The Boy Scout Fire Fighters
by Irving Crump
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The Boy Scout Fire Fighters

Irving Crump

Copyright 1917

Barse and Company


CHAPTERS I. The Motorcycle Fire Brigade II. The Firemen's Tournament III. Boy Scouts to the Rescue IV. When the Circus Came to Town V. A Scout is Resourceful VI. Helping to Make the Movies VII. Ethan Allen Comes To Life Again VIII. The Prize Contest IX. Working to Win X. The Boy from Arizona XI. The Courage of a Coward XII. The Scout Life Guards' Beach Patrol XIII. The Day of the Big Race XIV. When the Unexpected Happened XV. A Narrow Escape XVI. Quarry Troop's Christmas



"By Jiminy, that was some fire for an old hay barn, wasn't it, fellows?" exclaimed Jiminy Gordon, as he entered the meeting room at headquarters. His eyes were flashing excitement and he was thoroughly out of breath from running up the long Otter Creek Hill. "I stayed until the last spark was out," he said, as he dropped into a chair beside Bruce Clifford, leader of the Owl Patrol of Quarry Troop No. 1.

"Some fire, is perfectly correct," said Bruce bitterly, "though it needn't have been anything more than an ordinary blaze. I tell you the Woodbridge Fire Department needs a little pep, fellows." This last was addressed to the four other occupants of the room, Bud Weir, Romper Ryan, Babe Wilson and Nipper Knapp.

"Right," said Romper.

"The way they went about it was a farce," said Bud.

"Yes, they all had to have their red flannel shirts on," remarked Babe, the fat boy, sarcastically.

"Say, did you see 'em scrapping over who should carry the fire trumpet?" laughed Romper.

"Sure, and about six men were giving orders," put in Jiminy, who had caught the spirit of the remarks.

"And no one obeyed any of 'em," supplemented Babe, sarcastic as usual.

"But the finest exhibition of firemanship was when one of the nozzlemen let go of the only hose they got on the fire while he hunted through his pockets for a paper of tobacco or something else just as important," said Bruce. "Of course the other nozzleman couldn't hold onto the hose alone and it twisted out of his hands. The thing acted like a big black snake, fellows, and hit Chief Blaney a whack in the chest that knocked him sprawling. Then it proceeded to wet down the whole fire department before some one captured it. It was a scream. Didn't any of you see it?"

"I reached there in time to see Tom Hogan try to stop it and get a ducking for his trouble," laughed Nipper Knapp.

"Oh, it is a shame," continued Bruce; "I know it isn't exactly proper to criticise, but then if they'd had a little system about it old Eli Osborne's barn would still be standing. Now it's a heap of cinders. I tell you any ordinary troop of Boy Scouts has more snap than the Woodbridge Fire Department. I believe— By Jove, fellows. I've an idea! Let's organize a fire department of our own. A motorcycle fire department. I was reading in a magazine only the other day how they started one over in England somewhere. How about it?"

"Bully—how's it done?" demanded Bud Weir, leader of the Blue Heron Patrol.

"Corking idea; let's get busy," exclaimed Jiminy Gordon.

"Great! Give us the details," shouted Romper.

Bruce wrinkled his brow in deep thought for several moments, then his face lighted up with a smile.

"Look here, fellows," he said enthusiastically, "three of us have motorcycles we got for Christmas, and Romper here and Ray Martin of the Flying Eagles have the machines they built themselves. Then there's 'Old Nanc,' the automobile we built last Winter. She's good enough to carry hose and hatchets and a couple of fellows besides. We've the equipment. What do you say? I'm dead sure my dad will let us borrow some fire extinguishers from the mill, and he has any amount of hose and other things to fit up a first-class brigade. We'll get our equipment together and then drill like the dickens. How about it?"

"And we'll keep it a secret. Won't tell a soul until we get a chance to spring a surprise on the whole town, eh, fellows?" suggested Bud.

"Let's spring it at the tournament and convention next month. The Champlain Valley Firemen's Association meets here this year, you know. Perhaps we can get first prize in the tournament, added Romper Ryan.

"Whoo-o-o-pe! Great! Let's get busy," shouted Nipper Knapp.

"Right-o," said Bruce. "But first of all let's tell our plan to Assistant Scoutmaster Ford."

To be thoroughly familiar with Quarry Troop No. 1 you must know that it was composed of three patrols in Woodbridge, Vt., and that its members had created a reputation for themselves through their ability as mechanics and electricians. Woodbridge has long been noted for its electrically operated marble quarries and its many machine shops and textile mills, and the boys of the town, as a result of their surroundings, were by nature of a mechanical turn. Added to this, the Woodbridge Academy was one of the first institutions of the country to adopt a manual training course as part of its curriculum, and all the lads received an early drilling at the lathes and forges.

Bruce Clifford, always the most self-reliant lad in town, first suggested that he and his fellows establish "a troop of Engineers," and of course his proposal was received with enthusiasm by the Academy boys. Bruce took the plan to his father, Samuel Clifford, and to his father's friend, Hamilton Townsend, a well-known consulting engineer in Woodbridge. Mr. Townsend was delighted with the idea, and quickly consented to become the Scoutmaster, while Mr. Clifford, to foster the interest of the lads along mechanical lines, offered them the abandoned machine shop on the top of Otter Creek Hill for their headquarters.

This was a real find for Bruce and his friends, for the old place had never been dismantled.

Mr. Clifford was a builder of electrical stone cutting and polishing machines and for a long time he had maintained his business in the little two-story structure. But four years previous he had erected a fine new concrete building just across the way, and abandoned the machine shop, intending to tear down the building and sell the old equipment for junk.

This made ideal headquarters for a troop that desired to specialize in engineering. On the first floor were the old hand-forges, bellows, lathes, work benches, planing machines, and various other appliances. They were all out of date, to be sure, and some slightly rusty, but still quite usable after they had been cleaned up.

On the second floor of the building were two rooms, one of which was used for meetings, while the other was converted into a wire room for the loop telegraph line that the lads had built through the town. This loop was connected with an instrument in the bedrooms of every member of the troop and the boys could be routed out of bed at midnight, if need be, by some one calling on any of the keys. A wireless system had also been erected on the roof of the building by the wireless enthusiasts of the troop and the helix, spark-gap and various coils and keys were also set up in the wire room.

Headquarters immediately became popular with every member of the troop and always some one was to be found pottering about in the machine shop, building something that he was particularly interested in. Two of the boys, during the long Winter evenings, had made more or less serviceable motorcycles for themselves, and a half dozen of the young engineers had even essayed the construction of an automobile from old parts they were able to get for "a song" at various junk shops; indeed, some serviceable material was found in scrap heaps about town.

How well they succeeded, a wheezing two-cylinder motor car attested. This turn-out was dubbed "Old Nanc" by the troop, and though it went far better down grade than it did on the level, the boys managed to get a great deal of fun out of it. And it was not a bad looking machine either when it finally received several generous coats of red paint and enamel.

Luckily, Austin Ford, the engineer in charge of the hydro-electric plant of the Woodbridge Quarry Company, became interested in the "Scout Engineers," and through him the officials of the quarry company were persuaded to allow the lads to use as much electric current as they required without cost. The youngsters quickly built a transmission line to the electric station, which was located a few miles north of the town on a branch of Otter Creek.

Mr. Ford's interest in the lads increased to admiration when he saw the business-like way in which they went about building the line, and he even offered them some practical engineering advice when they found themselves up against knotty problems. This led to a more intimate relation with the young Cornell graduate, and in the end the boys suggested that he become the Assistant Scoutmaster. This office rather pleased him, for in reality Austin Ford was little more than a big boy in the matter of pleasure.

He quickly became a master of scout lore and at every opportunity he was afield with the lads or else in the shop at headquarters working out new engineering "stunts" (as he characterized them) for the Scouts to undertake. The boys never failed to talk over each new undertaking with him, as, for instance, the troop's latest scheme, the organization of a motorcycle fire department.

Indeed, on the very evening of the day Eli Osborn's barn was reduced to ashes, Bruce, Bud, Romper and several others visited Mr. Ford and outlined their plans. Of course the Assistant Scoutmaster approved of such a very laudable Idea, but he did admonish the boys against criticising the present fire fighting force of Wood bridge, stating that though the men had their peculiarities the lads should remember that they were volunteers, doing their work without receiving a cent of pay because they recognized their duty to others.

As to the equipment of the brigade, he left that all up to the boys, telling them, however, that whenever they had any difficulty they would find him ready to help them. He also suggested that they visit the hydro-electric plant and take a few tools and some old sand buckets which they could paint over and use as bucket brigade equipment.



The two weeks following were mighty busy ones for Quarry Troop No. 1. First of all it was necessary for Bruce and his companions to find out exactly what in the matter of equipment they had at their disposal. This could only be determined by a visit to Mr. Clifford's mill and several other places where they could borrow fire fighting apparatus and still not let the news of their secret organization leak out.

Mr. Clifford, when he heard of the plan, was particularly delighted and he personally conducted the boys through the machine shop and mill, making numerous suggestions meanwhile. First of all he found that he could spare eleven small, two-and-one-half gallon chemical extinguishers and still leave enough equipment to comply with the fire underwriters' laws, which call for a certain number of extinguishers for each floor.

These eleven were enough to provide two for each motorcycle in the brigade and one for the automobile. It seemed rather unfortunate to Bruce that they could only get one for "Old Nanc," for he had had a mental picture of the red automobile with a shining extinguisher on either side of the driver's seat. Indeed, he was so keen on this artistic arrangement that he pleaded with his father to spare an additional tank.

"Why, I'll tell you what you can have to balance up 'Old Nanc,'" said his father laughingly, when he heard Bruce's reason for wanting another extinguisher, "here's a light oxygen-acetylene tank equipment with a blow torch I've been using around the mill. I'm going to get a new one of larger capacity, and if you polish this up it will look mighty business-like, I tell you.

"These torches are being adopted by the city fire departments too. You see they are composed of two tanks, one filled with oxygen and the other with acetylene gas. These gases both flow through the same opening in the torch and unite before they strike the air. If you touch a match to the end of the torch, presto, you have a thin blue flame, so hot that it will cut through the hardest steel. The flame gives off a heat as high as 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit; think of that! It literally burns its way through the toughest metal and does the job before you can say 'scat.' The city fire departments use them to burn the hinges off iron doors and window shutters in big warehouse fires. Do you boys want it? It may come in handy, you know."

"Want it! You bet we do," shouted Jiminy Gordon eagerly.

"Just the stuff," recommended Romper Ryan, who had been inspecting the apparatus, "handy and compact. Doesn't weigh more than a hundred pounds. Two of us could handle it in fine shape. We certainly would like to have it."

"All right," acquiesced Mr. Clifford, "it's yours."

The good-natured manufacturer also gave the boys a set of old fire pails that needed fresh coats of paint, and several lengths of old but serviceable fire hose, not to mention a number of rusty fire hatchets, crowbars and pike poles.

"How about ladders?" said Mr. Clifford as the boys were about to depart.

"Gee, we never thought of 'em," said Bruce, surprised at such an omission. Then as he considered the capacity of "Old Nanc," he continued: "But if we had them we wouldn't know how to carry them; we—you see, we can't afford to overload the auto or she will never be able to get started for a fire."

"Ho, ho, that's right. She'd be a regular tortoise," said Mr. Clifford. "But why don't you make a couple of scaling ladders? I'll have the top hooks forged for you if you'll build the ladders. They'll be light and serviceable and you can work up a mighty spectacular drill with them."

"Great, we'll do it," said Bruce. Then he added, "perhaps we will have a real fire department after all."

"Old Nanc" spent the busiest day of her career gathering up the loads of extinguishers, hose and other equipment before she was laid up for alteration, and the Scouts for many days thereafter found that their spare time was well taken up with their work at headquarters.

From the hour that the Woodbridge Academy closed until ten o'clock in the evening they toiled like beavers. Bruce, always a capable manager, divided the patrols into working squads and assigned them to the various tasks to be accomplished. Those who were handy with carpentering tools he set to work making a new fire patrol body for the automobile. Those who excelled at the forges he assigned to the task of making brackets and metal clamps with which to fasten the extinguishers onto the motorcycles. Some were appointed ladder makers, others were painters, and still others were buffers and polishers, who shined up the tarnished sides of the tanks and took the rust off the axes and pike heads. And when they all became active the interior of headquarters was a veritable beehive for busyness.

The boys did not devote all their time to building work, however, for they realized that to win honors at the firemen's tournament, in which they meant to compete, they would have to be well drilled in every branch of fire fighting. Consequently every evening, just before dusk, the entire troop assembled in the field back of headquarters.

Scaling ladder drills, first aid work, rescue work, bucket brigade drills, and hose coupling contests were indulged in until the lads worked with the precision and accuracy of trained fire fighters. For the sake of unity Bruce had been appointed fire chief, having charge of all three patrols. The entire squad was under his command and in a very few days he had systematized their work to the point where there was scarcely a lost motion or a false move.

Indeed, the Scouts drilled with such vigor and enthusiasm that inside of an hour they would be completely tired out. Then, while they were resting, Bruce would put them through a sharp oral drill on the rudiments of firemanship as set forth in the September number of Boy's Life until, to quote Jiminy Gordon, "They could say it backwards, or upside down, and do it blindfolded."

Gradually after weeks of toil the fleet of fire fighting motorcycles assumed a business-like appearance. And as for "Old Nanc" she, redolent with the odors of fresh red paint, loomed above them all exactly like a mother hen keeping a watchful eye on her brood of chicks.

Each motorcycle was equipped with a fire extinguisher clamped on either side, just back of the seat. Directly in the rear of the seat was a small red tool box in which hose-coupling wrenches and two sets of harness were kept. This harness, devised by Mr. Ford, was made of canvas in the form of a sling to hold the extinguishers in position on a Scout's back. In that way a boy could enter a burning building and carry an extinguisher with him, still having both hands free to operate the extinguisher hose. On top of the tool box was strapped a short coil of hose with a small nozzle ready to be brought into action when coupled to the nearest street hydrant.

"Old Nanc," besides carrying an extinguisher and the oxygen-acetylene blow torch tank, also contained the remaining hose, an equipment of axes, pike poles and scaling ladders, and provided accommodations for three Scouts and the driver besides.

Until a few days before the tournament the Scouts were working on their equipment. Indeed, the very last coat of varnish was put onto "Old Nanc" the Saturday afternoon preceding the tournament day, which fell on Wednesday. All that remained to be done was to deck the machine with flags and bunting and she would be ready for the parade. In truth, that very morning Bruce had gone on a motorcycle trip to St. Cloud City, twelve miles south of Woodbridge, to buy the necessary decorations.

"By Jove, she looks like a real fire fighter, doesn't she?" said Romper Ryan, backing off, paint brush still in hand, to survey his own handiwork on the sides of "Old Nanc."

"For downright good looks I think our equipment has it on anything Woodbridge ever experienced," said Jiminy Gordon enthusiastically.

"Well, we'll sure create some sensation," said Bud. "This is going to be a complete surprise to everybody. Has Bruce heard from Chief Blaney yet? He sent him our entry for the tournament events last week, you know. I wonder—Here he comes now! I heard his siren. That was a mighty quick trip to St. Cloud."

Bud and several others rushed to the door. Coming up the hill at top speed was Bruce, his motorcycle fairly flying. When he caught sight of the group in front of the machine shop he began to wave a blue paper above his head.

"Hi, fellows, here's our reply from Chief Blaney," he shouted as he jumped from his machine. "I just got it at the house. Haven't opened it yet. Come on, gather 'round and hear what he has to say."

With eager fingers he tore off the corner of the big envelope and ripped open the top. And as he unfolded the letter every scout pressed closer to get a glimpse of its contents. Bruce began to read aloud:

Mr. Bruce Clifford, Chief of the Scout Engineers' Fire Department.

Dear Sir: Your entry blank and fee for the tournament events reached me. I am returning your fee herewith for, unfortunately, your company cannot take part in the tournament. In the first place your organization is only a juvenile company, and in the second place it is not an accredited member of the Woodbridge Fire Department.

The fact that you have not a charter from the town authorities will also prevent your little department from taking an active part in fighting fires in this village, for the Champlain Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association has passed a ruling preventing any individual not wearing a badge of a recognized fire department from entering fire lines or participating in fire fighting work. These rules are rigidly enforced by my department. Very truly yours,

(signed) W.T. Blaney, Chief Woodbridge F.D.

"Well, what do you think of that!" exclaimed Romper disgustedly.

"And after all our working and planning," said Jiminy bitterly.

"Oh, we're only juveniles," said Bud sarcastically, turning away to hide his feelings.

And as for Bruce, he could hardly believe his eyes. He re-read the letter and when he finished he slowly tore it into little scraps and tossed them to the ground.

"Well, fellows," he said with a grim smile, "I fancy 'Old Nanc' won't need the flags and bunting I ordered to-day. And I guess our little fire department sort of busts up before it gets started. If old Blaney is such a stickler for regulations they'll never let us fight any fires in this town. Tough luck, isn't it?"

Tournament day had been declared a holiday in Woodbridge. Stores and factories were closed and the village decorated from stable to Town Hall with colored streamers, flags and bunting. Since early morning fire companies had been arriving in town headed by bands and drum corps until the place was crowded with uniformed figures from every section of Vermont.

But in spite of all this gaiety Bruce Clifford and the Boy Scout Engineers were dispirited. Indeed, for the past week they had been very unhappy over the turn of affairs. They tried their hardest to brace up and be good sports, but their disappointment was greater than they had expected. On tournament day they wandered about with a cheerless air, watching the various companies file into the side streets to await the formation of the parade that would be conducted up Webster Avenue to the tournament grounds.

They were not so downcast, however, as to ignore the fact that here was an excellent opportunity to view a number of fire fighting machines of all varieties. Indeed, they inspected the equipment of every out-of-town company they ran across, and in the course of the morning had become partly familiar with everything, from an oldfashioned gooseneck hand engine to the latest type of hand-drawn chemical engine, the pride of the company from Middlebury. This last appliance was an excellent piece of work and Bruce and his friends realized that even, with her new paint and shining brass, "Old Nanc" could not compare in general appearance with this costly equipment.

Promptly at half-past ten the automobile in which was seated the Mayor, Fire Chief Blaney and several other dignitaries, swung into Webster avenue. This was followed by the Woodbridge band and the parade to the tournament grounds was under way. The Boy Scout Engineers reviewed the procession from the curb, and when it had passed they hurried by way of a short cut across the fields to the tournament grounds, reaching there just as the Mayor's car turned in at the big gate.

A makeshift two-story frame building had been constructed in the very center of the enclosure, and the village authorities had erected a dozen temporary hydrants in a half circle about the front of the building. The plan was to conduct the contests on the level stretch of turf before the grandstand, and as a finale set fire to the wooden structure and have a real demonstration of fire fighting.

The procession of visiting companies made a circle of the grounds after entering the gate while the Mayor reviewed them from his automobile. Then after the various engines and hose carts had been parked at the far end of the field the Mayor prepared formally to open the ceremonies with a speech of welcome. But he had hardly uttered two sentences when Bruce, for some unknown reason turned and looked down Webster avenue towards the town. In the distance he saw a great cloud of black smoke mounting skyward above the roofs. He grasped Bud Weir's arm and shouted:

"Look! Quick! Afire!"

And as if to verify his words the far-off clang of the village fire bell sounded.

Instantly the tournament grounds were in a turmoil. Every one raised a cry of fire! In a twinkle the grandstand was empty, but before the crowd could reach Webster avenue the companies had begun to leave the enclosure. With a rattle and a clang one engine after another swung into the broad avenue. Then with the old hand equipment of the Woodbridge vamps in the van the whole aggregation hurled itself down the street toward the village.



Bruce Clifford and the other members of Quarry Troop No. 1, waited only to determine the location of the column of smoke that now extended clear across the sky, then, selecting the short cut across the field by which they had come, they hurried pellmell toward the scene of trouble.

"It's down in the factories!" panted Romper as he ran.

"Yes, I think it's Mayor Worthington's woolen mills," shouted Bud.

"By Jove, I guess you're right," yelled Bruce as they turned into Willow Street and saw smoke pouring from the windows of the big brick building at the far end of the street.

It was the worst fire that Woodbridge had experienced in years. By the time the firemen reached the scene the whole west end of the building was enveloped in flames and a section of the slate roof had already caved in. From every window long tongues of red flames darted out like hideous serpents' tongues. Great sparks shot skyward as sections of the west wall crumbled and fell into the red hot caldron that had once been the building's interior, and the heat was so intense that windows in the factory building across the street cracked and crumbled.

It was a fortunate thing for Woodbridge that there was a score of visiting fire companies in town, or else the whole south section of the village would have been wiped out. Chief Blaney, almost beside himself with anxiety, implored the visiting chiefs for their assistance. And assist him they did. Every company got its equipment into action and lines of hose were strung in some cases nearly half a mile. There were at least a dozen hand engines and two steamers on the banks of Otter Creek supplying lines to the fire, not to mention the hundreds of feet of hose that were coupled to the village hydrant system in every direction.

But all that the willing vamps could do seemed to no avail. The fire demon was rampant. He roared full cry through the long brick building, consuming everything in his path. Section after section of roof sagged, then fell with a crash and a roar into the flames, sending aloft a shower of crackling sparks.

"Thank heavens, this was a holiday. There's no one in the building," Bruce heard Chief Blaney cry as he hurried past in company with the foreman of a visiting company.

But the rubber-coated fire fighter had hardly uttered the words when a shout went up from the crowd at the east end of the building, where the firm's office was located. Men with blanched faces and trembling hands were pointing towards the big iron barred window that marked the counting room.

"O-o-h! It's old Uriah Watkins!" shrieked Blaney.

Bruce looked and turned sick at the sight. There, his wrinkled old face pressing against the bars, was the aged bookkeeper of the woolen mills. One hand was extended between the iron grating in frantic appeal. The other clutched the precious ledgers that the old man had rashly rushed into the building to rescue. His ashen face was set with a horrible expression, and his eyes stood out with terror. Bruce saw his lips move, but could not hear his feeble voice above the roar of the flames.

For a moment the scout stood panic stricken. Then suddenly his lips pressed together and his face took on a determined look. In a flash he turned to Bud and gave a few brief orders. Then, elbowing their way through the jam and press about them, the youngsters disappeared and left Bruce there alone.

In the meantime a score of vamps had been summoned by Chief Blaney to rescue the aged bookkeeper. They attacked the heavy bars on the window with sledges and axes, but with no success. They tried to pry away the bricks with crowbars, but this, too, failed, and it was quite apparent to all that if Uriah Watkins was to be saved it could be accomplished only by the slow and laborious task of sawing through the bars. Could this be done? Had they the time to accomplish the task? Already a nearby section of the roof had caved in! How long would it be before the flames reached the office and burned the old man alive?

At this point the figure of a boy in Scout uniform broke through the fire lines and rushed up to the side of Chief Blaney. Standing at attention, Bruce saluted in regulation Boy Scout fashion and asked briefly:

"Chief, can the Boy Scout Engineers take a hand in this? I'll have the bars cut in two minutes."

"You will what—! Why—!"

"Yes, yes, we can do it; I've sent for our fire department—here come the Scouts now!"

The shriek of sirens was heard above the din about the factory building and the great crowd beheld seven motorcycles tearing down the hill at top speed. And just behind them bowled "Old Nanc" at her best.

"Have I your permission to take a hand?" demanded Bruce.

"Yes! yes! for goodness' sake do anything you can to free him!" cried the chief.

The line of motorcycles stopped and hose lines were quickly strung. But the red automobile rumbled on, to come to a halt within ten yards of the building. Already two scouts were unlimbering the oxyhydrogen tanks and blow pipe equipment. Bruce rushed forward to aid them, while Chief Blaney looked on quite puzzled for the moment.

Working fast, but with the utmost coolness, Bruce donned a pair of asbestos gloves that came with the equipment and attached the blow pipe. Romper turned on the gases, while the young leader produced a match and ignited the torch. Instantly a tiny blue flame shot out that hissed and sputtered in a threatening manner.

As he advanced toward the window Bruce saw that the old bookkeeper had disappeared. He knew from this that there was no time to be lost, for the man had probably fainted and would soon be overcome with smoke. Hastily he shot the blue flame at the base of the first bar. There was a hiss and a shower of sparks as the flame met the cold metal. Bruce pressed the blow pipe closer, while he watched with anxious eye the progress of the flame.

The bar grew red, then gold, then white. The heat was terrific. The bar began to melt, slowly first, then faster, until the blue flame ate completely through. Another was attacked, and still another, until the scout had cut a hole in the iron grating large enough for a man to pass through.

Shouting to Romper to turn off the gas, he dropped the blow pipe, and plunging a handkerchief in a fire pail that stood near by, he tied the cloth over his nose and mouth. Then he hoisted himself through the window and disappeared.

Inside the smoke was thick and black, but Bruce could see flames dart through at the far end of the room, and he knew that in a few moments more the place would be seething.

He groped vainly about for the old bookkeeper. Where was he? He had dropped under the window a moment ago. Had he tried to crawl to the door? What had happened?

The smoke was so thick that even the moist handkerchief was of no avail. Bruce began to strangle. Then suddenly he remembered the instructions in his Handbook. The air was purest near the floor!

He dropped to his hands and knees, and with his face to the boards he began to crawl about, blindly groping for the body of the old bookkeeper. His fingers clutched something. He drew the object toward him and peered at it through the smoke. It was Uriah Watkins doubled in a ball, though unconscious and almost suffocated, the faithful old man still clasped his precious ledgers.

Bruce knew that unless the man reached the open air immediately he would perish. Also he knew that if they were not both clear of the building in a few minutes they would be food for the flames which were even then thrusting spiteful tongues under the door at the other end of the room.

Here again the instructions of the Handbook stood the scout in good stead. He knew that it would be next to suicide to stand up and try to carry the prostrated form to the window. The smoke was so thick even down there near the floor that he was gasping and choking.

He twisted his hand into the old man's collar and began to crawl, face to the floor, back toward the gray space that marked the window through the smoke, hauling Uriah after him. Foot by foot he dragged his burden. In spite of the handkerchief the smoke was getting into his lungs. His chest pained him dreadfully. Oh, what wouldn't he give for a single breath of pure, fresh air! The eight or ten feet to the side wall seemed like eight or ten miles. Would he never reach there!

Finally his hand struck the wall and he stood erect. The draught caused by the open window was drawing thick smoke out of the building into the air. Bruce knew he could not stand in that current of gases long. Pulling Uriah Watkins forward, he raised the limp form and forced it through the window ahead of him. Willing hands seized the old bookkeeper and lifted him to safety.

Then, dizzy and sick, Bruce clutched at the ledge and scrambled up. But a dreadful nausea seized him as he knelt on the window sill. His head whirled. He lost his balance. He knew he was falling backward into the burning building, but he was powerless to save himself. He gave a stifled cry of terror, and in answer the loud voice of Chief Blaney boomed in his ear and strong arms encircled his waist. Then everything grew black.

The Boy Scout Engineers never forgot the shout that went up when Chief Blaney carried the unconscious form of Bruce to safety. They were mighty proud of their leader. But they were prouder still when, a week later, Bruce was summoned into the presence of Mayor Worthington and Chief Blaney and presented with a parchment charter which officially informed him that the fire company of Quarry Troop had been officially made a member of the Woodbridge Fire Department, to be known thereafter as Chemical Company No. 1, with Brewster W. Clifford as the Chief.



Twelve Scouts, nearly half of Quarry Troop No. 1, now popularly known as the Boy Scout Engineers, were gathered in the meeting room at headquarters. In fact, they had been literally driven there when the Woodbridge Academy let out at halt past two on Friday afternoon. You see, it was raining so hard that there was no other place to go. But, then, the old machine shop was the best place in the world for the boys, rain or shine, so that didn't make much difference. What really did matter was the monotony of it all. For five days now the region round about Woodbridge had been literally deluged with a spring downpour. Otter Creek had swollen to twice its normal size, springs were gushing from most unheard-of places and rivulets were racing down hillsides that usually were, to quote Nipper Knapp, "dry as a smoked herring."

"By George, I do wish this rain would let up. What we want is a chance to get out of doors a bit. I haven't stretched my legs in a week," said Romper Ryan glumly, as he gazed out of the big front window.

"Well," said fat Babe Wilson with his usual sarcasm, "if it don't dry up soon the whole blamed world is liable to shrink." Then, as an after thought, he added, "That might bring St. Cloud City so near Woodbridge that we could at least see the circus parade."

"Aw-w, what'er you bringing up that circus subject for again," said Jiminy Gordon, who didn't like to be reminded of the pleasure he had decided to forego.

"Yes," chorused two others who were equally reluctant about facing the sacrifice they had voted themselves; "forget about that blooming circus."

"Say, you fellows needn't hop on me just because I want to have a little fun with you," protested Babe. "I'm as good a sport as any of you. Don't you suppose I agreed when you voted not to go to the circus. I know it would be foolish to spend most of the thirty dollars in the troop's treasury for a day's outing. You needn't talk, Jiminy Gordon; you were the first one to suggest the idea last week when you saw the man posting the bills."

"Yes, I know I was," said Jiminy, somewhat embarrassed, "but I said it without thinking. When we got to discussing it last night I saw how ridiculous it was. By Jiminy, I'd rather see the money go toward a new camping outfit, or the lumber for the troop's power boat. I wouldn't spend that thirty dollars to see three circuses, I wouldn't."

Judging from the conversation, the circus question referred to had died a hard death. To tell the truth, its demise had really been quite painful so far as most of the boys were concerned, for all of them had rather liked the idea of being able to enjoy "the World's Mightiest, Most Magnificent Combination of Clever Animals and Human Skill and Daring," etc., which was booked to show in St. Cloud City a few days hence.

For a week the temptation to spend the troop's thirty dollars had haunted the lads day and night, until finally with a great effort they had laid the ghost by a unanimous vote that the money must not be spent on the profitless amusement. It really was a sacrifice, for every Scout had set his heart on a hike to St. Cloud and a day crowded full of gaiety and glitter, not to mention a stomach crowded fuller with peanuts, popcorn and lemonade.

"Fellows, I am just as much disappointed as the rest," said Bruce Clifford, leader of the Owl patrol, "but I think we decided wisely last night. We can all do without going to the circus, even if it is the biggest one that has visited this neck of the woods in years. The possibility of a new set of tents or the lumber for a motorboat appeals to me more than blowing the money in on a show; that is, it does when I stop and think soberly about it."

"Right-o!" said Romper.

"That's what I call common sense," asserted Nipper Knapp.

"Just the way we all should look at it," insisted Bud Weir, leader of the Blue Heron patrol. "And if we were to—sh! Listen, fellows! Some one's calling!" In an instant everybody was silent.

Bruce inclined his head toward the wire room at the other end of the building where the headquarters' telegraph key and the instruments connected with the wireless aerials on the roof were located. Out of the doorway seemed to tumble a confusion of dots and dashes quite unintelligible to any one not familiar with the Morse International Code.


"Headquarters, Ford calling," read Bruce. "Fellows, Mr. Ford is trying to raise us. Wonder what he wants!"

He hurried into the wire room with the rest at his heels, and taking the low operator's chair opened the key and answered the call. Then he closed it again and waited. The boys were all attention, for most of them were second-class scouts and could "read" Morse well.

"Mayor—Worthington—just—'phoned—me," clicked the instrument. "Wants—to—see—Scouts—at—Town—Hall—at—four—I—would—like—to— have—you—go. — Ford—Asst—S'ct—M's't'r—3:10—p—m."

"All—right—Shall—we—wear—uniforms—Bruce—L'd'r—Owl—P't'r'l— 3:12—p—m," Bruce flashed back over the wire.

"Yes—careful—don't—get—too—wet—G'd—by—Ford—3:14—p—m," came the answer.

"Cracky! Something interesting! Wonder what's up!" said Bruce excitedly, as he began calling on the loop telegraph wire that was connected to an instrument in every Scout's home.

The three patrols of Quarry Troop stood at attention in the broad corridor of the Woodbridge Town Hall, awaiting the coming of Mayor Worthington. Their campaign hats were water-soaked, and rain dripped from the edge of their slickers and gathered in little pools about their feet. They must have been uncomfortable. But if they were, they gave no signs of it. All their attention was riveted on the doors that led the way into the Mayor's private office.

Presently these doors swung open, and the tall, broad-shouldered figure of the town's chief executive strode forth, followed by his secretary and Timothy Cockran, the Commissioner of Streets and Highways. Every back stiffened and every hand went up in salute as these men advanced and took their position in front of Bruce, the recognized spokesman of the troop. The Mayor acknowledged the salute in quite the proper manner, as did the others; then, clearing his throat, he spoke.

"Scouts, I have asked you here because you can be of service to Woodbridge. The town needs you. Are you willing to do a good turn for the welfare of us all?"

"We're ready for anything, sir. We try to do a good turn daily, rain or shine," said Bruce, once more saluting.

And his answer was echoed by the score or more of brown-clad youths ranged in line beside him.

"Thank you, Scouts," said Mr. Worthington, crisply. "Now to business. The rains of the last few days have raised havoc in this end of Champlain Valley. So much water has fallen that the high roads leading north and south on either side of the valley have been made dangerous by wash outs and landslides. In several places the banks have slipped down from above, but the most dangerous sections are those where the roads have been washed away almost entirely. Vehicles traveling at night are very apt to have serious upsets and the life and limb of the occupants are endangered, in spite of the fact that we have marked the washouts with red lanterns hung on short posts.

"What I would like to have you boys do is to organize a road patrol to keep a careful watch over these red lamps and see that they are all lighted between the hours of nightfall and midnight at least. After twelve o'clock there is hardly enough traffic to make the patrolling worth while. The first patrol can light the lamps at a given hour and thereafter at certain intervals Scout patrols can visit each lamp and see that it is in good working order. How would you like the job, boys?"

"Fine!" shouted some.

"Just the kind of work we like," cried others.

"All right," said the Mayor, shortly. "Scouts, you are hereby appointed Guardians of the High ways by order of the Mayor and the Commissioner of Streets and Highways. Each morning at half past eight one of your number will be expected to make a report at the Town Hall of the night's work."

"The Commissioner here has a map of these thoroughfares showing each washout and just where each lamp is located. You can organize your patrols this afternoon and start to-night. I think the storm will be somewhat abated by that time. It is letting up a little now. Good-day and good luck."

Though the rain had decreased considerably the Scouts lost little time in getting from the Town Hall to Scout headquarters, where the details of organizing the road patrols were worked out. It required the rest of the afternoon to do this, and the dinner hour arrived almost before the boys were aware of the time.

"Say, fellows, this is going to be fine," said Bud Weir. Then, glancing out of the window, he exclaimed: "By Jove, the storm's nearly over; the clouds are breaking out there beyond the mountains. This will be a fine night for—Cracky, fellows, I almost forgot; the circus comes through town to-night. It will come down the valley from Collinsville and take the north road to St. Cloud."

"By George, you're right," exclaimed Bruce. "Say, fellows, that makes our work doubly important. These heavy circus vans may get into trouble if all the lamps aren't in good order. You fellows be sure and report for duty, will you?"

"Don't worry; there'll be enough of us to patrol to-night. I guess we're all going to stay up and see the circus go through town, if it isn't raining, aren't we, fellows?" asked Bud. And from the chorus of affirmatives it was evident that few of the troop would be abed when the "World's Mightiest, Most Magnificent Combination of Clever Animals and Human Skill and Daring" rumbled through town.

By seven o'clock the rain had stopped entirely and, when the lamp-lighting patrols started out in the gloaming, the storm clouds were fast disappearing in the southwest, their edges splashed with the gold and vermilion fire of the setting sun.

Indeed, by the time the second patrol had reported back at headquarters and the third group of night watchers had started out, a big yellow moon had appeared and the stars were twinkling merrily up above.

After the last patrol had been gone an hour the Scouts who, when their duties were finished, had gathered in headquarters, moved on to the top of Otter Creek hill. They had decided that this would be the best place to watch the coming of the circus cavalcade.

The valley presented a queer appearance at that hour. Here and there were red lights standing out against the darkness, while from various points along the highway came the glow of tiny battery lamps as the Scouts signaled to each other.

"They look like a lot of fireflies," said Bruce, after he had watched the series of dots and dashes that the boys were flashing back and forth.

"Yes," said Bud, "just like mighty big fli—. Hi, fellows, here comes the circus! See 'em—that string of lights coming down Willow Street—hear that rumble of the wagons?"

"Sure enough!" exclaimed Bruce, who was as enthusiastic as the rest.

Up the long hill, in view of the group of wide-eyed and thoroughly interested boys, came the phantom-like caravan. A string of swinging lanterns fastened to the center pole of each wagon marked its course.

First in line were the grumbling and rumbling red and blue animal vans, followed by two rattling canvas wagons. Then a troop of little black and white ponies appeared hitched in fours to light gilt and red vehicles that held all sorts of odds and ends. In the rear of the ponies followed the camels; great, long-legged creatures that grunted at every stride as if they were indignant at being kept up so late. Gaudy band wagons, the cook's outfit and a heterogeneous assortment of vehicles came next, all of them moving slowly up the hill while the drivers dozed in their seats.

"Say, isn't it great?" cried Romper Ryan as he took in every little detail.

"You bet it is!" returned Babe Wilson, breathlessly. "I wonder where the elephants are. Oh, here they come!"

The clank of chains could be heard above the grumble of the wagons, and a moment later five huge elephants appeared out of the darkness. They lumbered along sleepily, their massive heads and long trunks swaying from side to side at every stride. The forelegs of each beast were chained together with stout links of iron, but there was little need of fetters, for the animals were apparently so docile that the idea of running away seemed farthest from their minds. The leader of the drove was, of course, the largest and apparently the meekest, for as he scuffled by the Scouts the boys saw that he walked with his tiny eyes closed exactly as if he were asleep.

A string of a dozen red vans followed the elephants, and at the very rear of the line was the big steam calliope. It was muffled and silent now, out its driver was snoring lustily as if to keep its reputation.

"Gee, but that was worth staying up to see," said Ray Martin, the first to find his tongue, after the cavalcade had passed on down the valley.

"You bet it was," said Bruce. "Jove, I'm almost sorry we decided—Say! Look! Something has happened! See the lights down there by the old quarry hole? The circus has stopped! Look, there are some signals! It's the patrol! Can you read them?"

"'We—need—help. Elephant—in—in—' What the dickens is he talking about? I couldn't get that last, could you, Bruce?" asked Bud Weir.

"Yes; he said that an elephant is in the quarry hole. By George, one of those big beasts has fallen down into Tollen's old quarry. There was a washout down there. Come on, fellows!" And the Scouts started at top speed down the North Valley road toward the scene of trouble.



Bedlam reigned at the quarry hole. A score of frantic circus men were shouting orders at each other, lanterns were bobbing about among the wagons, and every one was beside himself with excitement. One little gray-haired man seemed almost distraught over the situation. He was storming up and down the road, alternately roaring commands and delivering tirades against everything in general. It was quite evident that he was the manager of the outfit.

"Now we're in a fine mess," he thundered as he strode to the edge of the quarry and peered down into the darkness. "It's so dogon dark down there we can't even see th' brute. How'll we ever get him out? That's what I want to know. Hang the man who's responsible for this mess! Gol-ding t'—wushphew."

His soliloquy on the brink of the quarry hole ended abruptly when with a snort the elephant shot a trunk full of water out of the darkness, bowling the little man over and drenching every thing and everybody.

"Kill t' beast! Kill him, Gol—ding his hide!" screamed the dripping manager as he picked himself up out of the mud. But he was such a comical figure that every one shouted with laughter.

To Bruce and the Scouts the whole situation was extremely humorous. Evidently the lead elephant had wandered into the washout and lost his footing. The next thing he knew he had slid with a big splash into the quarry hole. And then, having a fondness for water and seeing no way to climb up the twenty-foot wall of rocks, he had decided to stay there and have a thoroughly good time.

But Bruce realized that they could not indulge their humor long, for as guardians of the road it was their duty to give all the assistance they could. Hastily the patrol leader made an inspection of the pit by the light of his pocket flash. He remembered a derrick on one side of the cut. And he hastened to look that over, for already he was beginning to form plans for getting the beast out of trouble.

He noted with satisfaction that the derrick had been only partly dismantled and that the rusty steel cable was coiled up in a pile beside the heavy upright. Then he returned to the roadside and approached the agitated little manager.

"We are the Guardians of the Highways for Woodbridge, sir," he said, "and we would—"

"You are the WHAT!" roared the manager.

"The Guardians of the Highways and—"

"Well, why in tarnation didn't yuh guard 'em then? I—I—I—"

Bruce interrupted the sputtering manager by pointing to the red light.

"There's our light. We did our part. It must have been your fault. But no matter; we'll help you get the animal out of the quarry if you'll let us.

"How'll yuh do it? Haven't got a thing in my outfit t' pull him out with."

"Oh, we'll do it all right," said Bruce. Then briefly he outlined his plan to the skeptical circus manager. And when he had finished talking the old man looked at him in amazement.

"Can you do all that?" he demanded.

"Sure we can," said Bruce. "We're the Boy Scout Engineers. Just loan me some of your canvas men who know how to rig a block and tackle and we'll have the elephant on his way to St. Cloud by daylight at the latest."

"All right, I'll go you," said the manager.

Bruce gathered about him all the Scouts not doing patrol duty.

"Fellows," he said, "we can get the elephant out of the hole all right, but it will mean some hard work. I want you, Romper, to go back to Woodbridge and tell the parents of every fellow here that we have serious work to do. Tell them not to worry if we don't get back until late. Then I want the Owl Patrol to go to headquarters and get all the No. 10 wire we have on hand, load it on a couple of wheelbarrows and start stringing a line from our switchboard in the machine shop down to the quarry hole here.

"String it along the fences and where you have to cross Druery road put it overhead from tree to tree. Remember, no monkeying with the telegraph or telephone poles! We can be arrested for anything like that. Romper, you can stop in and ask Mr. Ford if he won't go up to Headquarters and connect up the new line. I don't think we should fuss with the switchboard at night.

"Now, I want the Blue Herons to go to headquarters and disconnect the big five-horsepower motor on the lathe. Load it aboard 'Old Nanc' and bring it down here as fast as you can. On your way turn in at Druery road and run up to the Baldwin quarries. Ask Dave Porter, the night foreman there, if you can borrow the largest and heaviest blasting mat he has. We'll need that. Now hurry, fellows."

The Scouts started off immediately, and Bruce turned to the circus manager.

"Now, if you'll bring your canvas men along, I'll give them a good, hard job. It's one we boys couldn't handle. Are you ready?"

"Sure!" said the manager. Then to his men, "Come on, boys!"

Bruce led the group around the quarry hole to the north side and pointed out the derrick and the coil of rusted steel cable.

"Here's what we'll lift the elephant out with, providing the boom will hold and your men can string the heavy cable through the pulleys at night."

"Huh! our end of it is no trick for a bunch of canvasbacks," said the foreman of the gang. "Get busy, boys, quick now! Some of you bring some gasoline torches so's we kin see! Move now, you fellers!"

In five minutes the circus men were working like beavers, weaving the cable through the pulleys, placing the heavy boom and getting the derrick fitted up for service. The system and speed with which the trained tent riggers went about their task was nothing short of marvelous to Bruce. He watched them almost fascinated until the little manager came up and claimed his attention.

"Look here you feller, I ain't sure your scheme is goin' t' work out," said he, skeptically. "How'er we goin' t' get some light into t' hole t' see the brute? These gasoline torches can't be lowered down there. The elephant would go wild and probably drowned hisself, an' if—"

"I'm figuring on using the headlights of Old Nanc (that's the troop's automobile we built last winter) for searchlights. They are powerful enough and can be turned anywhere we need 'em. There, you can get a look at them now. That's Old Nanc on her way here."

Up the road sounded a siren, and the little manager turned to see two headlights bowling toward him. It was Old Nanc loaded down with the heavy motor, blasting mat and tools.

"Fine, Bud; you made a fast trip. How are the wire stringers getting along?" shouted Bruce to the Scout who was driving the machine.

"We passed them about a hundred and fifty yards from here. They are coming along in fine shape."

"Good," said Bruce. "Now bring Old Nanc right up to the edge of the quarry hole. We want to shine her headlights down into there and see what it looks like below. Some of the circus men can unload the motor, and Nipper, you can show them how to set it up on the derrick platform. And while all this is going on, Babe, you take charge of making a sling. Take this blasting mat and get a couple of circus men to help you head a section of cable to each of the four corners. Fasten the ends together around that rusty derrick hook attached to the end of the cable. Hurry it, will you, fellows?"

With the help of some of the "canvas-backs," the automobile was worked off of the road and into the field on the north side of the quarry hole near the derrick. Then it was pushed cautiously toward the edge of the pit and its wheels blocked by some big pieces of marble so that it would not roll into the hole. The rays of the headlights dispelled the darkness below immediately and there was His Highness the Elephant, almost submerged, looking up at them with his ridiculously small eyes.

"Huh! Consarn it! I knew you kids was playin' me fer a fool," roared the circus manager when he looked into the cut. "How'er you're goin' to hitch anything around that animal, I'd like to know?"

"We don't intend to hitch anything around him. We're going to make a sling of that big blasting mat and raise him out that way."

"Yes!" roared the furious manager, "but how in tarnation are you going to get it under his belly? Think some one is going down there and dive between his legs with your blooming old sling, do yuh? That animal is nearly all under water, remember."

To tell the truth, that question had been bothering Bruce from the first. He had hoped that the water was only two or three feet deep. But there was at least ten feet of drainage in the quarry hole! He stood beside Old Nanc and bit his lips in his embarrassment. Luck seemed against him. Was everything going to fall through at the last moment?

He did not answer the irate manager, but began to turn one of the headlights slowly so its rays illuminated the west wall of the hole. Then suddenly the light paused, and a smile crept over the boy's face. The white beams had revealed to him a shelf of marble two feet above the water-line and at least ten feet across, skirting the lower edge of the west wall. He saw defeat turned into victory!

"Will that elephant mind his trainer?" Bruce demanded of the manager.

"Huh! Will he? Well, you'd better guess he will!" stormed the man.

"Then everything is simple. You lower the trainer in a bo'son's chair over the west wall there and down to that ledge of marble. He can coax the animal out of the water and up on the rocks, and after that we can send a couple more men down with the sling and they can do the rest. See the plan?"

"Well, I'll be hanged! You win, young feller," said the manager, smiling for the first time since the accident.

At this point the lads of the Owl Patrol reached the quarry hole trundling several empty wheelbarrows. Jiminy Gordon was carrying the remains of the last roll of wire.

"Here we are, Bruce, ready to connect up, but you'd better believe building a line at night is no easy job, by Jiminy."

"Guess it isn't," said Bruce in a businesslike tone. "Is Mr. Ford at headquarters?"

"Yes, he's waiting to turn on the current whenever he gets your signal."

"Great!" said Bruce. "I was a little worried about that. There isn't any real danger, but you might have made a ground or a short circuit and upset everything." Then turning to Nipper Knapp, he shouted, "How about the motor, Nipper?"

"Set and ready for connections," shouted the Scout.

"Right-o! Then we'll have Mr. Elephant out of the hole in a jiffy," shouted Bruce, as he seized the two ends of the wires and began to bend them about the terminals of the motor. He worked with speed and accuracy and the little circus manager could not help commenting on his skill as an electrician.

"Hum! I guess you lads know what you're doin', all right," he said.

"Well, we hope our efforts are successful," said Bruce. Then he added, "It's time you sent your trainer down there on the ledge to get the elephant out of the water."

"Don't worry, son; we ain't losin' no time on our end of this game. He's down there now an'—."

Shouts of laughter from the crowd assembled around the edge of the hole interrupted the little manager.

He and Bruce both looked up involuntarily. Then they, too, burst into uproarious laughter at the spectacle.

The trainer had gone down onto the ledge with an armful of bread loaves to tempt the elephant out of the water. There he stood holding out a loaf invitingly while the elephant, still half submerged, held his great mouth open and his trunk aloft expecting the man to toss the bread toward him. But this was not the trainer's intention.

"Come on, Toby; come on. Yuh gotta come out t' git this meal," he called.

The elephant moved a little closer and waved his trunk aloft impatiently as if beckoning the trainer to toss the loaf.

"Oh, no, yuh don't. Come on out, Toby; come on—Hi! Go! ding yuh, leggo!— Hi! Help! Help!"

Toby had refused to be tempted any longer. The waving trunk descended and wrapped quickly about the trainer's leg. Then slowly the animal began to pull the man toward the water. The trainer was startled half to death. He dropped the bread and began to struggle mightily, for the black water looked cold to him even though the elephant did seem to enjoy it. He clutched at the smooth marble floor and tried to brace himself with his unincumbered leg, shouting lustily all the time.

"Hi! help me! Help! Kill th' beast! I don' wanna git a duckin'! I—I—got a cold in—my—" Splash—blub—blub—blub—

Toby's black little eyes seemed to twinkle with mischief as he gave a final tug and plunged the trainer into the water. Then while the man floundered about, the animal deliberately put his two front feet onto the edge of the shelf and reached out toward the pile of loaves. One by one he picked them up and deftly slipped them into his mouth, disregarding the shouts of the trainer.

But once in the water the man decided that he would stay in and drive the elephant out.

"Hi, Jerry," he shouted. "Throw me down the pike. I'll git the blasted critter out o' here if it takes me all night!"

Jerry tossed the short pike pole down onto the shelf and the trainer climbed out to get it. When the elephant saw the pole he immediately began to wade across the quarry hole.

"Oh, no, yuh don't, Toby. I'll git yuh, now," shouted the man, as he plunged back into the water and began to swim toward the beast.

"Git outa here, yuh brute," he thundered, when he came alongside the huge bulk. And he accentuated his command by jabbing the pike deep into the beast's hide. As meekly as a lamb the elephant turned around, after allowing the trainer to climb onto the top of his head, he waded toward the shelf and climbed out of the water without the slightest sign of rebellion.

"There, consarn his pesky hide, he's out now," said the little manager to Bruce, who was still laughing over the comical antics of the big beast.

"Good," said the lad. Then, turning, he called to Babe, "Hi! how about the blasting mat sling—is it finished?"

"Yes, it's ready," shouted the fat Scout.

"Well, then, we're all in good shape," said the patrol leader, inspecting the outfit. "Now for business. Ho, Jiminy, flash Mr. Ford the signal."

Instantly Gordon bounded out of the circle of light and climbed the nearest stone pile. Then with his battery he began to flash the Morse code toward headquarters, where Mr. Ford was waiting. The circus manager took the whole performance in with wide eyes.

"Say, hang it all, you Scouts know a thing or two, don't yuh?"

"Yes, we know enough to be fairly helpful," said Bruce modestly. Then, as he saw Mr. Ford flash back his O.K., he said, "Now we'll let 'er go."

He seized the reverse lever on the motor and threw it over. The derrick drums squeaked a moment before settling down to a business-like grumble. Then the rusted steel cable, with the improvised blasting mat sling dangling at its end, was played out swiftly until the mass of woven rope settled down on the ledge beside the circus men, who were hard at work putting chains about the elephant's feet and trunk so that he could not squirm about in the sling. The adjusting of the heavy affair was no easy task, but the men worked with a will and a few moments later Bruce caught their signal that all was ready.

For a moment he paused with his hand on the starting switch. He was almost afraid to throw it into position. "Oh, if the boom will only hold," he whispered to himself, for to have his plans fail now would have been more than he could endure.

He moved the switch. There was a slight arc as contact was made. Then slowly the motor began to turn. The boom stiffened and creaked ominously as the cable tightened. He pushed the switch over another notch. The big animal was lifted off its feet!

Would the boom hold? Bruce and every member of the troop stood tense and silent, as they saw the big body of the elephant dangling over the pit. He was lifted a foot, two feet, five feet! He was snorting and squirming in protest, and Bruce's heart almost stopped when he saw the boom give under his weight.

"Oh, if he would only hold still!" muttered the boy. "He'll smash the timber, sure."

The patrol leader pushed the switch over still another notch and the motor began to hum and sputter. The beast was raised ten feet, fifteen feet, eighteen, twenty. Now he was on the level with the top of the quarry!

Slowly the boom began to work in, creaking and snapping under the strain. Splinters were raising here and there on the timber. Bruce knew it was only a matter of seconds now before the great stick would be shattered. The elephant was but a few feet from safety. Canvas men were reaching out over the quarry's edge to seize the side of the sling. They gripped it! They pulled and tugged, and with a prodigious squeak the boom swung over. Then with a crash it buckled, dropping the elephant on the very brink of the hole!

Fortunately, the timber did not part entirely or some one would have been killed. The lacing of steel derrick cable held it in place, and everything was safe.

It took the Scouts and the circus men a brief instant to realize this, and when they did a cheer went up that must have waked the villagers in Woodbridge.

The little circus manager was delighted. He rushed up and grasped Bruce's hand.

"Fine work, young feller! Fine work, I say! Now you Scouts all git home and tumble into bed. My men will clean things up here in fine shape. It's half-past three. Sleep 'til ten o'clock and by that time a couple of my best vans will be at that buildin' yuh call headquarters waitin' t' take yuh t' St. Cloud. Yer goin' t' be my guests at t' circus er I'll know the reason why."

"Gee, that's mighty good," said Bruce, excitedly. "How about it, fellows? We don't mind taking that sort of pay for a good turn, do we?"

"You bet we don't," shouted the Scouts, enthusiastically. And a few moments later they fell in line and started off toward Woodbridge.



"Whe-e-e-o-o-o! whe-e-e-o-o-o! whe-e-e-o-o-o!" screamed the siren as Bruce Clifford's motorcycle came to a halt in front of the Weir cottage on Willow Street. Then:

"Hi, Bud—bud-de-de! Hello-o-o, Bud! Come on, wake up!" shouted the leader of the Owl Patrol, cupping his hands about his mouth and directing his voice toward an upstairs window. A moment later the window in question opened and Bud in his undershirt, with a towel in one hand and a cake of soap in the other, appeared.

"What're you making such a row for? I'm awake," he shouted rather irritably, for Bud really never became thoroughly cheerful until after he had had his breakfast.

"Say, Bud, the highway bridge over Muddy Brook—the one just below the railroad tracks on Lake Road; has gone down under a big motor truck full of scenery and things belonging to the Historical Motion Picture Company, the outfit that has been taking Revolutionary War pictures over near Ticonderoga. The machine's half under water and the men need help. There's a chance for the Scouts to get busy. Are you with us?"

"You bet I am. I'll be to headquarters in three winks," said the leader of the Blue Heron Patrol, considerably better natured.

"Fine! Hurry now! I'm off to headquarters to call the rest of the fellows together," said Bruce, as he started his motorcycle and shot up the long incline that led to the machine-shop headquarters of Quarry Troop No. 1, of Woodbridge, popularly known as the Boy Scout Engineers.

The leader of the Owls had left home a little after daylight that morning with fishing pole and creel strapped to his machine, for he intended trying the brown trout in Concord valley. But when he reached the little highway bridge where the Lake Road crossed a shallow brook near the Rutland Railroad tracks, a situation presented itself that banished all thought of trout fishing.

The ends of the bridge timbers had rotted away from dampness and under the weight of a big motor truck had parted from their stone pier. Their collapse had projected the heavy vehicle front first into the stream, so that its hood was jammed against the abutment, while its hind wheels still remained on the sloping bridge floor. The chauffeur and his two assistants stood surveying the scene in a most dejected attitude.

Of course Bruce stopped at the stream and looked over the situation, asking innumerable questions. But the men were not in a pleasant frame of mind and gave him only disagreeable answers, which nettled the scout to the point of exclaiming:

"Huh, if you weren't so grouchy about it, I'd like to try help you get out of the mess you are in. Maybe we could help a great deal. I'm a member of the Boy Scout Engineers, and it is just our fun to lend a hand in a fix like this."

The chauffeur looked at the lad in amazement for a moment. Then he spoke in milder tones.

"Excuse me, son. I didn't mean t' be so nasty. If you fellows will give us a hand, we'd be mighty much obliged. I know what the scouts are. I've met 'em before."

"Thank you for the compliment," said Bruce. "We'll be here with block and tackle in less than an hour. In the meantime, get your truck unloaded," and, turning about, he raced back to town, stopping only to awaken Bud Weir before reaching headquarters.

Entering the home of the troop, he hurried to the wire-room on the second floor and began calling the scouts from breakfast. The telegraph line leading from headquarters was a big loop that extended through the town and connected with an instrument in the home of every second class scout, and all the boys could be called to headquarters in a jiffy.

When his summons had been answered by most of the boys, Bruce hurried downstairs and proceeded to get "Old Nanc," the troop's homemade automobile, ready for service. Into it he loaded all the manila rope he could lay hands on, as well as blocks and pulleys, chains, crowbars, axes, sledges and everything else that might come in handy.

By the time this work was well under way the scouts began to arrive and lend a hand. They came on motor cycle and on foot until there were twenty-odd gathered at headquarters. And when they were all assembled, Bruce outlined briefly the situation at the Lake Road bridge and gave them his idea of how the task should be handled. Of course, they were all eager to undertake the work, and in a few minutes they were on their way to the scene of trouble.

The chauffeur and his men had done as Bruce suggested, and when the lads arrived they found two great stacks of canvas scenery by the roadside. They gave this only a moment's inspection, however, for they had work before them. With as much system as a trained army corps they began to unload the coils of rope and the pulleys. Then, under Bruce's direction, several wove the cordage into a block and tackle arrangement. This done, a group headed by Romper Ryan removed shoes and stockings and began to ford the shallow stream, carrying the block and tackle with them. In no time they had one of the pulleys lashed to a substantial maple tree by the roadside. The other pulley was fastened to the back end of the automobile truck, which was still on the sloping floor of the bridge.

When this was completed the single strand of rope on which they were to haul was passed back across the stream and attached to the rear axle of "Old Nanc."

Then came the test of the boys' engineering skill. At the request of Bruce the scouts all seized the rope to assist "Old Nanc" in hauling the big machine backward up the grade. Bud, the official driver of the troop's automobile, climbed to his place and everything was ready.

"Now, all together! Pull!" shouted Bruce, and at the command every scout arched his shoulders and hauled his hardest, while "Old Nanc's" engine began to cough and grumble furiously.

The tackle grew taut. The pulleys squeaked and groaned and the bridge timbers protested in like manner as the big truck began to move. Up it crawled, inch by inch. Now the hood was out of water! A moment later the rear wheels were onto the road! Slowly but surely it was lifted out of the brook until, finally, with a mighty tug, the lads backed it clear off the bridge and safely onto the highway.

"Fine!" shouted the chauffeur. "I knew you scouts were the bully boys. But, say, fellows, how's the machine going to get across the stream! We are bound for Woodbridge, you know, and we're on the wrong side of the busted bridge now."

"Oh, maybe we can work that out some way," said Bruce. "I guess we'll try to make a pair of shears out of a couple of fence rails, then hitch the block and tackle to the bridge floor and hoist it back to its proper level again. The rest of the fellows will get all of the discarded railroad ties they can find along the tracks over yonder and build a square crib under the bridge. They can lay the ties on top of each other in log cabin fashion and I guess that will hold up the bridge under your machine. It will make the crossing safe until the town authorities can put new bridge timber in place, too."

"Sounds mighty sensible," said the chauffeur. "Will it take long?"

"I don't think so. It's only half past ten now. Here comes the ten thirty Montreal Special," said Bruce, as the Canadian flyer shot around a bend in the railroad tracks, her whistle screaming her approach to the Woodbridge station.

"Come on, then, let's get busy right away. Perhaps we can have the machine into Woodbridge by noon," said the chauffeur. Then, to his assistants, he called. "Hi, you fellows, git over there to the railroad tracks and pick up some o' those old ties. Go along with the scouts. They know old ones from new ones."

All the lads, except two or three of the older boys, waded the brook and started out after crib building material. The others remained to help Bruce rig up the shears and put the block and tackle into place.

Fortunately, section gangs had been working on the railroad recently, putting in new ties, and there were any number of discarded timbers along the embankment. These the lads appropriated, for they knew that the railroad men no longer wanted them and that sooner or later a bonfire would be made of them. The heavy timbers were piled up on the bank of the brook as fast as the scouts could find them, and by the time Bruce and his helpers had hitched the block and tackle to the sagging bridge the crib builders were ready to begin work.

Raising the bridge floor was accomplished quickly, for the wooden structure was nowhere near as heavy as the auto truck. Indeed, "Old Nanc" managed to haul it up all alone. This accomplished, the scouts waded into the water again, and, working in pairs, carried the railroad ties to a point just under the broken structure. The first two ties were put up and down stream and weighted with stones to keep them from floating away. Two more were then placed across the stream on top of the first set, exactly like logs in a cabin. Then, like bees, the boys traveled back and forth to the bank, carrying the heavy ties, until finally the crib was constructed snugly under the bridge flooring with two heavy cross timbers resting safely on top.

When the tackle was finally removed and the bridge platform settled into place and gave every indication of being safely propped up by the crib, the scouts gave a ringing cheer, for their efforts had been successful.

And, as if in answer to the cheer, the loud honking of a motor horn was heard and a big red motor car containing one man and the driver came tearing down the road.

"Here comes our manager, Mr. Dickle!" exclaimed the chauffeur when he saw the machine.

Mr. Dickle proved to be a very businesslike and bustling individual. He bounded from the car before it stopped, demanding at the same time to know all the particulars of what had happened. It seems that he had seen the stalled motor truck from the window of the ten thirty train and had hired the first automobile he could find at the Woodbridge station and rushed to the scene of trouble.

Briefly Bruce and the chauffeur told him all that had happened and all that had been done.

"Rebuilt the bridge, eh? Looks as if it would hold a steam engine now. That's bully," exclaimed Mr. Dickle. "Now, if you fellows can tell me of a building equipped with electricity that I can rent for a studio for a couple of days, you will have done me another great favor. We are going to make some historical films of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. Say, by the way, you fellows look intelligent. How would you like to be my supes? I'll pay you fifty cents a day. How about it?"

"What's a supe?" asked Bruce and Bud together.

"Why, a supernumerary. I want a number of people to take part in the production, as Green Mountain Boys or British soldiers or the mob, or roles like that, where good actors are not needed. I have a big battle scene as a climax. I'll need you in that surely."

"In the movies, eh? Whoope-e-e-e! Fine!" exclaimed several, and the manager knew immediately that he would not have to look further for additional members for his cast.

"And, say, about a studio; perhaps you could use the meeting room on the top floor of our headquarters building. We have all the electricity you want, only there isn't much daylight for taking pictures. There are only three windows, and—"

"Tut, tut, never mind the daylight. We don't need it in modern photography. We'll go up and look at the place," said the manager. Then to the chauffeur he shouted: "Here, Jim, fasten a rope to the truck and I'll have this machine of mine tow you up to the scouts' headquarters."



For the next days the troop's headquarters on Otter Hill was the strangest place imaginable. Passers by were surprised to find groups of real Indians in war paint, Colonial soldiers, British troopers and Green Mountain Boys in buckskin garments walking up and down in front of the building or sitting in the sun waiting for their turn to "go on" in the studio room upstairs. These were the regular actors of the Historical Motion Picture Company, who had come to Woodbridge by train to take part in the Ethan Allen film which Mr. Dickle was making.

To be sure, all this fascinated the scouts. It was a decided pleasure to be allowed to circulate among such famous people. Ethan Allen was a big, broad-shouldered actor whose name was known from coast to coast. So was the individual who took the part of Captain Rember Baker, Captain Warner and Captain Warrington. Anne Story was a girl whose face the boys had seen on a dozen different billboards, and there were any number of other well-known individuals in the troupe. And there were real live Indians, too, who afforded the boys no end of interest. Altogether, the advent of the motion picture company was a liberal education for the lads.

But for knowledge of the technical nature, which the boys liked best, the interior of headquarters presented a world of opportunity. When the company's electricians and stage carpenters had finished with their work in the big meeting room Bruce and his chums scarcely recognized it as the same place. Two banks of a dozen electric lights as big as street arc lamps, and just as powerful, had been strung across the ceiling. These, by means of reflectors, were made to flood the far end of the room, "the stage," with a steady white light.

Behind the light was the camera man, grinding away steadily, taking sixteen pictures a second, while before the light were the actors playing their parts, now in a log cabin, now in a Colonial mansion and again in a courtroom at Albany, according to the way the scene shifters arranged the portable canvas scenery.

Between the camera man and the actors, to the left of the stage, sat Mr. Dickle in his shirt sleeves, clutching a bundle of manuscript in one hand and a megaphone in the other. Through this effective mouthpiece he directed each of the actors. The members of the cast did their work entirely in pantomime, except when Mr. Dickle bawled a few lines at them, which they repeated so that the camera could register the action of their lips.

It was all so perfectly wonderful to the scouts that they stood for hours watching the making of the film; that is, they stood still and watched while the actors and photographers were at work, but the moment business was suspended, while scenes were changed, they began to ask questions of every one in sight.

They learned that the big lights were a new type of tungsten lamp filled with nitrogen gas which made them burn three times as bright as other lamps. They discovered that the original photographs were only three-quarters of an inch long and they were magnified from thirty to fifty thousand times when they were projected onto a movie screen by the machine in the theater. They found out also that raw film cost four cents a foot, that movie actors were paid as high as $20,000 a year, that there were nearly four hundred American firms making movies, that most of the films of the world were made in this country, that American "movies" were being shown in China, Australia, India and all sorts of far-off corners of the world, and that in one American city alone the "movie" theaters took in more than $40,000 a day in admission fees.

All this and a great deal more did the inquisitive youngsters gather, until they became veritable motion picture encyclopedias. Of course, chief among the men whom they questioned was Mr. Dickle. In fact, every time the manager finished directing a scene, Bruce and several other scouts pounced upon him and began plying him with questions concerning the film industry, all of which he answered in great detail, for he appreciated the fact that they were boys who wanted to learn and understand.

It was during one of these periods of catechising that he finally explained the big film he was making at the time.

"This photoplay," he said, "is to be a feature production; five reels of 1,000 feet each. I'm going to give all the details of the troubles Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys had with the authorities of New York State over the New Hampshire Grants. Of course, you boys know the story. It's history."

"You bet we do," said Bruce; "find a Vermont boy who hasn't read about the Green Mountain Boys."

"Well, I'm glad you are so well informed. It will help a little when you take your parts tomorrow afternoon. I've finished the studio work on the film now, and all that remains are some exteriors in the vicinity of the Lake. The film will wind up with a big battle between Allen and his Green Mountain Boys against the Sheriff of Albany, assisted by some Indians and Red Coats."

"I want you fellows to be the original Green Mountain Scouts. Your buckskins are all downstairs in the trunks. They came by express this morning. I'd expect you all to report here tomorrow at two thirty. Get into the duds and come up to the lake. You'll find us all ready for you up there with an automobile full of flintlock rifles and things. The stage will all be set for the big battle around the mouth of the real Ethan Allen cave. How does that suit you?" It was a thrilling idea.

"How does it suit? Wow; were there ever fellows as lucky as we are? Just think of being in a real movie film; I tell you—"

"Jiminy crickets, we'll have the time of our life, Mr. Dickle. Why, we'll do it for nothing, just for the fun of the thing," exclaimed Gordon generously.

"Oh, no, you won't; you'll get fifty cents each, and, besides, I'm paying you ten dollars a day for the use of this building. Forty dollars is due you so far. That should help the troop's treasury a little, eh, boys?"

"You bet it will," said Bruce. "Only we don't like—"

"Tut, tut; that'll do. I owe you money, and I'm going to pay it. If you don't take it I'll give it to your Assistant Scout master, Mr. Ford. I met him yesterday," said Mr. Dickle. Then, to the actors, he called: "Next scene, gentlemen! Ring the bell, Benny!" And Bruce and the scouts realized that it was time for them to leave.

The following day Woodbridge witnessed the strangest scene in its history. It was that of a score of Green Mountain Scouts, in buckskins and coon caps, traveling up the dusty road toward the Lake. Some were astride motor cycles, a half-dozen were crowded into "Old Nanc" and the rest were walking.

An hour after leaving headquarters they reached the lake shore. Ethan Allen's cave was up a very steep grade from the water and the boys could see as they rounded the bend in the road dozens of Red Coats and Indians waiting for them. Bruce and the lads on the motorcycles put on high speed and took the grade in whirlwind fashion but "Old Nanc" was not equal to the hill, so she was parked in a lot by the lakeside and the rest of the troop went up to the cave on foot.

Immediately upon their arrival activities began. Mr. Dickle formed them in line and marched them up beside the big automobile truck that stood in the middle of the road. Here each lad was given a flintlock rifle and sent over to the mouth of the cave, where Ethan Allen and a half-dozen Green Mountain Boys were waiting, seated about a camp fire.

"Now, boys," said the manager, when all had been served with guns and had taken their places, "those weapons of yours are only dummies. I don't want you lads fooling with powder even in a sham battle. I won't be responsible for your eyes. My regular actors will do all the firing necessary, and they will make smoke enough to cover the film. All I want you fellows to do is aim and pull the trigger. Are you ready now, gentlemen? Camera!"

Mr. Dickle stood with his feet apart, megaphone in hand, in the middle of the road. The camera man had set up his tripod on the rear end of the motor truck, which was held on the very brink of the grade by its brakes. At the word "Camera" he began to turn the crank of his machine rapidly, and almost before they knew it the Boy Scout Engineers were being photographed as part of a real feature film.

Action followed swiftly. While the lads were sitting about the fire an Indian came out of the woods. It was Neshobee, the friendly Red Man of Judge Thompson's story. He advanced to Ethan Allen, his hand extended aloft as a sign of friendship. Then he began to talk, pointing into the bushes and up toward the leaves of the trees. Instantly the Green Mountain Boys were alert!

"The Red Coats and the Sheriff!" snapped Allen, and every man was crouching, gun in hand, waiting for the attack. A Red Coat appeared in the bushes!

Up went a dozen muskets, and the next instant there was a thundering roar! The Red Coat disappeared! But others came! They bobbed up everywhere! Behind bushes and trees! From rocks and logs they sprang, advancing and firing in apparently deadly earnestness! The roar of the musketry was deafening! Bruce and his chums were thrilled with enthusiasm, and they snapped their guns at every enemy in sight! On came the Red Coats and the Indians with the Sheriff of New York leading them! They advanced into the open, firing deliberately at the little group of defenders about the cave! But their fire was answered with interest, and soldiers and Indians were stumbling and falling in all directions!

And above all the din could be heard the voice of Mr. Dickle, the stage manager, roaring directions through his megaphone. "Great scene! Fine! Register excitement! Fall down, Murphy! Tumble over, there, Lisk; you're dead—tumble, I say. Don't be afraid of your uniform. I'll pay for that. Fall!—fall!—fall! Now, Green Mountain Boys, up and at 'em! Charge! Charge! Beat it, you Red Coats—you're licked. Run! Git! Beat it, I say! After 'em, scouts, after 'em! Fine! Great scene! All right; that'll do. Quit firing."

The roar of the flintlocks ceased and Bruce and the rest of the scouts stopped, thoroughly out of breath with excitement. The Red Coats and Indians stopped also, and, turning about, rejoined their erstwhile enemies. The "dead" and "wounded" stood up, too, and began to walk about and chat with the rest, all of which gave the scouts the impression that a "movie" battle was the only really pleasant kind of battle, after all.

"Well, you scouts certainly filled the bill as Green Mountain Boys," said Mr. Dickle when the boys reached the road where he was standing. "That will make a great scene. Now, just as soon as Bob gets his stuff stowed away in the truck, we'll start for town."

Bruce noticed that the camera man was having difficulty in getting his outfit in the truck unassisted, so he ran on ahead of the others to help him.

"Here, Bruce," said the movie operator, "you get up in the wagon and I will hand the things to you and you can stow them under the seat."

The camera man handed up the box-like machine, which Bruce started packing under the seat. Just as the operator started back up the hill to get his tripod, in some unaccountable manner the brakes of the heavy truck loosened and the big vehicle started to roll slowly down the hill. So steep was the grade that the truck gained momentum at a terrific rate.

Bob, the camera man, noticing what had happened, turned and ran swiftly down the hill. But it had gained such headway that he couldn't overtake it.

"Hi, there!" shrieked Mr. Dickle. "Stop that trunk! Stopit! My film! It's all in the camera, and the truck's running away! Stop it, some one! Save the film!"

Bruce's first impulse was to jump from the truck and leave it to its fate, but when he heard the manager's frantic appeal to save the precious film he climbed quickly over the back of the high seat. In another instant he grasped the steering wheel and jammed his foot down upon the brake lever.

Then bang—! the brake band snapped and the truck lurched forward again! Bruce had applied the brake too suddenly, and the next moment he found himself in a runaway motor truck that could not be stopped until it reached level ground.

The patrol leader felt like he was turning cold. Before him stretched a long grade, and at the end a sharp turn! If he did not make that turn the motor truck would crash against a rock or tree and kill him, or at best it would plunge into the Lake and then the film would be lost! Could he make the turn?

On rushed the massive truck. It had developed express train speed now and it rocked from side to side like a ship in a gale as it tore down the rough country road! Bruce clutched the big steering wheel with deathlike grip and tried his mightiest to keep the cumbersome vehicle straight! He realized that a loose stone or a deep rut meant death to him and destruction to the motor car! His teeth were clenched and his face was white! The wind had whisked away his coonskin cap.

"Oh, if I can only make that turn! I must! I've got to!" he told himself, as he saw the distance to the foot of the hill being eaten up by the flying motor car. Nearer and nearer came the turn. It was a hundred yards away. Now seventy, fifty, forty! Would the truck stay on all four wheels or would it go plunging on madly, end over end, into the lake? Could he make it? The road bent slightly now. Brace followed the curve. Now came the turn. Bruce tugged at the wheel. The big truck swerved. It was skidding! It was two wheels and ploughing up the dust in great clouds! It was almost around! It was around! The road ahead of him was straight and clear!

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse