"The boys did fine," the old man proudly remarked. "They know how to hold their tongues and obey orders, which is more than many older people kin do."
Rod fairly walked on air, and held his head very high. The thrill of adventure now filled his soul, and he longed for something more to happen. It was a long quaint letter he wrote to Anna Royanna in reply to the one she had sent him. He told all about the adventure on the island, the capture of the robbers, and how he and Phil had gone to the city with the captain as witnesses. He mentioned, also, that they had received the one hundred dollars' reward, and had put it in the bank with the rest of the scout money. It seemed so easy and natural for him to write to this woman. He was sure that she was interested in everything that went on at Hillcrest. "I hope you will come to see us again," he wrote in conclusion. "Whyn speaks about you every day, and so do all the rest of the scouts." Mrs. Royal smiled at these words when Rod showed her the letter he had written. It was true in a way that Whyn was really a scout, in fact, a very vital part of the patrol.
The letter which Rod wrote to his mother was very different from that to the singer. It was brief, and not bubbling over with information as was the other. He found it hard to tell her about the things which interested him, and he did not ask her to come soon. He was too much afraid that she would arrive and take him away.
A woman far away smiled sadly as she read these two letters, with different addresses on the envelopes. She could see at a glance the boy's interest in the singer, and what a pleasure it was for him to write that letter. But the other, to his mother, was a task, a mere duty, the sooner done, the better. But then, she knew that it was only natural, and she longed for the time to come when letters would not be needed, and Rod would know the truth.
No one in the whole parish of Hillcrest was more interested in what had taken place than Whyn. She was never tired of talking about the capture, and the winning the reward. It was a great letter which she wrote to Douglas, telling him all that had recently happened in the little Hillcrest world. Whenever the scouts gathered in her room, she discussed plans with them, and listened to their various experiences. These latter were now confined to drill, studying for the new badges, and sailing with the captain on the river.
By this time the scouts had one hundred and fifty dollars in the bank, which to them seemed a great sum. Several were quite satisfied with the amount. But Whyn was of a different opinion. "We must make it two hundred, at least," she told them. "It is time to get to work and raise that other fifty, for it will not do to stop when we have made such a good start."
Summer passed, and fall came in with the long evenings, and still the scouts had not hit upon any plan of increasing their bank account. They had all kinds of suggestions, but after they had been thoroughly discussed, they were found to be of little value. Some were too foolish, while others were beyond their power.
It was Whyn who at last solved the problem. In reality, it was her mother who made the suggestion to her during her recent visit. The invalid was delighted, and could hardly wait for the scouts to come to see her.
"I know what you can do," she told them, when they had settled themselves about the room in their usual manner. "You can make wreaths for the churches in the city. They will need them for Christmas decorations."
"Make wreaths!" was the surprised exclamation of all.
"Yes. Don't you understand? You have them in the church here every Christmas, don't you?"
"Certainly," Rod replied. "We make them out of hemlock, and club-moss. But I didn't know you could sell them."
"You can in the city," Whyn explained, "for mamma told me so. They will bring from four to five cents a yard. Wouldn't it be great for us to make up a whole lot, say five hundred yards? Let me see, that would be twenty or twenty-five dollars. Just think of that!" and the girl's eyes danced with excitement.
Then followed an animated discussion as to the kind of wreaths they should make, and the best time to do the work. All this was settled by the entrance of Captain Josh. He entered heartily into the plan, much pleased at the interest of the scouts in raising more money.
"Guess we'd better begin upon the club-moss first," was his decision. "The snow'll be here soon, so while the ground is bare we kin gather as much as we'll need. We kin git the hemlock any old time. We kin work at nights, and on Saturday afternoons, and Betsey'll be glad to give a hand. I'm afraid I don't know much about sich things. If there is any splicin' to do, or special knots to tie, jist call on me. If it had anything to do with sailin' vessels I could help considerable. But riggin' up churches is not in my line. Howsomever, I'll help all I kin."
The very next Saturday Captain Josh led his scouts into the woods to gather their first supply of club-moss. He carried his rifle with him. There was a black fox in the neighbourhood, which had been seen by several, and the captain longed to get sight on it "jist fer one little instant," as he had remarked.
Phil had his small dog with him, which annoyed the captain.
"I wish ye'd left that critter home," he growled. "It'll scare away everything fer miles around. What's the use of bringin' my gun when that thing's along?"
"Gyp wouldn't stay," Phil explained. "I tied him up, but he chewed through the rope."
"H'm," the captain grunted, "I guess he'd eat through a chain by the looks of him. He's about the toughest brute I ever set my eyes on. Does he ever eat people?"
A hearty laugh from the boys was the only reply to the captain's sarcastic remark. They were in great spirits, and the tramp through the woods filled them with joy. It was merely a winter-road they followed, used by farmers for bringing out their logs and fire-wood. It was very crooked, too, and rough, but in a short time the deep snow would cover up the latter defect, and the jingle of bells would echo among the trees. Now it was the talk and laughter of the boys which alone disturbed the peaceful silence.
After having walked a little over half an hour, they came to a place, somewhat open, and here they found club-moss in abundance lining the ground. To their left, the rippling of the brook could be heard flowing on its way to the river. Ahead of them stood the thick forest of pine, fir, and spruce. It was a cool November day, and when the boys started from home their warm mittens had felt good. But the brisk tramp had set their blood in rapid circulation, and with bare hands they now gathered the moss and stuffed it into bags which they had brought with them. They worked with a hearty good-will, vying with one another, each striving to have his bag full first.
Their task was almost finished, when Gyp's savage barking up among the thick trees arrested their attention.
"Let's go and see what he's got," Rod suggested.
"Oh, it's only a squirrel he's treed," the captain contemptuously replied, straightening himself up for an instant from his bent position. "It's all that critter's good fer. If he'd something big it'd be worth while."
For a few moments longer the boys worked in silence. But they could not keep their attention away from Gyp, whose barks were now becoming more savage and insistent than ever. That he was in a great state of excitement was quite evident. Even the captain was at last forced to take notice.
"It does seem that he has something more'n a squirrel," he remarked. "Maybe it's a coon he's got up a tree. They're thick over there along that bank. Guess we might as well go and see what's up, anyway."
At this the boys were delighted. They wanted to explore the deep recesses of that forest, and now that there was some excitement there made the longing all the greater. They followed in Indian fashion after the captain, who strode rapidly forward, with his rifle in his right hand.
Gyp's barking sounded louder the nearer they approached. The boys as well as the captain strained their eyes ahead, anxious to find out what was the matter with the dog. For awhile they could see nothing through the net-work of trees and branches. But as they came close to the high steep bank overhanging the brook, they peered forward and caught their first glimpse of the excited dog. In front of him was a huge fallen spruce tree, with its roots projecting outward, like spokes in a great wheel. This tree had been lying there for years, and across it had fallen numerous small saplings and dead branches, until from a distance it assumed the appearance of a native African hut.
The roots of this tree were only a few feet from the edge of the steep gravelly bank, and this, together with a furious gale, had been the cause of the spruce's fall. Between two of the perpendicular roots, which were partly embedded in the ground, was a large hole, before which Gyp was making all the fuss. The stiff hairs on his back stood straight on end, and he kept leaping constantly forward and backward, wild with excitement.
With considerable difficulty the captain thrust the dog aside, and with the rifle firmly clutched in his hands, he stooped in order to obtain a view of what was within. Scarcely had he done so, ere a deep growl and roar startled him, while at the same time a large black bear hurled itself like a catapult from among the roots.
Taken by complete surprise, the captain reeled backward, dropping the rifle as he did so in an effort to maintain his balance. Before he could do this, however, he had gone over the edge of the bank, and after him went the bear. Down that steep incline man and beast rapidly ploughed their way, taking with them a small avalanche of stones and gravel. At the bottom of the bank was a pool of water about two feet deep, and into this they plunged, the captain in a sitting position, and the bear upon its back. Then followed a wild scramble as each endeavoured to get out first. The bear succeeded better than the man, for the captain had injured his knee, which made it difficult for him to move quickly.
Had this been a young bear he would have taken to his heels at once, and disappeared among the trees. But being an old-timer, and not a bit cowardly, he had no intention of running away. He was very angry at being disturbed when he had his house all ready for his long winter sleep. Then that tumble down the bank into the water was more than his bearish nature could stand, and he was ready for fight. He scrambled out of the water, and rushed toward the captain. The latter had no chance at all with his injured knee, and with nothing to defend himself. It was a critical moment, but he braced himself up, fumbled in his pocket for his clasp-knife, and then faced Bruin, who was now standing, on his hind legs ready for the attack.
When Captain Josh and the bear disappeared over the bank the boys stared in amazement, which soon changed to fear when they saw what the animal really was. They crowded together, and it needed but a word to cause most of them to rush panic-stricken from the place.
It was Rod who saved the situation. No sooner had the captain and the bear reached the water, than he sprang forward, seized the rifle, and leaped down the bank. He had much difficulty in keeping his feet, and several times he thought that he would lose his balance and tumble head-long into the pool below. He managed, however, to keep from falling by digging his feet into the gravel, and thus step by step moved quickly downward.
Rod knew something about the captain's rifle, as on several occasions he had been shown how it worked, and once, which was a red-letter day to him, he had been allowed to fire it off. It was quite fortunate that the boy had this slight knowledge, which now served him in good stead. Rod saw the bear rise on its hind legs, and he knew from stories he had read that this was the ordinary method of attack. He could not afford to lose a moment, he was well aware, if the captain was to be saved.
Creeping close to where the bear was standing, he drew back the hammer, took steady aim at the brute's body, and pulled the trigger. At once there was a loud report, and Rod was sent reeling backward as if hit on the shoulder by a huge rock. For an instant he imagined that the bear had struck him with its paw, but a shout from the captain caused him to scramble to his feet. Then his eyes rested upon the black form of the bear lying upon the ground but a short distance away.
"Is it dead?" he asked, hurrying over to where the captain was standing.
"Dead! Doesn't he look like it?" was the reply, as the old man laid a heavy hand affectionately upon the boy's shoulder. "That was a great shot, lad, and jist in the nick of time. My! I was sure he was goin' to have me fer dinner. That would have been a slower and more painful death fer the brute, ha, ha!"
By this time the rest of the scouts had scrambled down the bank, much ashamed of themselves for their recent fear. They were now most anxious to do all they could to assist the captain. They soon learned that he was unable to walk, for in addition to his injured knee he had sprained his ankle. He tried to take a few steps in order to show the boys that he was not much hurt. But this was more than he could endure, and he gave a deep groan of pain as he sank down upon the ground.
"It's nothin', lads," he growled, somewhat annoyed at the accident. "Yez better go home and git a team to take the bear out. I'll stay and keep him company till yez come back. He might be jist fooling and will sneak off into the woods. We can't afford to run any risk."
"We'll not leave you, captain," Rod stoutly protested. "You're soaked with water, and you'll get a bad cold if you stay here. We'll carry you home."
"Carry me!" the captain exclaimed in surprise. "Yez couldn't tote a heavy log like me all that distance."
"We're going to try, anyway. We're scouts, remember, and you have often told us what to do in a case like this. I guess the bear will be all right. He looks quiet enough now."
There was nothing for the captain to do but to submit, and though he growled somewhat at what he called their foolishness, yet he was pleased at their interest on his behalf.
The boys at once set to work to prepare a stretcher for their wounded scoutmaster. With a scout axe, Rod cut down several small maples, trimmed off the leaves, and cut them the necessary length. He then asked the captain for his coat, as it was the largest they could get. Through the sleeves of this they ran two of the poles, which thus formed one end of the stretcher. Then taking off their own coats they did the same to the other end. It took five of theirs to equal the captain's, and even then they were afraid that all combined would not bear the man's weight. In addition to the coats, the scouts fastened their leather belts together, and stretched these between the poles for greater support.
The captain was greatly pleased at the speedy way in which the boys did this work. But he had his doubts about their being able to carry him home. He weighed about one hundred and seventy pounds, which would mean over forty pounds to each of the four scouts who would take their turn at the stretcher. Rod thought of this and a new idea came suddenly into his mind. Picking up two of the other maple saplings he had cut, he placed them crosswise beneath the stretcher, and stationed a scout at each end. When all was ready, the captain rolled himself upon the rude contrivance which had been made, and told the boys to go ahead. At once the eight scouts stooped and without any difficulty lifted him from the ground. They were delighted to find that not a sleeve ripped, and not a belt gave way.
It was decided that they should follow the brook down-stream for a distance until they came to the old winter-road. By doing this they would escape the thick woods, as well as the climb up the steep bank. It was a rough trip, and the captain was jolted a great deal.
"Don't make me sea-sick," he warned, when he swayed more than usual. "Ugh!" he groaned, as one of the boys slipped upon a rock, and dropped the end of his pole. "I've been over many rough seas in my life, but nothin' to equal this. Steady, there," he cried, as the swaying motion increased. "Ah, that's better," he encouraged, when they at length reached the winter-road.
The scouts enjoyed the captain's remarks. He cheered them when they did well, and made them rest occasionally. But it was a heavy load they were bearing, and right glad were they when at last they reached the Anchorage, and handed over their charge to Mrs. Britt.
That afternoon Phil's father took his horses and went with the scouts to bring in the bear. Several able-bodied men accompanied them, for news had spread from house to house of what had taken place up the brook. It was almost sundown, when they returned, and quite a crowd of neighbours were gathered around the captain's house to see the bear which Rod had shot.
The scouts were delighted with their adventure, and each considered himself a hero when he met other boys in the parish. Whyn was greatly excited over the whole affair, and had to hear every detail from the captain himself. Her eyes sparkled with pleasure when she learned of the brave part Rod had taken. She was wise enough, however, not to praise Rod when the rest of the scouts were present, for she knew that they would be jealous. But when he was alone with her one afternoon, she told him just what she thought.
"I think you did great," she exclaimed, after they had talked for awhile about the bear.
"Oh, I didn't do much," was the reply.
"Yes, you did. If it hadn't been for you, the bear would have killed the captain. He told me so himself."
"Well, I'm glad I was there to save him. It was my good turn, that's all, and one must never expect praise for that. But, say, Whyn, have you seen the bear's skin? It's a beauty. The neighbours skinned it, and Phil's father is going to take it to the city. He thinks that he can sell the meat as well, for some people like it to eat."
"What a letter I shall write to Douglas," the girl replied, as she clasped her hands together. "Isn't it great, the many wonderful things I have to write about!"
"And I shall write to Miss Royanna," Rod declared. "I know she will like to hear about that bear, though she will be so sorry that the captain got hurt."
"And will you write to your mother?" Whyn asked.
"Yes, I suppose so. But I don't know whether she's interested in bears or not. But I know that Miss Royanna is, for she's interested in everything. Say, Whyn," and Rod lowered his voice, "I wish she was my mother; wouldn't it be great?"
"Oh, Rod!" and the girl looked her astonishment.
"There, I knew you'd say that. But I can't help it. I don't know my mother, and how can I love some one I have never seen? I suppose she'll land here some day and take me away. She said that she was coming last summer, but she put it off, lucky for me."
After the excitement over the bear had somewhat subsided, the scouts settled down to the work of making wreaths. For awhile this was carried on in the kitchen of the Anchorage, as the captain wished to be on hand, and to give what assistance he could. It was several weeks before he was able to bear his foot to the ground, and this was a most trying time to him. Such an active life had he always led that to be confined to the house was hard for him to endure. Whyn was also able to be present, and sat in the big chair the captain had made, and watched with interest all that took place. She made a few wreaths herself, though she was not able to do much, as she tired very quickly. The scouts liked to have her with them, and she was often able to instruct them, and to pass judgment upon their work.
Another valuable helper was Miss Arabella. It was quite remarkable the way she "happened along," as she expressed it, whenever the boys met for wreath-making. In fact, she and the captain became quite friendly, which was a great surprise to all.
"Guess ye'll have to be scoutmaster, Miss Bella," he told her one evening.
"Goodness me!" was the startled reply. "I couldn't handle a bunch of boys."
"And why not, Miss Bella?"
"They're too much like men; always wanting something, and never satisfied when they get it."
"So that's the reason ye never got a man, eh? Ho, ho!" and the captain gave a gruff laugh.
"Yes," Miss Arabella snapped. "I was afraid he might be just like you, Captain Josh," at which retort the boys shouted with delight, while the captain, too, was highly amused at the fun which had been caused at his own expense.
Thus on the nights when the work of making the wreaths was carried on an excellent spirit of friendship prevailed. Neighbours, hearing of the good times at the Anchorage, often dropped in to assist the scouts. On several occasions they brought refreshments, such as sandwiches, cakes, and doughnuts, which added very much to the enjoyment of the evenings.
The neighbours were so pleased with these social gatherings that they were very sorry when the wreaths were all made and sent to the city. They had experienced the pleasure of meeting together during the long winter evenings, and there was now a serious blank in their lives. They accordingly decided that something must be done, with the result that a small club was formed, which met once a week at the scouts' Headquarters. The women brought their knitting or sewing, while the men were allowed their pipes. There was a programme arranged for each night, consisting of songs, recitations, and at times a debate on some familiar subject.
The scouts were only too glad that their elders were so interested in thus gathering together, and they did all they could to keep the room clean, and make it as bright as possible. They themselves met twice a week, and when the captain was able to get around, the regular scout work was continued.
Captain Josh had studied hard to keep ahead of the boys, and in this he did remarkably well. But when it came to giving addresses on First Aid to the Injured, he candidly confessed his ignorance.
"Give me a broken rope," he said, "and I'll splice it in no time. But a broken bone is too much fer me. As fer veins, arteries, bandaging, and sich things, ye can't expect an old man like me to understand about them. No, we've got to leave that to some one else."
And that some one proved to be Doctor Travis, a young man who had recently settled in the parish. He was much interested in the scouts, and hearing of their need through Parson Dan, he offered his services free, which were gratefully accepted by the scouts.
It was a raw winter night when the doctor gave his first lecture to the boys. A stiff wind was swinging in from the northeast, plainly telling that a heavy storm was near at hand. But safe within their warm room, the scouts gave no heed to what was taking place outside. They listened with intense interest as the doctor explained to them what a wonderful machine the human body really is, the difference between veins and arteries, the various kinds of fractures, and other things necessary for a second-class scout to know.
The lecture was as interesting as a story, and the doctor was delighted at the attention of the scouts. The large chart made everything so clear, and impressed firmly upon the minds of the boys the things they had heard. It was half-past nine when they were through, and when the door was opened, all were surprised to find such a furious storm raging over the land. It had been snowing for some time, and drifts were already piling up around Headquarters.
"Ye must stay with me to-night," Captain Josh told the doctor. "We kin put ye up all right, and in the mornin' ye'll have a chance to see Whyn. I want ye to have a look at her, anyway, fer she's not been up to the mark of late."
Thus the doctor made up his mind to remain, and he bade good night to the boys as they left the room, and plunged out into the storm.
"Take care of yerselves, boys," the captain shouted, "and don't git lost."
Such a warning was needed, for no sooner had the scouts left the building than the storm struck them in all its fury. The night was so dark that they could not see a yard ahead of them. But the road to the main highway was fenced in, and so they were kept from going astray.
Rod led, and with bent heads the rest followed. Step by step they pressed onward, with the snow driving full into their faces. It was cold, too, and the wind, piercing their clothes, chilled them. It was fortunate that they had not far to go, else they would have found it almost impossible to reach their homes on such a night.
They had gained the highway, and Rod had just turned to leave his companions, who lived in the opposite direction, when he stumbled and fell over something lying in the snow. His cry of surprise soon brought the rest of the scouts to his side. Regaining his feet, Rod felt with his hands to see what the object was over which he had tumbled.
"It's a man!" he shouted, straightening himself suddenly up. "Maybe he's frozen. Come and let's carry him back to the house."
THE PRODIGAL SON
Captain Josh and the doctor were enjoying the tea which Mrs. Britt had ready for them, when the scouts arrived bringing the man they had found in the snow. He was a heavy load, and the boys were almost exhausted by the time they reached the house. In a few brief words Rod explained how they had discovered him, and then the doctor at once examined the unfortunate man. Soon all was in a bustle about the place, and not until the unconscious man was attended to and in bed, did the boys leave to begin once more their battle against the storm.
The stranger was a man of about thirty years of age, heavily bearded. His face had the appearance of one who had experienced much suffering, and his staring eyes were deep-sunken in their sockets. Mrs. Britt had given him only a brief glance, but that was sufficient to remind her of one who was constantly in her mind. When the captain and the doctor were again back in the kitchen discussing the stranger, she stole to his side, and looked intently upon his face. She held the light close, and as she did so she trembled so violently that she almost let the lamp fall from her hand. Recovering herself, she went immediately to her husband's side and touched his shoulder.
"It's Jimmy!" she cried, clasping her hands before her. "It's our own boy!"
With a startled exclamation, the captain sprang to his feet, and looked questioningly at his wife.
"Jimmy, did you say? In there?"
"Yes, I am sure of it. Come, see for yourself," and Mrs. Britt led her half-dazed husband into the little bed-room.
The doctor remained behind in the kitchen. His thoughts, however, were not upon his pipe, which was sending wreaths of blue smoke into the air. He was thinking of far deeper things. His brief career as a medical man had already brought him into close touch with many strange circumstances. He liked to ponder them over very carefully. But this was altogether different, and as he sat there, he endeavoured to imagine the life of the son who had gone from home years before, and had returned in such a sad condition.
He was aroused by the captain's hand laid heavily upon his shoulder.
"It's him, doc! My God, it's Jimmy!" It was all the old man could say. He shook like a leaf, and sitting suddenly down upon a splint-bottom chair, he buried his face in his hands.
"Are you sure?" the doctor asked, not knowing what else to say.
"Sure," was the low reply. "Strange I didn't know him at first. But it's him all right. And, say, doc, ye'll bring him around, won't ye?" and the captain raised his eyes appealingly to his companion's face.
"I shall do all I can, captain, never fear."
"May the Lord bless ye, doc, fer them words. Isn't it lucky that ye're here to-night? Jist think what the scouts have done. But fer them my Jimmy would be lyin' out there in the storm. And, say, d'ye believe in God?"
"Y-yes, I suppose so," was the somewhat doubtful response.
"But ye'll be sure now, dead certain, won't ye, doc?"
"Why? I don't catch the drift of your meaning."
"Ye don't? Why, that's queer, after what He's done fer my Jimmy. Who else sent them scouts out there to bring my boy in but Him? And to think that all of these years I've been scoffin' at Him and religion, and then fer Him to do so much fer me and my Jimmy!"
The doctor knew not how to reply, and so continued his smoke, while the captain sat nearby with bent head, deep in thought. The storm still raged without, but there was silence in the kitchen, save for the kettle which sang upon the stove. But a more intense silence reigned within the little bed-room adjoining, where a mother knelt by the side of her only child, holding his cold right hand in hers, and offering up wordless prayers that he might be spared.
News of Jimmy Britt's return soon spread throughout the parish, and everywhere there was the buzz of gossip as to the strange way he had come home. Some thought he must have been drunk, which caused him to fall upon the road. Others believed that he was so poor that he could not afford to be driven from the train. But all were of one mind that his not writing to his parents for years was most mysterious.
While all this talking was going on, Jimmy was being slowly restored to life through the doctor's skill, and the mother's careful nursing. Mrs. Britt now found the work of looking after two patients almost beyond her power of endurance. It was then that Miss Arabella offered her assistance, and proved a veritable angel of mercy in her attention to Whyn, and doing what she could about the house.
During the weeks which followed the night of the great storm the scouts did not meet at Headquarters. They knew that the captain had little or no heart for anything now but the care of his son. They accordingly met from house to house, but most often at the rectory, where Mrs. Royal always made them welcome. They were all greatly interested in the captain's son, of whom they had heard so much, and they longed to see him. Nearly every day Rod went to the Anchorage to see Whyn, and they talked very much about Jimmy. The latter, however, he never saw, as no visitor was allowed in his room.
To the scouts the winter seemed very long, and delighted were they when spring at last set in. The days lengthened rapidly, the snow disappeared, and the ice was fast weakening in the river. It was a fine afternoon when Rod was making his regular visit to Whyn that he saw Jimmy. He was sitting in a sunny spot right in front of the house. His thick beard had been removed, and his face was very pale after his illness. Rod recognised him in an instant, and it was with difficulty that he kept back a cry of astonishment. With fast-beating heart he rushed into Whyn's room, much to the girl's surprise, for he was in the habit of entering quietly.
"Why, Rod, what's the matter?" she inquired.
"You look half frightened to death."
"It's him, Whyn!" he exclaimed. "I'm sure of it."
"Who is it? What do you mean?" the girl asked. "Sit down, and be sensible."
"He's the very man who was knocked down and robbed in the city, Whyn."
"Jimmy. He's out there. His whiskers are all off, and I knew him the instant I got my eyes on him."
"Does the captain know that?" Whyn questioned, after a moment's thought. "Isn't it strange that Jimmy should have been helped twice by our troop? How delighted Captain Josh will be."
"You tell him, Whyn," Rod suggested. "He ought to know, but if I say anything it will seem like boasting. It was only our good turn, and we are not supposed to say anything about what we do."
Whyn had no scruples, however, and that very afternoon she spoke to the captain. She told him all that Rod had said, how that he was sure that Jimmy was the very man who had been attacked and robbed. The captain said very little, but later he had a long talk with his son, who, up to the present, had been very reticent about the past few years of his life. Jimmy was sitting on a log near the shore when the captain spoke to him about the matter. For a few moments the younger man remained very silent, as he whittled a piece of cedar wood with his sharp knife.
"What's wrong with ye, lad?" the captain asked. "Why can't ye answer a straight question?"
"Sit down, dad, and don't get excited," was the reply. "There, that's better. There's something I want to tell you, and it's been on my mind for weeks past, so it might as well be now as any other time. When I left home I wrote to you quite often. But when I got away north, and mixed up with a rough crowd, I somehow got out of the way of writing. I was a long way from the post-office, and mails were very irregular, which perhaps had something to do with my neglect. I struck it rich there, dad, and made my pile, which, thank God, is now safe in the bank. When I came 'outside,' it was to have, as I thought, a good time. I did several of the big cities on the Pacific coast, and then drifted to New York. I need not tell you of my life there, as it wouldn't do any good. I had the money, and so there was no trouble about seeing the seamy side of life. But one night, I don't know yet how it happened, I drifted into a place to hear a famous singer. She was great, and her voice, oh, dad, I wish you could have heard it. But what got me was the closing piece. It was called, 'My Little Lad, God Bless Him.' I can't begin to tell how that song affected me. It seemed like the cry of a broken-hearted mother for her only boy, who was away from her. In an instant I thought of mother and you, and when I left the place that night I was all broken up. I tried to shake the feeling off, but every night it came upon me stronger than ever.
"As the weeks went by I became very wretched. I saw what a brute I had been, and how you at home must have suffered. The upshot of it was, that I left New York, landed in St. John, got waylaid, was in the hospital unconscious for a long time, unknown to all. When I got out, I took the evening train, intending to hire a team at Greenside to drive me home. I couldn't get any one to bring me at that time of the night, and so I began to foot it. When the storm overtook me I fought hard, but I was very weak, and—oh, well, you know the rest."
When Jimmy was through, the captain sat for some time without saying a word. He looked straight before him, as if watching the ice, and wondering when it would go out. But he saw nothing there, for his mind was upon more important things.
"Jimmy," he at last remarked, "this is all His doin's. I kin see that now. He has protected you, and brought ye back to us."
"Who?" Jimmy asked in surprise. "It was that song which did it."
"Ah, yes, Jimmy. But back of that was Another, the very One I've been neglectin' fer years. It's wonderful, lad! it's wonderful, and don't ye fergit it."
The very next Sunday morning, Parson Dan, and all those at church, were astonished to see the scouts march in, accompanied by their scout-master. It was the first time in years that the captain had been there, and all noted how thoughtful and reverent he was. He had ordered the scouts to attend Headquarters that morning, without telling them of his plans. From there he had marched them straight to church, with orders to behave themselves, and do credit to the troop.
That day there was no one in all the parish as pleased as Parson Dan at the great change which had come over the careless and indifferent captain.
The following week was very stormy. The rain drove up from the south, and the river rose rapidly. The ice, now greatly weakened, slowly stirred before its final rush to the sea. Then the moment arrived when it started forward, impelled by the gathering mass up-stream. All day long it surged onward, and far on into the night, carrying along trees, and stones, ripping and grinding, demolishing a wharf here, or up-rooting a tree there. No power of man could stop it. People stood on the shore watching the sight, familiar, and yet always new. The last sign of winter had now departed, and all knew that in a few hours the first steamer of the season would be on her way up-river.
With the ice, and following it, came the drift-logs. In a number of cases booms had been broken, and the work of months ruined in an instant. For a hundred miles or more these logs were scattered along the river, drifting with the tide, caught in coves, and mouths of creeks, or stranded upon the shore. To collect as many of these as possible was a big task. Yet it was important, for these logs represented much money, and their entire loss would spell ruin to some lumbermen.
In less than two days after the ice had gone out, a notice was posted at the store. It told of the offer of ten cents for each drift-log. There were men who made a regular business of this every spring. They bought all the logs which had been collected by the inhabitants along the river, took them to the city, where they were sorted out according to private marks, and sold to their respective owners at an excellent profit.
Formerly, Captain Josh had paid no attention to such posted notices. The work of gathering drift-logs he considered beneath the dignity of an old sea-captain. "I'm not a scavenger," he had often told people, when they had asked him why he didn't collect the logs which always floated near his shore, and into the little cove just below his house. "If I can't make a livin' without doin' sich work, then I'll give up."
But this spring the captain studied the notice most carefully, and he walked back to the Anchorage in a very thoughtful mood. He was thinking of the scouts. He was anxious that they should make more money, and here was a fine opportunity. They had already two hundred dollars in the bank, for the bear and the wreaths had added another fifty to the account. But the captain was not satisfied. He longed to have three hundred dollars there, for with that amount there was hardly a possible chance of the Hillcrest troop being beaten in the struggle for the prize. He disliked the idea of now turning scavenger after he had talked so much against the work. But he was not thinking of himself, so that made a vast difference.
He found the scouts at Headquarters, for school was out, and this was their regular afternoon of meeting. They were awaiting his coming with eagerness, as they, too, had seen the notice in the store. But they knew the captain's views on the matter, and, therefore, had serious doubts about speaking to him in reference to the drift-logs.
"Hello, boys," was his cheery greeting, as he seated himself upon a block of wood before the door. "How's business?"
"Not very good," Rod replied. "But we have a plan for making more money."
"Yez have, eh? Well, that's interestin'. What is it?"
"But we're afraid you won't like it," Rod declared.
"H'm, is that so? Must be pretty bad, then. Not goin' to steal chickens, are yez? I can't agree to that."
The boys gave a hearty laugh, and the captain smiled grimly. He was quite certain what the plan was which the scouts had in view.
"Oh, no, we wouldn't steal anything," Rod hastened to explain. "We want only honest money. This will be honest, but you don't like the way of earning it."
"How d'ye know that, young man? What makes ye wise so mighty sudden?"
"You have often said so yourself, sir. Haven't you told us that you didn't like collecting drift-logs? You always said it was beneath your dignity, didn't you?"
"Ho, ho, that's it," the captain roared. "Suppose I did say that, what's wrong about it?"
"Nothing, sir, nothing, only——"
"That you wouldn't care for us to gather drift-logs, and sell them."
"Did I ever say anything about you?" the captain demanded.
"No, sir. But we thought——"
"Oh, so yez thought, eh? Well, then stop sich thinking and git to work. It's beneath my dignity to be pokin' around after logs, because I'm a sea-captain. But that has nothin' to do with you. It's beneath my dignity to go bare-footed, but it's all right fer you. It's beneath my dignity to go to school, but not fer you, see?"
"And you're quite willing to let us collect the logs?" Rod enquired. He was all alert now and excited, as were also the rest of the scouts.
"Sure. Go ahead, and I'll keep an eye over yez."
"And may we have the tender?"
"Certainly. Yez couldn't do much without that. But be very careful, and don't git a duckin'. I don't want any accidents. Yer parents look to me to take care of yez, and I don't want to have any bad news to carry to yer homes."
Thus it came about that the boys began to gather logs that very afternoon. The captain sat upon the shore watching and giving advice. Four of the scouts manned the tender. Two rowed, while Rod and Phil herded the logs together, which were then towed to the little cove and fastened to the shore. The rest of the boys rolled the stranded logs into the water, and then by means of poles floated them also into the cove. It was very exciting work, and the time came all too soon for them to go home. But before they left they counted how many they had, and found that there were one hundred and forty-five safely rounded up. This was most encouraging, and their hearts were filled with joy at the success of their undertaking.
The captain had watched the boys with great interest. He was proud of the speedy and skilful manner in which they had performed the work. He knew that if he had assisted there would now be many more logs in the cove. But he could not afford to lose his dignity, oh, no, and he chuckled as he sat there for a few minutes after the scouts had gone home.
That evening when supper was over, the captain started out alone in the tender. He told his wife that it might be late before he got home, and for her not to worry. He knew where many logs were lying in coves and creeks unknown to the scouts. Hour after hour he patiently toiled, collecting these, and lashing them together with timber-dogs and ropes he had brought with him. It was long after dark when he at last took his raft in tow, and began to row for his own shore. The tide was favourable, so after a pull of over an hour he had the satisfaction of making them fast to a tree in front of the Anchorage.
Next morning the captain was in great spirits, and he chuckled so often over his breakfast that his wife's curiosity was aroused.
"What is it, Joshua?" she asked. "You seem to be greatly amused over something."
"Oh, it's only a little surprise fer the scouts," was the reply. "Don't say a word, and I'll tell ye."
"But what about your dignity, Joshua?" Mrs. Britt laughingly enquired, when she had heard the story. "May I tell Whyn? She would be so pleased, poor girl."
"Sure, Betsey. But how is she this mornin'?"
"No better, I'm afraid. She is failing fast. She hasn't been able to see the scouts for some time, and you know what that means. She just lies there all day without saying hardly anything. She is so different from what she was when she first came here."
"But she still takes an interest in what the scouts are doin', does she not?"
"Oh, yes, in a way. But she cannot get up her old enthusiasm. The least excitement tires her. She is an angel, if ever there was one. Mrs. Sinclair is coming this morning, so she wrote. She will be terribly disappointed in Whyn."
Often during the day the captain went to see if the logs he had gathered during the night were safe. Then before school was out, he took off all the tacklings, and scattered the logs along the shore, so that they had the appearance of having drifted there in the night. He kept a strict watch over them now lest they should get too far from the shore, and very glad was he when at last the scouts arrived.
They were surprised and delighted to find so many logs near at hand, and never for a moment did they suspect what the captain had done. It took them the rest of the afternoon getting the logs into the cove, and when this was accomplished, they stood upon the shore and gazed proudly upon their haul, as the captain termed it.
"Ye've done well, lads," he remarked, "fer ye must have nigh onto three hundred now. But yez should have a boom around them. If a gale springs up, there'll be trouble."
Acting upon this suggestion, and directed by the captain, the scouts spent another hour in encircling their logs with a stout boom, which they made secure to the shore.
"There, that's better," was the captain's comment, when this had been completed. "Yez'd better hurry home now, fer it's gittin' rather late."
As the boys were about to leave, a small tug came up the river, and swerved somewhat to the left. A man was standing in the wheel-house, watching those on shore. No word was spoken as the boat sped by, but a thoughtful expression appeared in Captain Josh's eyes as he stood and studied the tug for several minutes.
"I wonder what she's after," he mused, half aloud.
"Perhaps she's going up-river for logs," Rod suggested.
"Maybe she is, lad. But I was jist wondering whose logs she's after, that's all. I know that craft, so that's what makes me uneasy. If it's your logs she's after it'll be well to keep a sharp lookout to-night. Last spring quite a number of logs disappeared, and I know yez don't want to run any risk with yours."
The scouts were much excited now, and the idea of keeping watch appealed to their fancy. They all wanted to stay, but the captain told them to go home first and get permission from their parents.
"I'll keep a eye out," he told them, "until some of yez come back. Ye'd better bring yer blankets along, so that the ones who are not on duty kin sleep. I guess ye'll find the floor of Headquarters quite soft before mornin'."
By the time the scouts returned it was nine o'clock. They found the captain on guard near the shore.
"Nothin' doin' yit," was his greeting. "But, then, it's too early. The best thing fer yez to do is to take an hour each on watch. Put the youngest on first, and the older ones kin take from midnight. If anything of special interest turns up, let me know. I'll sleep with one ear open."
And thus the watch began. It was a novel experience for the scouts, and all were anxious for their turn to arrive. Every time the door opened and guard was relieved, all awoke, for they slept lightly, as the floor was not as soft as their own beds at home.
Phil had taken from twelve to one, and he was followed by Rod. It was a beautiful night, with the stars twinkling overhead. Not a ripple disturbed the surface of the river. Frogs croaked in the distance, and peculiar night sounds fell upon his ears. He sincerely hoped that something would happen during his watch, and as he sat upon a log among the bushes his eyes and ears were keenly alert.
Never before did an hour appear so tedious to Rod. When it seemed that he had been there long enough he pulled out the watch the captain had let the boys have for the night and, striking a match, saw that he had been on guard only half an hour. At times a drowsy feeling came over him, and he was forced to move about to keep from going to sleep at his post. He wondered if the other scouts had felt the same way.
He had just seated himself after a short walk, when a sound out on the river arrested his attention. At first he thought that he must be mistaken. But, no, he was sure now that he could hear the noise of a boat cutting through the water. This brought him to his feet, and he strained his eyes in an effort to see what it could be. And as he looked he beheld a dim object in the distance, which was growing more distinct. It was moving when he first saw it. Then it slowed down and seemed to be drifting. There was hardly a sound made now, and the watcher on the shore could tell that the boat was drawing closer to where the logs were lying. This looked serious, and he believed that it was there for no good purpose. He waited a few moments, however, to be sure. He did not wish to give a false alarm, and thus bring upon himself the ridicule of the other scouts.
The boat was now near enough for him to discern it quite plainly. Presently it stopped and a small boat put off, and made straight for the logs. Rod hesitated no longer, but turning, sped swiftly along the shore and then up the path leading to the Anchorage. Reaching the house, he pounded upon the door, which was opened almost immediately by the captain.
"They're there!" Rod gasped.
"After the logs?" the captain enquired. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. Come quick, or it will be too late!"
Stepping to one corner of the kitchen, the captain picked up his rifle, and swiftly followed Rod to the shore. There they paused and listened.
"Ye're right, by gum!" the captain whispered. "The skunks! But I'll stop their fun. Into the tender now, and make no noise."
With Rod seated astern, and the captain at the oars, it took but a few minutes to come close to the tug. A long line had already been made fast to the raft, and the small boat with two men on board was returning from fastening the warp. Captain Josh ceased rowing and waited. Then he caught up his rifle, and held it in readiness.
"Hold on there!" he roared. "What's the meanin' of all this?"
"None of your business," was the gruff and somewhat startled reply. "Get out of the way or we'll run ye down!"
"Is that so?" and the captain drew back the hammer of his rifle. "Bluff all ye like, but I've something here which does more'n bluff. Stop rowin', I tell ye, or I'll blow yer heads off!"
It was remarkable what an effect these words had upon the night-prowlers. They could see, as well, the levelled rifle, and they believed that the man holding it meant business. They stopped rowing, but the boat still glided onward.
"Back water, and keep away from the tug!" the captain commanded.
The men obeyed, and soon the boat was lying but a few yards off.
"There, that's better," the captain commented. "Now, what have yez to say about yer actions here?"
"We're only obeyin' orders," was the surly reply. "We were told to come fer these logs."
"Who told ye?"
"Nick Taftie. We're workin' fer him."
"H'm, I thought so. Worked fer him last year at the same job, eh?"
"How many of yez are there?" the captain enquired.
"Three. Pete Simons, the engineer, is on board."
"Well, then, ye jist tell Pete to drop anchor, and tumble in there with yez. If yez try any foolin', I'll shoot."
"But what are ye going to do?" one of the men demanded. "We can't stay here."
"Never mind what I'm goin' to do; ye'll find that out in plenty of time. It's not a bad place to stay, after all. Yez won't starve, and I shan't shoot so long as yez behave yerselves. Hurry up, and give Pete his orders!"
The engineer had heard every word which had been spoken. At first he was tempted to steam away, and leave his companions to their fate. But he knew that he could not very well steer the tug and handle the engine at the same time. He, therefore, decided to remain. It took him only a few minutes to run out the anchor, and join his companions, as they backed their boat to the stern of the tug.
"Now pull fer the shore," the captain ordered. "Don't try to git away from me. At the first sign I'll shoot."
Rod rowed the tender, while the captain with his rifle across his knees kept his eyes fixed upon the three men in the other boat. When a short distance from the shore, the captain commanded them to stop, and hand over their oars. This they reluctantly did, and waited to see what would happen next.
"Got an anchor on board?" the captain asked.
"Yes, a small one," was the reply.
"Well, out with it then, and don't pull it up till yez receive orders."
THE BEST "GOOD TURN"
There was great excitement throughout Hillcrest over the capture of the log-stealers. In a short time everybody knew how the scouts had kept watch during the night, and how the three tug-boatmen were forced to remain in their anchored boat, with the captain guarding them while the scouts went for the magistrate and constable. There was a feeling of satisfaction that this had been so successfully accomplished, as it would no doubt put an end to such contemptible business in the future.
It was only natural that the trial should arouse unusual interest. It was held in the large public hall, and the building was packed with eager and curious spectators. Nick Taftie, the unscrupulous business man, was present. He had tried to get away across the border into the United States, but had been caught and forced to attend the trial. Everything was against him. The three boatmen told of the many logs they had stolen for him during other years. Taftie's lawyer fought hard and long, but all in vain. The evidence was too strong against him, and he was convicted. He was condemned to a term in Dorchester Penitentiary, and in addition, he had to settle for all the logs he had stolen from people along the river. The three boatmen were let off with a fine and a warning.
The city papers made the most of this affair, and the day after the arrest they had long columns telling of what the Hillcrest troop had done. They mentioned, also, how these same scouts had captured the robbers on Kidd's Island, and how the famous singer, Anna Royanna, had visited the troop and had sung at their entertainment. Great credit was given to the scouts for having rounded up the gang of river-thieves. It was explained further that the boys had collected drift-logs for the purpose of earning money to win the Lieutenant-Governor's prize.
All this so impressed three lumber-merchants in the city that they united, and sent a cheque of one hundred and fifty dollars to the Hillcrest troop. This caused intense excitement among the scouts when they met at Headquarters, and the captain read to them the letter he had received. With whoops, worthy of a band of painted Indians on the warpath, the boys charged upon their scoutmaster in order to see the wonderful cheque. Then a babel of voices ensued as they discussed how much money they had, and what kind of a motor-boat they should buy. It was their opinion that they must get it at once. But the captain shook his head.
"Don't be in too big a hurry, lads," was his reminder. "That money must stay in the bank till the Governor gives his judgment. He'll want to see the bank-book, and he'll have to receive a full report as to how the money was raised. We must capture that prize, remember."
"How much money will we have when the logs are sold?" Rod enquired.
"Let me see," and the captain scratched his head. "We have two hundred in the bank. This cheque will make three hundred and fifty, and them logs should bring us twenty-five more. That's quite a sum, boys, and I think we're pretty lucky. I doubt if any other troop'll have that much."
In their excitement the scouts longed to rush into Whyn's room, and tell her the great news. But this they could not do, and the thought that she could not share their joy somewhat dampened their enthusiasm. The captain told them that two doctors were to hold a consultation over her that very day. His voice was lower and softer than the scouts had ever heard it as he mentioned this, and they knew that he was deeply grieved over the girl's condition. Their interest at winning so much money was now lessened. Their hearts were touched at the news about Whyn, and they left Headquarters in a quieter manner than they had done in many a day.
Rod was more deeply moved than the rest of the scouts. That Whyn could not get better had never before entered his mind. But for two doctors to hold a consultation over her brought a great sinking feeling to his heart. Would she never be able to see the scouts again? he asked himself, as he walked slowly homeward. He had no appetite for his supper, and went to bed earlier than usual. But he found it hard to get to sleep. Whyn was ever before him, and he thought of her lying there in her little room. Why should she die? he reasoned. The scouts wanted her, and so did her mother. He tossed for a long time upon his pillow, and when he did at last fall into a fitful slumber, he dreamed of Whyn, and the money the scouts had earned. They seemed to be mixed up in some funny way. He saw the girl holding out her hands to the scouts while they were counting over a large roll of crisp bills.
He could not get clear of this dream when he awoke in the morning, and he thought much of it during breakfast. Both Mr. and Mrs. Royal had noticed something unusual about Rod's manner. At first they thought that he was not well, and they watched him carefully as they now sat at the table. They were naturally proud of the part he had taken in the capturing of the river-thieves, as well as the way he was developing into such a strong manly boy.
"I saw Doctor Travis last night," the clergyman at length began. "He and Doctor Sturgis from the city held a consultation over Whyn yesterday afternoon. I am afraid that her case is very serious."
"I expected as much," Mrs. Royal replied, with a deep sigh. "The poor girl has been failing rapidly of late, so I understand."
Rod laid down the knife with which he was spreading his bread, and fixed his eyes full upon the clergyman's face. His heart beat fast, and he was very pale.
"She has one chance, however, so the doctor said," the parson continued, "but I fear that is almost out of the question."
"And what is that?" Mrs. Royal enquired, as her husband paused, and began to toy thoughtfully with his napkin-ring.
"To send her to some great specialist in New York. An operation of a most serious nature is necessary, but it will take so much money that it seems almost ridiculous even to think of such a thing. It is about all that Mrs. Sinclair can do to make a living as it is."
"But surely there is some one who would be willing to advance the money," Mrs. Royal replied. "Is it right that the girl should die without an effort being made to save her life?"
"It would take a large sum, Martha, and I am afraid that there is no one sufficiently interested in the girl who is able to do much. The specialist's fees alone would be great, to say nothing of other expenses. I know where some of the money could be obtained, but I should be most loath to use it."
As Rod sat and listened, with flushed face and sparkling eyes, the dream of the past night once more came into his mind. He saw Whyn holding out her hands to the scouts while they were busy counting over their money. Then an idea came to him which caused him to give vent to a slight expression of delight.
"What is it, dear?" Mrs. Royal enquired. "You seem to be amused over something."
"I was only thinking, grandma, and could not help it." He wished to unburden his mind, but thought it best to wait until he had seen either Captain Josh or the rest of the scouts.
Rod could hardly wait now until breakfast was over, so anxious was he to rush over before school to speak to the captain about his new plan. He finished the few chores he was in the habit of doing, and then sped across the field as fast as his legs would carry him.
The captain was in his shop near the house, but he was not working as Rod opened the door and entered. He was sitting on a bench, with his face buried in his hands. He looked quickly up as the boy walked in, as if ashamed to fee caught in such a manner.
"What's up now?" was his gruff greeting. "Ye needn't startle one out of his senses. Why can't ye knock in a proper manner?"
"Oh, captain," Rod panted, paying no attention to the rebuke, "I want to talk to you about something."
"Go ahead, then. It must be mighty important to bring ye here this mornin' in sich a hurry."
"It is, captain, and it's about Whyn."
"About Whyn, eh? What d'ye want to tell me about her?"
"That she can't get better, unless she goes to a specialist. Doctor Travis told grandad all about it last night."
For an instant the old man looked keenly into the clear eyes of the boy standing before him, and a deep love for this manly chap entered his heart.
"Sit down," he ordered, and his voice was husky. "So ye're interested in Whyn, eh?"
"Oh, yes. I don't want her to die."
"Neither do I, lad. Neither do I. But what are we goin' to do? Tell me that."
"Help her, captain. The scouts can do it. We've got money, and why shouldn't we give it for Whyn's sake?"
"What, take the money we've earned?"
"Yes. We've nearly four hundred dollars."
"But what about the prize, Rod?"
"Oh, we can get along without that, but we can't do without Whyn."
"Ye're right there, lad," and a mistiness came into the captain's eyes. "But it'll take a lot of money to send her to that specialist. Four hundred dollars won't go very far."
"But it will help," Rod urged. "It will be our good turn, anyway. And say, captain, wouldn't you do a great deal for Whyn?"
"Sure, lad, indeed I would. Do almost anything, in fact."
"Well, then, suppose you sell the Roaring Bess."
"Sell my boat!" This was almost too much for the captain.
"Yes, why not? You can get another, can't you?"
"I suppose so," was the slow response.
"And if that isn't enough, you can sell your place. You would do it for Whyn's sake, wouldn't you?"
This was more than the captain had expected. He crushed back a naughty exclamation, and rose slowly to his feet.
"Look here, Rod, what d'ye think I am? A saint? Git away to school now, or ye'll be late. I'll think over what ye've said, and discuss it with the troop this afternoon. Ye'll see the boys at school, so tell them to meet here as soon as they git out. Ye'd better not tell them anything about yer plan until I've had time to think it over fer awhile."
Rod found it very hard to keep his mind down to his lessons that day. He was too much excited over the idea of helping Whyn. He wanted to speak to the other scouts about it, and thus relieve his feelings. But he had received the captain's order, and so must obey.
The rest of the scouts were most anxious to know what the special summons meant, so it did not take them long to reach Headquarters as soon as school was out. Their scoutmaster was there before them, who explained in a few words why he had called them together.
"I want yez to decide this matter fer yerselves," he told them in closing, "and I'll tell yez what I think about it when yez have made up yer minds."
"Certainly we must give the money," Rod cried, as soon as the captain was through. "It's for Whyn, and who wouldn't do anything for her? He has no right to belong to this troop if he wouldn't."
"Let's give it," the rest shouted in unison; "every cent of it."
"But what about the prize?" the captain asked.
"Let it go," was the general response.
"And the motor-boat?"
"We can do without that, eh, boys?" This from Rod.
"Yes, yes. Hurrah for Whyn!" and the scouts in their loyal enthusiasm threw their caps into the air, and shouted at the top of their voices.
Into the captain's eyes gleamed a light of joy and triumph. He felt at that moment like a general whose men had consented to make a mighty sacrifice for a great cause. He tried to say something, but the words would not come. Instead, he stepped up to each scout, and reached out his big right hand. This action on the part of their leader had more effect in filling their hearts with pride than an outburst of eloquence. They understood something of what the captain felt, and how pleased he was at their decision.
"But remember, lads," he reminded them, "our money'll go only a little way, and we mustn't git too excited jist yit."
"How much will it take?" one of the boys asked.
"I can't say fer sure. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it should take two thousand dollars."
"Oh!" was the astonished exclamation from all. "Why will it take that much?" they enquired.
"Specialists are expensive people," the captain explained. "I knew a man years ago who went to one, and it cost him more'n that."
"But maybe he won't charge as much for a girl, especially when it's Whyn?" Rod suggested.
"H'm, I guess that won't make any difference. Anyway, we must be prepared, as our motto says. We've got to git more money, that's certain, and how are we to do it?"
There was silence for a few minutes, as the scouts well knew from past experience how hard it was to think of any plan to raise money quickly. They realised that they could not expect to have such good fortune as they had during the past year. It was Rod who broke the silence.
"I know what we can do," he began. "We can go through the parish, and ask every person to give something. That's what the Ladies' Aid did when they wanted to build that shed for the horses near the church."
"But how would Whyn like that?" the captain asked. "Wouldn't, it seem too, much like beggin'?"
"It would be better, though, than letting her die," Rod insisted.
"Sure, sure," the captain agreed. "But I don't like the idea, fer all that. Let's go home now and think of some other plan. If it comes to the worst, we might have to beg, but not if we kin help it."
It took Jimmy Britt many weeks to regain his strength after his serious illness. For a long time he manifested very little interest in what was going on around him. His father and mother wore greatly disappointed and discouraged. He only spoke when spoken to, and spent hours wandering alone along the shore or out in the woods. The scouts annoyed him, and they kept as far from him as possible and he from them. The only conversation he had with his father concerning his past life was the day he spoke about Anna Royanna, and the influence her song had upon him. The captain and Mrs. Britt were afraid that the blow he had received upon his head had somewhat affected his brain, and this caused them considerable worry. The neighbours had already whispered this among themselves, for they had been quick to notice the change which had come over the returned son.
"Look here, Jimmy," his father said that evening after the scouts had left, "I want ye to write a letter fer me. My old hand is so cramped that I kin hardly hold a pen. Ye used to be good at sich work."
"All right," Jimmy replied, rising slowly and bringing down the writing materials from an upper shelf. "Now, fire away; I'm ready."
But the captain hesitated, and was at a loss how to begin. He scratched his head in perplexity.
"Dang it all!" he muttered. "Oh, jist tell him that we have a little sick girl here, who will die if she doesn't git to a specialist in New York, and that I'd like fer him to help out with the expense."
"What are you talking about, dad?" Jimmy asked. "I can't write the letter until you give me the name of the person you want it sent to."
"Oh, didn't I tell ye? Well, that's queer. It's fer my old master, Benjamin Dodge, in the city. He's got the money, and he told me that if I ever needed any help to go to him. I have never bothered him before, and never intended to do so, but this is different. Whyn's life's at stake, and that's reason enough. The scouts are to give all the money they earned fer that prize, but it won't go very far. We need a great deal more, and at once."
"And did the scouts give that money of their own free will?" Jimmy asked. "Did you suggest it to them?"
"No. I never thought about it until Rod came over this mornin' and put the notion into my head."
For some time Jimmy sat toying with the pen he was holding in his hand.
"Why don't ye write that letter?" his father demanded.
"So you say that the girl can't get better unless she goes to a specialist?" his son enquired.
"It's what the doctors say; that's all I know about it. But git on with that letter, will ye?"
"Look here, dad," and Jimmy laid aside the pen. "I'm going to the city in the morning, and suppose I see old Dodge about the matter. It will be much better than writing a letter. I can explain things which I couldn't write."
"Maybe that would be the best way," the captain agreed. "But put it up to him straight, Jimmy. He's a gruff cur at times, but he's got a big heart."
"I'll attend to that, dad. Just leave it to me."
The captain was very restless the next day. He thought that the time for the arrival of the evening boat would never come. Jimmy was to return on her, and suppose Dodge was unwilling to assist! What would he do? His eyes often turned toward the Roaring Bess riding at anchor before the house. Several times he stood in front of the door and looked out over his few acres of land. What his thoughts were he kept to himself, but the expression, of determination in his eyes told of a man who would not easily be balked in the object upon which he had set his heart and mind.
Captain Josh met Jimmy at the wharf, and the two walked down the road together.
"Well, did ye see Dodge?" the captain eagerly enquired.
"No," was the brief reply.
"No?" the old man repeated, while his heart sank low.
"I didn't see him, and I didn't intend to."
"But what about Whyn, Jimmy? Didn't ye promise me that——"
"Oh, that's all right," and the son gave a short laugh. "I have the money, and isn't that enough?"
"Ye've got the money, ye say?" the captain asked in astonishment, stopping abruptly, and looking keenly into the young man's face. "Where did ye git it?"
"Don't worry about that, dad. It's honest money, and I'm glad it's to be spent for a good purpose. But for that little song I heard in New York, it would have been all blown in by this time."
"Jimmy, d'ye tell me that it's yer own money?" the captain demanded. "Or are ye only foolin' me?"
"It was mine, dad, but now it's yours, so here it is," and the son brought forth a big roll of bills from his pocket, and handed it to his father. "Sit down, dad, and see how much is there."
Seating himself upon a stone, the captain spread out the bills upon his knee, by fifties and hundreds.
"A thousand dollars!" he gasped, when he had finished. His hands trembled, and his body shook from the vehemence of his emotion. "Jimmy——" It was all he could say.
"There, there, dad, that will do," and the son laid his right hand affectionately upon his father's shoulder. "When you want any more, let me know. But don't give that girl a hint where that money came from. Tell her a friend gave it, see? Come, now, let's get home. Mother will be waiting tea for us."
The captain said very little during supper, and when the meal was over, he sat smoking for some time in deep thought. Then he laid aside his pipe, and went to Whyn's room. He knocked gently upon the door before entering. The girl gave him a wan smile of greeting, and reached out her thin hand. The captain held it for awhile, and Whyn was content to let it remain there.
"How are ye feelin', little one?" he asked.
"Tired," was the reply. "But mamma is coming to-morrow, and I must be better when she is here."
"Sure, sure. But we're goin' to have ye better all the time soon, so keep up courage."
"I'm afraid not," and Whyn gazed sadly and thoughtfully toward the window where the westering sun was casting its beams. "I shall never be better, captain."
"Tut, tut. Don't say sich a thing."
"But I know it, so what's the use of pretending? Didn't the doctors say that I can't get better unless I go to a specialist?"
"Well, why can't ye go?" the captain queried. "What's to hinder ye?"
"It's the want of money," was the slow reply. "It would cost so much, and we are poor. I know that Douglas would help if he could, but he can't do much now."
"But suppose ye had the money, and could go, would it make ye happy?"
"Don't tease me, captain," and the girl gave the hard hand which was holding hers an affectionate little squeeze.
"I'm not, Whyn, really I'm not. The scouts are goin' to send ye."
"There now, never mind any of yer exclaimin'. I knew it would surprise ye. Yes, the scouts have decided to send ye to a specialist. Everything is all arranged."
"But I can't allow it, captain," Whyn protested. "Do they mean to take their money and use it upon me?"
"Yes, that's jist what they're goin' to do."
"But what about the prize, and the motorboat?"
"Don't ye worry about sich things. That matter is all settled. The boys love ye so much that they're willin' to do anything."
Whyn lay very still for awhile, her eyes moist with tears. The captain, sitting by her side, watched her in silence.
"It is too much for them to do," the girl at last murmured.
"Oh, not at all," the captain replied. "They are only lendin' ye the money, and ye kin pay them back when ye git well and write that book of yours."
"How lovely that will be!" and Whyn clasped her hands before her in delight, something like her old manner. "It will take some time, though. But I shall do it, and the first money I get shall go to the scouts."
Suddenly an expression of anxiety came into her eyes as she fixed them full upon the captain's face.
"What is it, little one?" he asked.
"But the scouts won't have enough money, will they?" she enquired.
"Hardly enough, Whyn. But a kind friend has given some to help out. He doesn't want ye to know his name, and will it worry ye much if I don't tell ye?"
"No, not at all. You have been so good to me that I have no right to ask. Oh, I am so happy, and won't mamma be delighted when she hears the news."
The day after Mrs. Sinclair's arrival, preparations were made for the removal of the invalid girl. All knew that the trip would be a serious undertaking, but they said nothing about this to Whyn. Her mother was going with her, and Captain Josh and Mrs. Britt were to go as far as St. John. But before leaving, Whyn had one special request to make. She wanted to see the scouts, to thank them and to bid them good-bye.
They came the evening before she left, and filed silently into her room. It had been months since they had seen her, and all were shocked to see how she had failed. Whyn greeted them with a bright smile, and held out her hand to each one in turn.
"I can't talk much, boys," she began, "for I am very tired now. But I want to thank you all for what you have done for me. Be sure and keep the troop together. I want each one of you to write to me, and tell me all the news."
How the scouts got out of her room they could hardly remember, but at last they found themselves standing before the house looking out over the river. All wanted to say or do something to hide their real feelings. It was Rod who rose to the occasion.
"Come, boys," and his voice was low as he spoke, "let's have a swim. The water's fine."
EXCITEMENT AT THE ANCHORAGE
A deep gloom settled suddenly over the scouts after Whyn left. The enthusiasm and excitement of the last few days had departed, leaving them much depressed. They had little to work for now, as all hope of winning the prize was gone. Their logs had been sold, and the money placed in the bank where it would remain until needed for the sick girl. The boys never for a moment regretted the step they had fallen. There was something lacking, however, and they found it difficult to take up their regular scout work where they had left it off. They met at Headquarters as usual, and spent much time with the captain out on the water, but whenever they came ashore and looked up at the window where Whyn had so often greeted them, their hearts became heavy. They wrote long letters to her and upon the arrival of the mail each day they expected letters from her. But none came. Only to the captain did Mrs. Sinclair write, telling him of their safe arrival in New York.
Mrs. Britt received a letter about the same time, which caused her to set to work house-cleaning in a most energetic manner. Every room was turned upside down, swept, and dusted, while the captain beat carpets and mats until his back and arms ached. Miss Arabella was taken into the secret, and she came to the Anchorage every day to give a helping hand.
It was Whyn's room which received special attention. A carpet was ordered from the city to take the place of the old hooked-mat, and new curtains were put up to the window.
"My, that looks fine," Miss Arabella exclaimed, when the last finishing touches had been given to the room. "It will certainly be a surprise."
The captain chuckled when he was brought in to give his opinion. In fact, he had been chuckling ever since Mrs. Britt had received the letter which started her upon the special cleaning of her already neat house. The scouts felt that something out of the ordinary was pleasing the captain by his jolly manner. They often discussed it among themselves, but the more they talked, the more puzzled they became. They all knew about the house-cleaning, the new carpet, and curtains for Whyn's room, and that Miss Arabella was at the Anchorage most of the time.
"I guess I know what it's all about," Tommy Bunker confided one afternoon, when the scouts were discussing the matter.
"What do you know?" Rod asked.
"Jimmy's going to get married."
"Married!" was the surprised shout from all.
"Yes. He's going to marry Miss Arabella. Pa said last night that she's been looking for a man ever since he knew her, and if it wasn't to be her wedding, he was mighty sure she wouldn't be so mighty chummy with the captain and his wife."
"But they wouldn't live at the Anchorage," Phil replied. "Miss Arabella's got a home of her own, hasn't she?"
"Pa says that Jimmy and Tom Simpkins don't agree, and so they couldn't live in the same house," Tommy explained.
The scouts no longer scoffed at this idea. It did seem to them that something like a wedding was about to take place. The captain was so mysterious and full of fun, while Miss Arabella beamed upon the boys whenever she met them. It must surely be her wedding, they agreed.
At the close of the second week of all this excitement, the scouts received orders from the captain to meet him at the wharf in full uniform upon the arrival of the evening boat. They were all there half an hour ahead of time, wondering what was going to happen. Maybe Jimmy and Miss Arabella had gone to the city that day, had been married, and were coming up on the steamer. What else could it be?
When at last the steamer did arrive, and the gang-planks had been run out, the scouts strained their eyes in an effort to find out who were coming ashore. Several landed, and then to their astonishment, who should step out but Anna Royanna!
When Rod first saw her he could hardly believe his eyes. Instantly the meaning of all the excitement of the past few days flashed upon his mind. It was for her that the Britts had been getting ready. He seemed almost dazed as he stood there watching the wonderful woman coming forward. He joined the others in the cheer of welcome which the captain ordered to be given; he felt her hand grasping his, and saw the smile of pleasure upon her face. But it all appeared like a marvellous dream, too good to be true. He walked by her side with the rest of the scouts, and listened to her conversation with the captain. But he said nothing, unless directly spoken to. He was too happy for speech, and he preferred to remain silent that he might think over the joy which had so suddenly come into his life. The singer held his hand that evening as he was about to leave the Anchorage. He promised that he would come to see her every day, and then sped home to impart the great news to Parson Dan and Mrs. Royal.
There was considerable excitement throughout Hillcrest when it was learned that the famous Anna Royanna had come to the Anchorage to stay for several weeks. It caused the greatest stir among the people from the city, especially the ones of the fashionable set. They could not understand why such a woman should wish to take up her abode at the Anchorage, of all places. To them, the Britts were very inferior people. They knew the captain by sight and reputation, but his wife they had never met.
After a week's hesitation and consideration, several women called upon Miss Royanna one fine afternoon. But she was not in. She spent most of her time with the scouts, so Mrs. Britt informed them. She lived out of doors during the day, and in the evening was generally at the rectory.
The Royals were charmed with the singer. She was so quiet and gentle, and made herself perfectly at home. How her presence brightened up the house. At times she played on the little piano, and sang several of her sweetest songs.
One evening when she was about to return to the Anchorage, a furious thunder-storm burst upon the land, accompanied by a torrent of rain. It continued so long that the Royals were able to induce their visitor to remain all night.
"I am afraid that I shall give you too much trouble," Miss Royanna told them.
"Oh, no," Mrs. Royal hastened to assure her. "It will be a great pleasure to have you. There is one room which is always ready, and," here her voice became low, "no one has slept in it for over thirteen years. It was my son's room," she explained, seeing the look of surprise in her guest's eyes.
As Mrs. Royal uttered these words, she turned and lighted a lamp, and, therefore, did not notice the strange expression which overspread Miss Royanna's face. Together the two went upstairs and entered the sacred chamber.
"It was Alec's room," Mrs. Royal remarked, as she placed the lamp upon the dressing-table. "He was fond of all those things," and she motioned to the walls lined with books, fishing-rods, rifle, banners, snow-shoes, and pictures. "I have aired the bed, and made it up every week since he went away. I know it will seem childish and foolish to you. But, oh——" she suddenly paused and sat down upon a chair by the side of the bed. "You little realise how much he meant to us. He was our only child, and his memory is very dear."
"I know it," Miss Royanna replied, dropping upon her knees, and throwing her arms around Mrs. Royal's neck. "I think I understand how much you have suffered during all of these years. But is it right for a stranger to occupy this room? Could I not sleep on the sofa downstairs? I would be quite comfortable there."
"No, no. You must stay here. I could never before bear the thought of any one sleeping in this room. But with you it is so different. You seem to me like my own daughter, and that you have a right here which no one else ever had. I cannot understand the feeling."
"May I be your daughter, then?" the younger woman eagerly asked, as she caught Mrs. Royal's hands in her own hot ones. "It will make my heart so happy to be able to call you mother, and to feel that this is my home."
In reply, Mrs. Royal kissed the fair face so close to hers, and gave a loving pressure to the firm white hands. For some time they remained in this position, unheeding the storm which was still raging outside. Tears were in their eyes, but a new-found joy had entered their hearts, which made that chamber of sacred memories a more hallowed spot than ever.
When at last alone, and with the door closed, the singer stood as if spellbound. Could it be possible, she asked herself, that this was his room, just as he had left it years before? The memory of the past rose suddenly and vividly to her mind. She saw again his straight manly figure, with the light of love in his eyes, as he kissed her and bade her good-bye on the morning of that fateful day years ago. She recalled his words of cheer and comfort as he told her how he would win in the battle of life, and make a home for her and their little one. Then came the terrible news, followed by the fearful days and weeks of struggle in her effort to earn a living as she carried her boy from place to place. The memory was more than she could endure. Sinking upon a chair, she buried her face in her hands and wept as she had not wept in years. Outside the storm rolled away, and the moon rose big and bright. The house was very still, but within her room Anna Royanna sat alone through the long watches of the night. How could she sleep in such a place, with so many conflicting emotions agitating her heart and mind?
Mr. and Mrs. Royal both noticed that their guest was very pale when she came down to breakfast.
"I am afraid you did not sleep well last night, dear," Mrs. Royal remarked, as she gave her an affectionate kiss. "It must have been the storm which disturbed you."
"I did not mind it," was the reply. "I have restless nights sometimes, and last night was one of them. But I shall be all right presently."
Parson Dan said nothing to any one about the idea which had come to him concerning the noted singer. But the more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that his suspicion was well grounded. He watched her very carefully, and noted her special interest in Rod. Another thing which confirmed his belief was the stopping of all letters from Rod's mother as soon as Miss Royanna arrived at Hillcrest. In her last one she had stated that she expected to be away for a number of weeks, and would be unable to write until her return. The parson's mind was greatly puzzled over the whole matter. If the famous singer was really the boy's mother, why did she not say so? Was there something which she wished to keep hidden?
He also watched the two when they were together, and as he studied their faces, he was sure that he could see a remarkable resemblance. No one else noticed it, so he believed, and not likely he would have done so but for the idea which had come to him that day he was driving along the road. Several times he was tempted to discuss the whole affair with his wife in order to find out if she had suspected anything. He always delayed, however, hoping that something of a more definite nature would turn up to set his doubts at rest.
THE TROOPS DECIDE
A few days after the big thunder-storm, Captain Josh received an official letter from the Provincial Secretary of the Boy Scouts. It was so important that he at once called his own scouts to Headquarters that he might place the whole matter before them. The boys were naturally curious to know why they had been so hurriedly summoned, and they accordingly lost no time in getting together.
The captain, seated at a little table, with the open letter before him, seemed much puzzled, and all waited anxiously for him to speak.
"Boys," he began, looking keenly into their faces, "I've got a strange letter here from the Provincial Secretary. He tells me that in two weeks' time the Lieutenant-Governor wants to meet all the troops in the province, review them, and give the prize which was offered last year. Now, we all know about that, and so are not surprised. But the Governor wants to come to Hillcrest to hold the Review, and so the secretary asks me to make arrangements, that is, if I agree to the plan. They will all come from the city on the mornin' boat, bring their lunches with them, and, hold the Review near the wharf. Now, what d'yez think about that?"
This was certainly astonishing news to the scouts. Several weeks ago they would have given shouts of delight at the suggestion. But it was different then. At that time they were almost sure of winning the prize, and had often thought of the day when it would be presented to them amid the cheers of the other scouts. But now such a thing was impossible. Every cent of their savings had already been withdrawn from the bank to help Whyn, and they had nothing to show at the Review for all their efforts. They were, therefore, silent when the captain finished speaking. The latter noted this, and surmised the reason.
"I know jist what ye're thinkin' about, lads," he continued. "We'll go to that meetin' empty-handed, so to speak. But that needn't matter. We know that we've done right, and I think we should fall in line with the Governor's idea, and try to give the visitin' troops a good time."
"So do I," Rod replied. "Though we can't get the prize, it will be nice to meet the other scouts, see how they march, and what they look like. I think it will be great to have them come to Hillcrest."
"I wonder what made them think of coming here," Phil remarked. "They never did it before."
"It is to give the scouts an outin', so the letter says," the captain replied. "It is the Governor's treat, and he thought it would be so nice to visit a place on the river where there is a troop. The secretary wants to know why we have sent no account of what we have done during the past year in connection with the prize-contest. He says that all the other troops have done so, and he is surprised that we have done nothin'."
"I guess there won't be anything to report now," Rod replied. "Don't say anything about what we have done, captain, when you write."
"I don't intend to," and the old man glared upon the boys as if he had been charged with some serious offence. "De' yez think that I'm goin' to blab all about our good-turn? Not a bit of it. Let's git down to business now, and arrange about that Review."
The following days passed very quickly. There were many things the scouts had to do for the great event. The large field below the wharf was obtained, and here boards were brought for the grand-stand, which the captain was bound to have erected for the noted men who were coming. Stately elm, beech, and birch trees stood at the back and along the edge of the field, which would afford excellent shade should the day be hot. Flags, too, were gathered, and these were to be hung upon the grand-stand, while one big Union Jack was to surmount a pole from the top of the tallest tree.
There was other work for the boys as well. They were not yet second-class scouts, and the captain was most anxious that all should pass the examination before the Review took place. He accordingly kept the troop busy, and Doctor Travis was most helpful in his lectures and in examining the boys. It was the day before the meeting when the captain proudly presented each scout with his second-class badge.
"There, I'm thankful that's over," and he gave a deep sigh of relief. "Yez kin hold up yer heads now among the rest. I wish it was the first-class badge, though. Yez should have it by this time, and I guess ye would if we hadn't spent so much time in earnin' money."
The morning of the Review was clear and warm, and the scouts in full uniform were early on the grounds. The flags were all arranged, and everything was in readiness for the meeting. Word had passed throughout the parish that the Lieutenant-Governor was to be present, and all during the morning people kept coming, some by motor-boats, and others by teams. They brought their dinners with them, intending to make a holiday of it. Even Tom Dunker was there with his family. He had no use for Captain Josh or the scouts, but he did want to see the Lieutenant-Governor, and hear what he had to say.
When the River Queen at last appeared in sight, the wharf was black with people. As the steamer drew near and gave forth two raucous blasts, a band on board began to play the National Anthem. When this was ended, the scouts, crowding the bow, gave three cheers and a "tiger." Flags were flying fore and aft, and as the river was like a mirror, the River Queen presented a perfect picture of majestic gracefulness as if proud of the load she was carrying.
Captain Josh with his scouts kept guard at the outer edge of the wharf, and stood at attention as the various troops filed ashore. When at last the Lieutenant-Governor and several noted men came out, the boys gave the full salute, and then preceded them to the main highway where the other scouts were already lined up. Then down the road they all marched, the band going before, playing a lively air, the Governor, and others in carriages, followed by a long line of scouts, with the Hillcrest troop leading. It was a proud moment for Captain Josh, as he marched ahead of the procession. Drawn to his full height, and with his long beard sweeping his breast, he might have been taken for a great warrior of olden days leading his men into action.
After the troops had reached the grounds they disbanded, and then various games were begun. Baseball came first between two crack teams. Those not interested in this made for the shore, where, protected by thick trees, they were able to enjoy a good swim.
When the baseball match was over it was time for dinner. Soon the smoke of numerous fires rose above the trees near the shore where the scouts boiled water, cooked eggs and meat like old veterans. It was a scene of gay festivity, mingled with much laughter and fun. All kinds of mistakes were made, due to ignorance of cooking or the excitement of the moment. One patrol put their tea into their can with the cold water, and boiled all together. Some boys mixed their coffee with salt instead of sugar. But all mistakes and the bantering which followed, were taken in good part, for no one felt like getting angry, no matter what happened.
The Hillcrest troop took no part in the games. They were content to stand by and watch. They knew nothing about baseball such as is played in the city, and were accordingly greatly interested, noting everything, and determined that they, too, would learn to play in the proper manner. But when it came to making a fire and preparing dinner, they easily led all the rest. Here they felt more at home, and were able to give considerable assistance to the less fortunate.
During the morning the Lieutenant-Governor, and the three who accompanied him, enjoyed themselves in their own way. They viewed the baseball game with much interest in the cool shade of a large tree, and then strolled to the shore to watch the scouts as they prepared their dinners. As they were seated upon a log, thinking it about time to go back to the steamer lying at the wharf where they were to have dinner, Captain Josh approached, and lifted his hat. He had disappeared shortly after the steamer's arrival, and no one knew what had become of him. The Governor at once rose to his feet, and held out his hand.
"You are Captain Britt, I believe," he began. "I have heard of you, and am very glad to meet you. We have been enquiring for you."
"Had other business on hand, sir," the captain replied, giving the Governor's hand a vigorous shake. "But I'm mighty glad to meet you."
"Allow me to introduce my friends," and the Governor turned to his three companions, "Senator Knobbs, Judge Sterling, and our Provincial Secretary, Mr. Laird."
"Glad to meet yez all," the captain exclaimed, as he gave the hand of each a hearty grip. "It isn't every day our parish is so honoured. Now, what about dinner? Yez must be hungry by this time."
"We are about to go back to the steamer," the secretary replied. "They have made ready for us there."
"Dinner on the steamer!" the captain cried in surprise. "Whoever heard of sich a thing at an outin' like this. Now, look here, I want yez to be my guests to-day, at a real out-of-doors meal. Yez kin eat on a steamer at any time. Will yez come? Everything is ready."
"But what about the dinner on the boat?" the Governor enquired.
"Oh, I'll send one of the scouts to tell them that ye're invited elsewhere. Will that do?"
"I shall be delighted to go with you, and I know that my friends will, too. It is very kind of you to ask us."
Calling to Rod, who was not far off, the captain sent him at once to the steamer. Then bidding the men to follow him, he left the shore, crossed the field, and entered the forest at the back of the grand-stand. Here a trail led off to the left, and after a few minutes' walk they came to a little brook gurgling down through the forest. Tall trees formed an arch over the water, birds twittered and sang, while a squirrel high up on a branch scolded noisily at the intruders. A few rods along the brook brought into view a grassy spot under the shade of a large maple tree. As the three strangers looked, their eyes opened wide with surprise, for there before them was a tempting repast spread upon a fair white linen cloth.
"Sit down, gentlemen," the captain ordered, "while I make tea."
"This is great!" the Governor exclaimed, as he seated himself upon the ground, and leaned back against the bole of the tree.
"It certainly is," the Judge assented. "It reminds me of my boyhood days. This is good of you," and he turned to the captain, "to take all this trouble for us."
"It's only a pleasure, I assure yez," the captain returned. "Much nicer than the steamer, eh? Fall to, now. Ye'll find them trout rather good. Caught them myself in the brook. Betsey'll be right pleased if ye'll try her biscuit and pie. She was afraid they wouldn't be good. Have some tea, sir?" and he held the tea-pot over the Governor's cup. "Not too strong, eh? That's good. Ye'll find cream and sugar right there. Help yerselves, now, and don't be backward."
"Well, that's the best meal I've had in a long time," the Senator remarked, as he finished, and drew forth his cigar case and passed it around. "You didn't do all this yourself, did you, captain?"
"Should say not," was the reply. "Betsey, that's my woman, did the cookin', but Miss Royanna helped me fix things up here. It was her idea, not mine."
"Miss Royanna, did you say?" the Governor queried. "It seems to me I've heard that name before."
"Sure ye have. She's the great singer. Anna Royanna, she's generally called. She's livin' with us fer awhile. Greatest woman out."
"Strange," the Governor mused. Then he shot a swift glance toward the secretary, but that young man was staring hard at the captain.
"There is certainly some tone to all this," and the Judge gave a hearty laugh. "We little expected to have our dinner served by such a noted person, and to be waited upon by a worthy sea-captain, did we, sir?" and he turned toward the Governor.