “Didn’t he say what you _have_
to do, you do? That’s just what he said.”

Westy did not answer, only arose in a rather disgruntled way and stepped
off the platform. He strolled forward alone along the outside of the
car, kicking a stone as he went and watching it intently. When he raised
his eyes he had almost reached the other end of the car. The car stood
on a siding quite alone; the train was rushing away among the mountains.

Westy Martin was at last face to face with something real and big. He
and his companions were quite alone in the Rocky Mountains. The Boy
Scouts of America and the heedless, cruel, monster Nature had come to an
issue at last.

How this issue was decided and what happened to Westy and his comrades
before they reached their destination are told in the companion story
which continues their adventures under the title of _Westy Martin in the
Yellowstone_.





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