THE BOY SCOUTS BOOK OF STORIES
THE BOY SCOUTS BOOK OF STORIES
EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
BY FRANKLIN K. MATHIEWS CHIEF SCOUT LIBRARIAN BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
PUBLISHED FOR THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
ILLUSTRATED BY WALT LOUDERBACK
DECORATIONS BY ARTHUR D. SCOTT
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON 1920
COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION
So much of my time is given to reading boys' books that, when I read books for grown-ups, now and again I find myself saying, "What a bully story for boys to read!" Latterly, I have been putting down the titles of such stories. When the list began to lengthen, it occurred to me, why not make a book for boys containing stories like that: stories written for grown-ups but also of interest to boys in their early teens.
Such a collection of stories could not be made, however, without the consent of the authors and publishers, but since everybody loves a boy, I didn't have much trouble in convincing them they ought to grant permission to use their stories for such a purpose and, as a result, I am pleased to present to the boy readers of our country the BOY SCOUTS BOOK OF STORIES.
Looking over the list, I find it covers pretty well the reading interests of boys. There are stories about boy scouts, school stories, stories of the sea and "wild west" stories, detective and mystery stories; most of all, though, a goodly number of humorous stories, and I am willing to hazard the guess there will be no regrets on the part of readers because the selections happen to abound in stories of the latter sort.
How about it, boys?
I. THE GREAT BIG MAN Owen Johnson 1
II. A TWILIGHT ADVENTURE Melville Davisson Post 27
III. TAD SHELDON, SECOND CLASS SCOUT John Fleming Wilson 45
IV. THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE Arthur Conan Doyle 71
V. THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF O. Henry 108
VI. THE HONK-HONK BREED Stewart Edward White 125
VII. THE DEVIL-FISH Norman Duncan 140
VIII. THE JUMPING FROG Mark Twain 155
IX. BINGISM Booth Tarkington 165
X. CONCHO CURLY AT THE OP'RA Edward Beecher Bronson 191
XI. THE LIE Hermann Hagedorn 206
XII. STORY OF THE BANDBOX Robert Louis Stevenson 229
XIII. THE HERO AND THE COWBOY Joseph C. Lincoln 265
XIV. THE DOLLAR Morgan Robertson 289
XV. THE MASCOT OF "TROOP 1" Stephen Chalmers 315
XVI. THE LION'S SMILE Thomas W. Hanshew 330
XVII. THE ROLL-CALL OF THE REEF A. T. Quiller-Couch 361
XVIII. THE HOUSE AND THE BRAIN Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton 386
The butcher looked down at the funny face and saw the kindly motive under the exaggerated bluffness Frontispiece
"Some of the men stood about; behind them two men sat on their horses, their elbows strapped to their bodies" 32
"I went to leeward and there found me bould Tad launchin' the little dingy" 64
The black scout jumps on Bill's back and digs his heels in his side 120
"'Tis the devil-fish!" screamed Bobby 140
"But before he could lite on her with his knife, I hopped out of my close-pen into the canon" 204
He woke and gave a low cry. Some one was sitting on his bed 224
"For a second it left off rainin' sand, and there was a typhoon of mud and spray" 272
I.—The Great Big Man[A]
By Owen Johnson
THE noon bell was about to ring, the one glorious spring note of that inexorable "Gym" bell that ruled the school with its iron tongue. For at noon, on the first liberating stroke, the long winter term died and the Easter vacation became a fact.
Inside Memorial Hall the impatient classes stirred nervously, counting off the minutes, sitting gingerly on the seat-edges for fear of wrinkling the carefully pressed suits or shifting solicitously the sharpened trousers in peril of a bagging at the knees. Heavens! how interminable the hour was, sitting there in a planked shirt and a fashion-high collar—and what a recitation! Would Easter ever begin, that long-coveted vacation when the growing boy, according to theory, goes home to rest from the fatiguing draining of his brain, but in reality returns exhausted by dinners, dances, and theaters, with perhaps a little touch of the measles to exchange with his neighbors. Even the masters droned through the perfunctory exercises, flunking the boys by twos and threes, by groups, by long rows, but without malice or emotion.
Outside, in the roadway, by the steps, waited a long, incongruous line of vehicles, scraped together from every stable in the countryside, forty-odd. A few buggies for nabobs in the Upper House, two-seated rigs (holding eight), country buckboards, excursion wagons to be filled according to capacity at twenty-five cents the trip, hacks from Trenton, and the regulation stage-coach—all piled high with bags and suitcases, waiting for the bell that would start them on the scramble for the Trenton station, five miles away. At the horses' heads the lazy negroes lolled, drawing languid puffs from their cigarettes, unconcerned.
Suddenly the bell rang out, and the supine teamsters, galvanizing into life, jumped to their seats. The next moment, down the steps, pell-mell, scrambling and scuffling, swarming over the carriages, with joyful clamor, the school arrived. In an instant the first buggies were off, with whips frantically plied, disputing at a gallop the race to Trenton.
Then the air was filled with shouts.
"Oh, you, Red Dog!"
"Where's my bag?"
"Oh, we'll never get there!"
"Hurry up, you loafer!"
"Hurry up, you butter-fingers!"
"Haul him in!"
Wagon after wagon, crammed with joyful boyhood, disappeared in a cloud of dust, while back returned a confused uproar of broken cheers, snatches of songs, with whoops and shrieks for more speed dominating the whole. The last load rollicked away to join the mad race, where far ahead a dozen buggies, with foam-flecked horses, vied with one another, their youthful jockeys waving their hats, hurling defiance back and forth, or shrieking with delight as each antagonist was caught and left behind.
The sounds of striving died away, the campus grew still once more. The few who had elected to wait until after luncheon scattered hurriedly about the circle and disappeared in the houses, to fling last armfuls into the already bursting trunks.
On top of Memorial steps the Great Big Man remained, solitary and marooned, gazing over the fields, down the road to Trenton, where still the rising dust-clouds showed the struggle toward vacation. He stood like a monument, gazing fixedly, struggling with all the might of his twelve years to conquer the awful feeling of homesickness that came to him. Homesickness—the very word was an anomaly: what home had he to go to? An orphan without ever having known his father, scarcely remembering his mother in the hazy reflections of years, little Joshua Tibbets had arrived at the school at the beginning of the winter term, to enter the shell,[B] and gradually pass through the forms in six or seven years.
The boys of the Dickinson, after a glance at his funny little body and his plaintive, doglike face, had baptized him the "Great Big Man" (Big Man for short), and had elected him the child of the house.
He had never known what homesickness was before. He had had a premonition of it, perhaps, from time to time during the last week, wondering a little in the classroom as each day Snorky Green, beside him, calculated the days until Easter, then the hours, then the minutes. He had watched him with an amused, uncomprehending interest. Why was he so anxious to be off? After all, he, the Big Man, found it a pleasant place, after the wearisome life from hotel to hotel. He liked the boys; they were kind to him, and looked after his moral and spiritual welfare with bluff but affectionate solicitude. It is true, one was always hungry, and only ten and a half hours' sleep was a refinement of cruelty unworthy of a great institution. But it was pleasant running over to the jigger-shop and doing errands for giants like Reiter and Butcher Stevens, with the privileges of the commission. He liked to be tumbled in the grass by the great tackle of the football eleven, or thrown gently from arm to arm like a medicine-ball, quits for the privileges of pommeling his big friends ad libitum and without fear of reprisals. And then what a privilege to be allowed to run out on the field and fetch the nose-guard or useless bandage, thrown down haphazard, with the confidence that he, the Big Man, was there to fetch and guard! Then he was permitted to share their studies, to read slowly from handy, literal translations, his head cushioned on the Egghead's knee, while the lounging group swore genially at Pius AEneas or sympathized with Catiline. He shagged elusive balls and paraded the bats at shoulder-arms. He opened the mail, and sorted it, fetching the bag from Farnum's. He was even allowed to stand treat to the mighty men of the house whenever the change in his pocket became too heavy for comfort.
In return he was taught to box, to wind tennis rackets, to blacken shoes, to crease trousers, and sew on the buttons of the house. Nothing was lacking to his complete happiness.
Then lately he had begun to realize that there was something else in the school life, outside it, but very much a part of it—vacation.
At first the idea of quitting such a fascinating life was quite incomprehensible to him. What gorging dinner-party could compare with the thrill of feasting at midnight on crackers and cheese, deviled ham, boned chicken, mince pie and root beer, by the light of a solitary candle, with the cracks of the doors and windows smothered with rugs and blankets, listening at every mouthful for the tread of the master that sometimes (oh, acme of delight!) actually passed unsuspectingly by the door?
Still, there was a joy in leaving all this. He began to notice it distinctly when the trunks were hauled from the cellar and the packing began. The packing—what a lark that had been! He had folded so many coats and trousers, carefully, in their creases, under Macnooder's generous instructions, and, perched on the edge of the banisters like a queer little marmoset, he had watched Wash Simmons throw great armfuls of assorted clothing into the trays and churn them into place with a baseball bat, while the Triumphant Egghead carefully built up his structure with nicety and tenderness. Only he, the Big Man, sworn to secrecy, knew what Hickey had surreptitiously inserted in the bottom of Egghead's trunk, and also what, from the depths of Wash's muddled clothing, would greet the fond mother or sister who did the unpacking; and every time he thought of it he laughed one of those laughs that pain. Then gleefully he had watched Macnooder stretching a strap until it burst with consequences dire, to the complete satisfaction of Hickey, Turkey, Wash, and the Egghead, who, embracing fondly on the top of another trunk, were assisting Butcher Stevens to close an impossible gap.
Yet into all this amusement a little strain of melancholy had stolen. Here was a sensation of which he was not part, an emotion he did not know. Still, his imagination did not seize it; he could not think of the halls quiet, with no familiar figures lolling out of the windows, or a campus unbrokenly green.
Now from his lonely eerie on Memorial steps, looking down the road to vacation, the Great Big Man suddenly understood—understood and felt. It was he who had gone away, not they. The school he loved was not with him, but roaring down to Trenton. No one had thought to invite him for a visit; but then, why should any one?
"I'm only a runt, after all," he said, angrily, to himself. He stuck his fists deep in his pockets, and went down the steps like a soldier and across the campus chanting valorously the football slogan:
Bill kicked, Dunham kicked. They both kicked together, But Bill kicked mighty hard. Flash ran, Charlie ran, Then Pennington lost her grip; She also lost the championship— Siss, boom, ah!
After all, he could sleep late; that was something. Then in four days the baseball squad would return, and there would be long afternoon practices to watch, lolling on the turf, with an occasional foul to retrieve. He would read "The Count of Monte Cristo," and follow "The Three Musketeers" through a thousand far-off adventures, and "Lorna Doone,"—there was always the great John Ridd, bigger even than Turkey or the Waladoo Bird.
He arrived resolutely at the Dickinson, and started up the deserted stairs for his room. There was only one thing he feared; he did not want Mrs. Rogers, wife of the housemaster, to "mother" him. Anything but that! He was glad that after luncheon he would have to take his meals at the Lodge. That would avert embarrassing situations, for whatever his friends might think, he, the Great Big Man, was a runt in stature only.
To express fully the excessive gayety he enjoyed, he tramped to his room, bawling out:
"'Tis a jolly life we lead, Care and sorrow we defy."
All at once a gruff voice spoke:
"My what a lot of noise for a Great Big Man!"
The Big Man stopped thunderstruck. The voice came from Butcher Stevens' room. Cautiously he tiptoed down the hall and paused, with his funny little nose and eyes peering around the door-jamb. Sure enough, there was Butcher, and there were the Butcher's trunks and bags. What could it mean?
"I say," he began, according to etiquette, "is that you, Butcher?"
"Very much so, Big Man."
"What are you doing here?"
"The faculty, Big Man, desire my presence," said the Butcher, sarcastically. "They would like my expert advice on a few problems that are perplexing them."
"Ah," said the Great Big Man, slowly. Then he understood. The Butcher had been caught two nights before returning by Sawtelle's window at a very late hour. He did not know exactly the facts because he had been told not to be too inquisitive, and he was accustomed to obeying instructions. Supposing the faculty should expel him! To the Big Man such a sentence meant the end of all things, something too horrible to contemplate. So he said, "Oh, Butcher, is it serious?"
"Rather, youngster; rather, I should say."
"What will the baseball team do?" said the Big Man, overwhelmed.
"That's what's worrying me," replied the crack first-baseman, gloomily. He rose and went to the window, where he stood beating a tattoo.
"You don't suppose Crazy Opdyke could cover the bag, do you?" said the Big Man.
"Not in a lifetime."
"How about Stubby?"
"They might do something with the Waladoo."
"Not for first; he can't stop anything below his knees."
"Then I don't see how we're going to beat Andover, Butcher."
"It does look bad."
"Do you think the faculty will—will——"
"Fire me? Pretty certain, youngster."
"Trouble is, they've got the goods on me—dead to rights."
"But does the Doctor know how it'll break up the nine?"
Butcher laughed loudly.
"He doesn't ap-preciate that, youngster."
"No," said the Big Man, reflectively. "They never do, do they?"
The luncheon bell rang, and they hurried down. The Big Man was overwhelmed by the discovery. If Butcher didn't cover first, how could they ever beat Andover and the Princeton freshmen? Even Hill School and Pennington might trounce them. He fell into a brown melancholy, until suddenly he caught the sympathetic glance of Mrs. Rogers on him, and for fear that she would think it was due to his own weakness, he began to chat volubly.
He had always been a little in awe of the Butcher. Not that the Butcher had not been friendly; but he was so blunt and rough and unbending that he rather repelled intimacy. He watched him covertly, admiring the bravado with which he pretended unconcern. It must be awful to be threatened with expulsion and actually to be expelled, to have your whole life ruined, once and forever. The Big Man's heart was stirred. He said to himself that he had not been sympathetic enough, and he resolved to repair the error. So, luncheon over, he said with an appearance of carelessness:
"I say, old man, come on over to the jigger-shop. I'll set 'em up. I'm pretty flush, you know."
The Butcher looked down at the funny face and saw the kindly motive under the exaggerated bluffness. Being touched by it, he said gruffly:
"Well; come on, then, you old billionaire!"
The Big Man felt a great movement of sympathy in him for his big comrade. He would have liked to slip his little fist in the great brown hand and say something appropriate, only he could think of nothing appropriate. Then he remembered that among men there should be no letting down, no sentimentality. So he lounged along, squinting up at the Butcher and trying to copy his rolling gait.
At the jigger-shop, Al lifted his eyebrows in well-informed disapproval, saying curtly:
"What are you doing here, you Butcher, you?"
"Building up my constitution," said Stevens, with a frown. "I'm staying because I like it, of course. Lawrenceville is just lovely at Easter: spring birds and violets, and that sort of thing."
"You're a nice one," said Al, a baseball enthusiast. "Why couldn't you behave until after the Andover game?"
"Of course; but you needn't rub it in," replied the Butcher, staring at the floor. "Give me a double strawberry, and heave it over."
Al, seeing him not insensible, relented. He added another dab to the double jigger already delivered, and said, shoving over the glass:
"It's pretty hard luck on the team, Butcher. There's no one hereabouts can hold down the bag like you. Heard anything definite?"
"What do you think?"
"I'd hate to say."
"Is any one doing anything?"
"Cap Kiefer is to see the Doctor to-night."
"I say, Butcher," said the Big Man, in sudden fear, "you won't go up to Andover and play against us, will you?"
"Against the school! Well, rather not!" said the Butcher, indignantly. Then he added: "No; if they fire me, I know what I'll do."
The Big Man wondered if he contemplated suicide; that must be the natural thing to do when one is expelled. He felt that he must keep near Butcher, close all the day. So he made bold to wander about with him, watching him with solicitude.
They stopped at Lalo's for a hot dog, and lingered at Bill Appleby's, where the Butcher mournfully tried the new mits and swung the bats with critical consideration. Then feeling hungry, they trudged up to Conover's for pancakes and syrup. Everywhere was the same feeling of dismay; what would become of the baseball nine? Then it suddenly dawned upon the Big Man that no one seemed to be sorry on the Butcher's account. He stopped with a pancake poised on his fork, looked about to make sure no one could hear him, and blurted out:
"I say, Butcher, it's not only on account of first base, you know; I'm darn sorry for you, honest!"
"Why, you profane little cuss," said the Butcher, frowning, "who told you to swear?"
"Don't make fun of me, Butcher," said the Great Big Man, feeling very little; "I meant it."
"Conover," said the Butcher, loudly, "more pancakes, and brown 'em!"
He, too, had been struck by the fact that in the general mourning there had been scant attention paid to his personal fortunes. He had prided himself on the fact that he was not susceptible to "feelings," that he neither gave nor asked for sympathy. He was older than his associates, but years had never reconciled him to Latin or Greek or, for that matter, to mathematics in simple or aggravated form. He had been the bully of his village out in northern Iowa, and when a stranger came, he trounced him first, and cemented the friendship afterward. He liked hard knocks, give and take. He liked the school because there was the long football season in the autumn, with the joy of battling, with every sinew of the body alert and the humming of cheers indistinctly heard, as he rammed through the yielding line. Then the spring meant long hours of romping over the smooth diamond, cutting down impossible hits, guarding first base like a bull-dog, pulling down the high ones, smothering the wild throws that came ripping along the ground, threatening to jump up against his eyes, throws that other fellows dodged. He was in the company of equals, of good fighters, like Charley De Soto, Hickey, Flash Condit, and Turkey, fellows it was a joy to fight beside. Also, it was good to feel that four hundred-odd wearers of the red and black put their trust in him, and that trust became very sacred to him. He played hard—very hard, but cleanly, because combat was the joy of life to him. He broke other rules, not as a lark, but out of the same fierce desire for battle, to seek out danger wherever he could find it. He had been caught fair and square, and he knew that for that particular offense there was only one punishment. Yet he hoped against hope, suddenly realizing what it would cost him to give up the great school where, however, he had never sought friendships or anything beyond the admiration of his mates.
The sympathy of the Big Man startled him, then made him uncomfortable. He had no intention of crying out, and he did not like or understand the new emotion that rose in him as he wondered when his sentence would come.
"Well, youngster," he said, gruffly, "had enough? Have another round?"
"I've had enough," said the Big Man, heaving a sigh. "Let me treat, Butcher."
"Not to-day, youngster."
"Butcher, I—I'd like to. I'm awfully flush."
"Let's match for it."
"What!" said the Butcher, fiercely. "Don't let me hear any more of that talk. You've got to grow up first."
The Big Man, thus rebuked, acquiesced meekly. The two strolled back to the campus in silence.
"Suppose we have a catch," said the Big Man, tentatively.
"All right," said the Butcher, smiling.
Intrenched behind a gigantic mit, the Big Man strove valorously to hold the difficult balls. After a long period of this mitigated pleasure they sat down to rest. Then Cap Kiefer's stocky figure appeared around the Dickinson, and the Butcher went off for a long, solemn consultation.
The Big Man, thus relieved of responsibility, felt terribly alone. He went to his room and took down volume two of "The Count of Monte Cristo," and stretched out on the window-seat. Somehow the stupendous adventures failed to enthrall him. It was still throughout the house. He caught himself listening for the patter of Hickey's shoes above, dancing a breakdown, or the rumble of Egghead's laugh down the hall, or a voice calling, "Who can lend me a pair of suspenders?"
And the window was empty. It seemed so strange to look up from the printed page and find no one in the Woodhull opposite, shaving painfully at the window, or lolling like himself over a novel, all the time keeping an eye on the life below. He could not jeer at Two Inches Brown and Crazy Opdyke practicing curves, nor assure them that the Dickinson nine would just fatten on those easy ones. No one halloed from house to house, no voice below drawled out:
"Oh, you Great Big Man! Stick your head out of the window!"
There was no one to call across for the time o' day, or for just a nickel to buy stamps, or for the loan of a baseball glove, or a sweater, or a collar button, scissors, button-hook, or fifty and one articles that are never bought but borrowed.
The Great Big Man let "The Count of Monte Cristo" tumble unheeded on the floor, seized a tennis ball, and went across the campus to the esplanade of the Upper House, where for half an hour he bounced the ball against the rim of the ledge, a privilege that only a fourth former may enjoy. Tiring of this, he wandered down to the pond, where he skimmed innumerable flat stones until he had exhausted the attractions of this limited amusement.
"I—I'm getting homesick," he admitted finally. "I wish I had a dog—something living—around."
At supper-time he saw the Butcher again, and forgot his own loneliness in the concern he felt for his big friend. He remembered that the Butcher had said that if he were expelled he knew what he would do. What had he meant by that? Something terrible. He glanced up at the Butcher, and, being very apprehensive, made bold to ask:
"Butcher, I say, what does Cap think?"
"He hasn't seen the Doctor yet," said the Butcher. "He'll see him to-night. I guess I'll go over myself, just to leave a calling-card accordin' to et-iquette!"
The Big Man kept his own counsel, but when the Butcher, after dinner, disappeared through the awful portal of Foundation House, he sat down in the dark under a distant tree to watch. In a short five minutes the Butcher reappeared, stood a moment undecided on the steps, stooped, picked up a handful of gravel, flung it into the air with a laugh, and started along the circle.
"Hello, who's that!"
"It's me, Butcher," said the Big Man, slipping his hand into the other's; "I—I wanted to know."
"You aren't going to get sentimental, are you, youngster?" said Stevens, disapprovingly.
"Please, Butcher," said the Great Big Man, pleadingly, "don't be cross with me! Is there any hope?"
"The Doctor won't see me, young one," said the Butcher, "but the at-mosphere was not encouraging."
They went hand in hand over to the chapel, where they chose the back steps and settled down with the great walls at their back and plenty of gravel at their feet to fling aimlessly into the dusky night.
"Well, Big Man!"
"What will you do if—if they fire you?"
"Oh, lots of things. I'll go hunting for gold somewhere, or strike out for South America or Africa."
"Oh!" The Big Man was immensely relieved; but he added incredulously, "Then you'll give up football and baseball?"
"Looks that way."
"You won't mind?"
"Yes," said the Butcher, suddenly, "I will mind. I'll hate to leave the old school. I'd like to have one chance more."
"Why don't you tell the Doctor that?"
"Never! I don't cry out when I'm caught, youngster. I take my punishment."
"Yes," said the Big Man, reflecting. "That's right, I suppose; but, then, there's the team to think of, you know."
They sat for a long time in silence, broken suddenly by the Butcher's voice, not so gruff as usual.
"Say, Big Man—feeling sort of homesick?"
"Just a bit?"
Still no answer. The Butcher looked down, and saw the Big Man struggling desperately to hold in the sobs.
"Here, none of that, youngster!" he exclaimed in alarm. "Brace up, old man!"
"I—I'm all right," said the Great Big Man with difficulty. "It's nothing."
The Butcher patted him on the shoulder, and then drew his arm around the little body. The Big Man put his head down and blubbered, just as though he had been a little fellow, while his companion sat perplexed, wondering what to do or say in the strange situation.
"So he's a little homesick, is he?" he said lamely.
"N-o-o," said the Great Big Man, "not just that; it's—it's all the fellows I miss."
The Butcher was silent. He, too, began to understand that feeling; only he, in his battling pride, resisted fiercely the weakness.
"You've got an uncle somewhere, haven't you, youngster?" he said gently. "Doesn't he look after you in vacation-time?"
"I don't miss him," replied the Big Man, shaking his head. Then he pulled himself together and said apologetically: "It's just being left behind that makes me such a damned cry-baby."
"Youngster," said the Butcher, sternly, "your language is at-rocious. Such words do not sound well in the mouth of a suckling of your size."
"I didn't mean to," said the Big Man, blushing.
"You must leave something to grow up for, young man," said the Butcher, profoundly. "Now tell me about that uncle of yours. I don't fancy his silhouette."
The Great Big Man, thus encouraged, poured out his lonely starved little heart, while the Butcher listened sympathetically, feeling a certain comfort in sitting with his arm around a little fellow-being. Not that he was sensible of giving much comfort; his comments, he felt, were certainly inadequate; nor did he measure in any way up to the situation.
"Now it's better, eh, Big Man?" he said at last when the little fellow had stopped. "Does you sort of good to talk things out."
"Oh, yes; thank you, Butcher."
"All right, then, youngster."
"All right. I say, you—you don't ever feel that way, do you—homesick, I mean?"
"You've got a home, haven't you?"
"Quite too much, young one. If they fire me, I'll keep away from there. Strike out for myself."
"Of course, then, it's different."
"Young one," said the Butcher, suddenly, "that's not quite honest. If I have to clear out of here, it will cut me up con-siderable."
"A fact. I didn't know it before; but it will cut me up to strike out and leave all this behind. I want another chance; and do you know why?"
"I'd like to make friends. Oh, I haven't got any real friends, youngster; you needn't shake your head. It's my fault. I know it. You're the first mortal soul who cared what became of me. All the rest are thinking of the team."
"Don't think I'm crying out!" said the Butcher, in instant alarm. "It's all been up to me. Truth is, I've been too darned proud. But I'd like to get another whack at it."
"Perhaps you will, Butcher."
"No, no, there's no reason why I should." The Butcher sat solemnly a moment, flinging pebbles down into the dark tennis courts. Suddenly he said: "Look here, Big Man, I'm going to give you some good advice."
"All right, Butcher."
"And I want you to tuck it away in your thinker—savez? You're a nice kid now, a good sort, but you've got a lot of chances for being spoiled. Don't get fresh. Don't get a swelled head just because a lot of the older fellows let you play around. There's nothing so hateful in the sight of God or man as a fresh kid."
"You don't think——" began the Big Man in dismay.
"No; you're all right now. You're quiet, and don't tag around, and you're a good sort, darned if you aren't, and that's why I don't want to see you spoiled. Now a straight question: Do you smoke?"
"Why, that is—well, Butcher, I did try once a puff on Snookers' cigarette."
"You ought to be spanked!" said the Butcher, angrily. "And when I get hold of Snookers, I'll tan him. The idea of his letting you! Don't you monkey around tobacco yet a while. First of all, it's fresh, and second, you've got to grow. You want to make a team, don't you, while you're here?"
"O-o-h!" said the Great Big Man with a long sigh.
"Then just stick to growing, 'Cause you've got work cut out for you there. Now I'm not preachin'; I'm saying that you want to fill out and grow up and do something. Harkee."
"Cut out Snookers and that gang. Pick out the fellows that count, as you go along, and just remember this, if you forget the rest: if you want to put ducks in Tabby's bed or nail down his desk, do it because you want to do it, not because some other fellow wants you to do it. D'ye hear?"
"Remember that, youngster; if I'd stuck to it, I'd kept out of a peck of trouble." He reflected a moment and added: "Then I'd study a little. It's not a bad thing, I guess, in the long run, and it gets the masters on your side. And now jump up, and we'll trot home."
The following night the Big Man, again under his tree, waited for the result of the conference that was going on inside Foundation House between the Doctor and the Butcher and Cap Kiefer. It was long, very long. The minutes went slowly, and it was very dark there, with hardly a light showing in the circle of houses that ordinarily seemed like a procession of lighted ferry-boats. After an interminable hour, the Butcher and Cap came out. He needed no word to tell what their attitudes showed only too plainly: the Butcher was expelled!
The Big Man waited until the two had passed into the night, and then, with a sudden resolve, went bravely to the doorbell and rang. Before he quite appreciated the audacity of his act, he found himself in the sanctum facing a much-perplexed head master.
"Doctor, I—I——" The Big Man stopped, overwhelmed by the awful majesty of the Doctor, on whose face still sat the grimness of the past conference.
"Well, Joshua, what's the matter?" said the head master, relaxing a bit before one of his favorites.
"Please, sir, I'm a little—a little embarrassed, I'm afraid," said the Great Big Man, desperately.
"Am I so terrible as all that?" said the Doctor, smiling.
"Yes, sir—you are," the Big Man replied frankly. Then he said, plunging in, "Doctor, is the Butcher—is Stevens—are you going to—expel him?"
"That is my painful duty, Joshua," said the Doctor, frowning.
"Oh, Doctor," said the Big Man all in a breath, "you don't know—you're making a mistake."
"I am? Why, Joshua?"
"Because—you don't know. Because the Butcher won't tell you, he's too proud, sir; because he doesn't want to cry out, sir."
"What do you mean exactly?" said the Doctor in surprise. "Does Stevens know you're here?"
"Oh, Heavens, no, sir!" said the Big Man in horror. "And you must never tell him, sir; that would be too terrible."
"Joshua," said the Doctor, impressively, "I am expelling Stevens because he is just the influence I don't want boys of your age to come under."
"Oh, yes, sir," said the Big Man, "I know you think that, sir; but really, Doctor, that's where you are wrong; really you are, sir."
The Doctor saw there was something under the surface, and he encouraged the little fellow to talk. The Big Man, forgetting all fear in the seriousness of the situation, told the listening head master all the Butcher's conversation with him on the chapel steps the night before—told it simply and eloquently, with an ardor that bespoke absolute faith. Then suddenly he stopped.
"That's all, sir," he said, frightened.
The Doctor rose and walked back and forth, troubled and perplexed. There was no doubting the sincerity of the recital: it was a side of Stevens he had not guessed. Finally he turned and rested his hand on the Big Man's shoulders.
"Thank you," he said; "it does put another light on the question. I'll think it over."
When, ten days later, the school came trickling home along the road from vacation, they saw, against all hope, the Butcher holding down first base, frolicking over the diamond in the old familiar way, and a great shout of joy and relief went up. But how it had happened no one ever knew, least of all Cap and the Butcher, who had gone from Foundation House that night in settled despair.
To add to Butcher's mystification, the Doctor, in announcing his reprieve, had added:
"I've decided to make a change, Stevens. I'm going to put Tibbetts in to room with you. I place him in your charge. I'm going to try a little responsibility on you."
[A] Reprinted by special permission from "The Prodigious Hickey." Copyright, 1908, by Little, Brown and Company.
[B] The "shell" is the lowest class.
II.—A Twilight Adventure[C]
By Melville Davisson Post
A good many boys are fortunate in their "aunts" and "uncles." Such a one was Martin with his "Uncle Abner." The experiences they had together down in the mountains of Virginia were very remarkable, and often most desperate, as in the case of the following story, but one of the many set down by Martin, grown to be a man, in the book from which this was taken. But, it's enough to make you boys wish you, too, lived with an "Uncle Abner" in a similar early Virginia settlement, with the wild forests so near at hand.—THE EDITOR.
IT was a strange scene that we approached. Before a crossroad leading into a grove of beech trees, a man sat on his horse with a rifle across his saddle. He did not speak until we were before him in the road, and then his words were sinister.
"Ride on!" he said.
But my Uncle Abner did not ride on. He pulled up his big chestnut and looked calmly at the man.
"You speak like one having authority," he said.
The man answered with an oath.
"Ride on, or you'll get into trouble!"
Abner's eyes traveled over the speaker with a deliberate scrutiny; then he answered: "Are the roads of Virginia held by arms?"
"This one is," replied the man.
"I think not," replied my Uncle Abner, and, touching his horse with his heel, he turned into the crossroad.
The man seized his weapon, and I heard the hammer click under his thumb. Abner must have heard it, too, but he did not turn his broad back. He only called to me in his usual matter-of-fact voice:
"Go on, Martin; I will overtake you."
The man brought his gun up to his middle, but he did not shoot. He was like all those who undertake to command obedience without having first determined precisely what they will do if their orders are disregarded. He was prepared to threaten with desperate words, but not to support that threat with a desperate act, and he hung there uncertain, cursing under his breath.
I would have gone on as my uncle had told me to do, but now the man came to a decision.
"No!" he said; "if he goes in, you go in, too!"
And he seized my bridle and turned my horse into the crossroad; then he followed.
There is a long twilight in these hills. The sun departs, but the day remains. A sort of weird, dim, elfin day, that dawns at sunset, and envelops and possesses the world. The land is full of light, but it is the light of no heavenly sun. It is a light equal everywhere, as though the earth strove to illumine itself, and succeeded with that labor.
The stars are not yet out. Now and then a pale moon rides in the sky, but it has no power, and the light is not from it. The wind is usually gone; the air is soft, and the fragrance of the fields fills it like a perfume. The noises of the day and of the creatures that go about by day cease, and the noises of the night and of the creatures that haunt the night begin. The bat swoops and circles in the maddest action, but without a sound. The eye sees him, but the ear hears nothing. The whippoorwill begins his plaintive cry, and one hears, but does not see.
It is a world that we do not understand, for we are creatures of the sun, and we are fearful lest we come upon things at work here, of which we have no experience, and that may be able to justify themselves against our reason. And so a man falls into silence when he travels in this twilight, and he looks and listens with his senses out on guard.
It was an old wagon-road that we entered, with the grass growing between the ruts. The horses traveled without a sound until we began to enter a grove of ancient beech trees; then the dead leaves cracked and rustled. Abner did not look behind him, and so he did not know that I came. He knew that some one followed, but he doubtless took it for the sentinel in the road. And I did not speak.
The man with the cocked gun rode grimly behind me. I did not know whither we went or to what end. We might be shot down from behind a tree or murdered in our saddles. It was not a land where men took desperate measures upon a triviality. And I knew that Abner rode into something that little men, lacking courage, would gladly have stayed out of.
Presently my ear caught a sound, or, rather, a confused mingling of sounds, as of men digging in the earth. It was faint, and some distance beyond us in the heart of the beech woods, but as we traveled the sound increased and I could distinguish the strokes of the mattock, and the thrust of the shovel and the clatter of the earth on the dry leaves.
These sounds seemed at first to be before us, and then, a little later, off on our right-hand. And finally, through the gray boles of the beech trees in the lowland, I saw two men at work digging a pit. They had just begun their work, for there was little earth thrown out. But there was a great heap of leaves that they had cleared away, and heavy cakes of the baked crust that the mattocks had pried up. The length of the pit lay at right angles to the road, and the men were working with their backs towards us. They were in their shirts and trousers, and the heavy mottled shadows thrown by the beech limbs hovered on their backs and shoulders like a flock of night birds. The earth was baked and hard; the mattock rang on it, and among the noises of their work they did not hear us.
I saw Abner look off at this strange labor, his head half turned, but he did not stop and we went on. The old wagon-road made a turn into the low ground. I heard the sound of horses, and a moment later we came upon a dozen men.
I shall not easily forget that scene. The beech trees had been deadened by some settler who had chopped a ring around them, and they stood gaunt with a few tattered leaves, letting the weird twilight in. Some of the men stood about, others sat on the fallen trees, and others in their saddles. But upon every man of that grim company there was the air and aspect of one who waits for something to be finished.
An old man with a heavy iron-gray beard smoked a pipe, puffing out great mouthfuls of smoke with a sort of deliberate energy; another whittled a stick, cutting a bull with horns, and shaping his work with the nicest care; and still another traced letters on the pommel of his saddle with his thumb-nail.
A little to one side a great pronged beech thrust out a gray arm, and under it two men sat on their horses, their elbows strapped to their bodies and their mouths gagged with a saddle-cloth. And behind them a man in his saddle was working with a colt halter, unraveling the twine that bound the head-piece and seeking thereby to get a greater length of rope.
This was the scene when I caught it first. But a moment later, when my uncle rode into it, the thing burst into furious life. Men sprang up, caught his horse by the bit and covered him with weapons. Some one called for the sentinel who rode behind me, and he galloped up. For a moment there was confusion. Then the big man who had smoked with such deliberation called out my uncle's name, others repeated it, and the panic was gone. But a ring of stern, determined faces were around him and before his horse, and with the passing of the flash of action there passed no whit of the grim purpose upon which these men were set.
My uncle looked about him.
"Lemuel Arnold," he said; "Nicholas Vance, Hiram Ward, you here!"
As my uncle named these men I knew them. They were cattle grazers. Ward was the big man with the pipe. The men with them were their renters and drovers.
Their lands lay nearest to the mountains. The geographical position made for feudal customs and a certain independence of action. They were on the border, they were accustomed to say, and had to take care of themselves. And it ought to be written that they did take care of themselves, with courage and decision, and on occasion they also took care of Virginia.
Their fathers had pushed the frontier of the dominion northward and westward and had held the land. They had fought the savage single-handed and desperately, by his own methods and with his own weapons. Ruthless and merciless, eye for eye and tooth for tooth, they returned what they were given.
They did not send to Virginia for militia when the savage came; they fought him at their doors, and followed him through the forest, and took their toll of death. They were hardier than he was, and their hands were heavier and bloodier, until the old men in the tribes of the Ohio Valley forbade these raids because they cost too much, and turned the war parties south into Kentucky.
Certain historians have written severely of these men and their ruthless methods, and prattled of humane warfare; but they wrote nursing their soft spines in the security of a civilization which these men's hands had builded, and their words are hollow.
"Abner," said Ward, "let me speak plainly. We have got an account to settle with a couple of cattle thieves and we are not going to be interfered with. Cattle stealing and murder have got to stop in these hills. We've had enough of it."
"Well," replied my uncle, "I am the last man in Virginia to interfere with that. We have all had enough of it, and we are all determined that it must cease. But how do you propose to end it?"
"With a rope," said Ward.
"It is a good way," replied Abner, "when it is done the right way."
"What do you mean by the right way?" said Ward.
"I mean," answered my uncle, "that we have all agreed to a way and we ought to stick to our agreement. Now, I want to help you to put down cattle stealing and murder, but I want also to keep my word."
"And how have you given your word?"
"In the same way that you have given yours," said Abner, "and as every man here has given his. Our fathers found out that they could not manage the assassin and the thief when every man undertook to act for himself, so they got together and agreed upon a certain way to do these things. Now, we have indorsed what they agreed to, and promised to obey it, and I for one would like to keep my promise."
The big man's face was puzzled. Now it cleared.
"You mean the law?"
"Call it what you like," replied Abner; "it is merely the agreement of everybody to do certain things in a certain way."
The man made a decisive gesture with a jerk of his head.
"Well," he said, "we're going to do this thing our own way."
My uncle's face became thoughtful.
"Then," he said, "you will injure some innocent people."
"You mean these two blacklegs?"
And Ward indicated the prisoners with a gesture of his thumb.
My uncle lifted his face and looked at the two men some distance away beneath the great beech, as though he had but now observed them.
"I was not thinking of them," he answered. "I was thinking that if men like you and Lemuel Arnold and Nicholas Vance violate the law, lesser men will follow your example, and as you justify your act for security, they will justify theirs for revenge and plunder. And so the law will go to pieces and a lot of weak and innocent people who depend upon it for security will be left unprotected."
These were words that I have remembered, because they put the danger of lynch law in a light I had not thought of. But I saw that they would not move these determined men. Their blood was up and they received them coldly.
"Abner," said Ward, "we are not going to argue this thing with you. There are times when men have to take the law into their own hands. We live here at the foot of the mountain. Our cattle are stolen and run across the border into Maryland. We are tired of it and we intend to stop it.
"Our lives and our property are menaced by a set of reckless desperate devils that we have determined to hunt down and hang to the first tree in sight. We did not send for you. You pushed your way in here; and now, if you are afraid of breaking the law, you can ride on, because we are going to break it—if to hang a pair of murderous devils is to break it."
I was astonished at my uncle's decision.
"Well," he said, "if the law must be broken, I will stay and help you break it!"
"Very well," replied Ward; "but don't get a wrong notion in your head, Abner. If you choose to stay, you put yourself on a footing with everybody else."
"And that is precisely what I want to do," replied Abner, "but as matters stand now, every man here has an advantage over me."
"What advantage, Abner?" said Ward.
"The advantage," answered my uncle, "that he has heard all the evidence against your prisoners and is convinced that they are guilty."
"If that is all the advantage, Abner," replied Ward, "you shall not be denied it. There has been so much cattle stealing here of late that our people living on the border finally got together and determined to stop every drove going up into the mountains that wasn't accompanied by somebody that we knew was all right. This afternoon one of my men reported a little bunch of about a hundred steers on the road, and I stopped it. These two men were driving the cattle. I inquired if the cattle belonged to them and they replied that they were not the owners, but that they had been hired to take the drove over into Maryland. I did not know the men, and as they met my inquiries with oaths and imprecations, I was suspicious of them. I demanded the name of the owner who had hired them to drive the cattle. They said it was none of my damned business and went on. I raised the county. We overtook them, turned their cattle into a field, and brought them back until we could find out who the drove belonged to. On the road we met Bowers."
He turned and indicated the man who was working with the rope halter.
I knew the man. He was a cattle shipper, somewhat involved in debt, but who managed to buy and sell and somehow keep his head above water.
"He told us the truth. Yesterday evening he had gone over on the Stone-Coal to look at Daniel Coopman's cattle. He had heard that some grazer from your county, Abner, was on the way up to buy the cattle for stockers. He wanted to get in ahead of your man, so he left home that evening and got to Coopman's place about sundown. He took a short cut on foot over the hill, and when he came out he saw a man on the opposite ridge where the road runs, ride away. The man seemed to have been sitting on his horse looking down into the little valley where Coopman's house stands. Bowers went down to the house, but Coopman was not there. The door was open, and Bowers says the house looked as though Coopman had just gone out of it and might come back any moment. There was no one about, because Coopman's wife had gone on a visit to her daughter, over the mountains, and the old man was alone.
"Bowers thought Coopman was out showing the cattle to the man whom he had just seen ride off, so he went out to the pasture field to look for him. He could not find him and he could not find the cattle. He came back to the house to wait until Coopman should come in. He sat down on the porch. As he sat there he noticed that the porch had been scrubbed and was still wet. He looked at it and saw that it had been scrubbed only at one place before the door. This seemed to him a little peculiar, and he wondered why Coopman had scrubbed his porch only in one place. He got up and as he went toward the door he saw that the jamb of the door was splintered at a point about half-way up. He examined this splintered place and presently discovered that it was a bullet hole.
"This alarmed him, and he went out into the yard. There he saw a wagon track leading away from the house toward the road. In the weeds he found Coopman's watch. He picked it up and put it into his pocket. It was a big silver watch, with Coopman's name on it, and attached to it was a buckskin string. He followed the track to the gate, where it entered the road. He discovered then that the cattle had also passed through this gate. It was now night. Bowers went back, got Coopman's saddle horse out of the stable, rode him home, and followed the track of the cattle this morning, but he saw no trace of the drove until we met him."
"What did Shifflet and Twiggs say to this story?" inquired Abner.
"They did not hear it," answered Ward; "Bowers did not talk before them. He rode aside with us when we met him."
"Did Shifflet and Twiggs know Bowers?" said Abner.
"I don't know," replied Ward; "their talk was so foul when we stopped the drove that we had to tie their mouths up."
"Is that all?" said Abner.
Ward swore a great oath.
"No!" he said. "Do you think we would hang men on that? From what Bowers told us, we thought Shifflet and Twiggs had killed Daniel Coopman and driven off his cattle; but we wanted to be certain of it, so we set out to discover what they had done with Coopman's body after they had killed him and what they had done with the wagon. We followed the trail of the drove down to the Valley River. No wagon had crossed, but on the other side we found that a wagon and a drove of cattle had turned out of the road and gone along the basin of the river for about a mile through the woods. And there in a bend of the river we found where these devils had camped.
"There had been a great fire of logs very near to the river, but none of the ashes of this fire remained. From a circular space some twelve feet in diameter the ashes had all been shoveled off, the marks of the shovel being distinct. In the center of the place where this fire had burned the ground had been scraped clean, but near the edges there were some traces of cinders and the ground was blackened. In the river at this point, just opposite the remains of the fire, was a natural washout or hole. We made a raft of logs, cut a pole with a fork on the end and dragged the river. We found most of the wagon iron, all showing the effect of fire. Then we fastened a tin bucket to a pole and fished the washout. We brought up cinders, buttons, buckles and pieces of bone."
"That settled it, and we came back here to swing the devils up."
My uncle had listened very carefully, and now he spoke.
"What did the man pay Twiggs and Shifflet?" said my uncle. "Did they tell you that when you stopped the drove?"
"Now that," answered Ward, "was another piece of damning evidence. When we searched the men we found a pocketbook on Shifflet with a hundred and fifteen dollars and some odd cents. It was Daniel Coopman's pocketbook, because there was an old tax receipt in it that had slipped down between the leather and the lining.
"We asked Shifflet where he got it, and he said that the fifteen dollars and the change was his own money and that the hundred had been paid to him by the man who had hired them to drive the cattle. He explained his possession of the pocketbook by saying that this man had the money in it, and when he went to pay them he said that they might just as well take it, too."
"Who was this man?" said Abner.
"They will not tell who he was."
"Now, Abner," cried Ward, "why not, indeed! Because there never was any such man. The story is a lie out of the whole cloth. The proof is all dead against them."
"Well," replied my uncle, "what circumstantial evidence proves, depends a good deal on how you get started. It is a somewhat dangerous road to the truth, because all the sign-boards have a curious trick of pointing in the direction that you are going. Now a man will never realize this unless he turns around and starts back, then he will see, to his amazement, that the signboards have also turned. But as long as his face is set one certain way, it is of no use to talk to him, he won't listen to you; and if he sees you going the other way, he will call you a fool!"
"There is only one way in this case," said Ward.
"There are always two ways in every case," replied Abner, "that the suspected person is either guilty or innocent. You have started upon the theory that Shifflet and Twiggs are guilty. Now, suppose you had started the other way, what then?"
"Well," said Ward, "what then?"
"This, then," continued Abner. "You stop Shifflet and Twiggs on the road with Daniel Coopman's cattle, and they tell you that a man has hired them to drive this drove into Maryland. You believe that and start out to find the man. You find Bowers!"
Bowers went deadly white.
"For God's sake, Abner!" he said.
But my uncle was merciless and he drove in the conclusion.
There was no answer, but the faces of the men about my uncle turned toward the man whose trembling hands fingered the rope that he was preparing for another.
"But the things we found, Abner?" said Ward.
"What do they prove," continued my uncle, "now that the signboards are turned? That somebody killed Daniel Coopman and drove off his cattle, and afterward destroyed the body and the wagon in which it was hauled away. . . . But who did that? . . . The men who were driving Daniel Coopman's cattle, or the man who was riding Daniel Coopman's horse, and carrying Daniel Coopman's watch in his pocket?"
Ward's face was a study in expression.
"Ah!" cried Abner. "Remember that the signboards have turned about. And what do they point to if we read them on the way we are going now? The man who killed Coopman was afraid to be found with the cattle, so he hired Twiggs and Shifflet to drive them into Maryland for him and follows on another road."
"But his story, Abner?" said Ward.
"And what of it?" replied my uncle. "He is taken and he must explain how he comes by the horse that he rides, and the watch that he carries, and he must find the criminal. Well, he tells you a tale to fit the facts that you will find when you go back to look, and he gives you Shifflet and Twiggs to hang."
I never saw a man in more mortal terror than Jacob Bowers. He sat in his saddle like a man bewildered.
"My God!" he said, and again he repeated it, and again.
And he had cause for that terror on him. My uncle was stern and ruthless. The pendulum had swung the other way, and the lawless monster that Bowers had allied was now turning on himself. He saw it and his joints were unhinged with fear.
A voice crashed out of the ring of desperate men, uttering the changed opinion.
"By God!" it cried, "we've got the right man now!"
And one caught the rope out of Bowers' hand.
But my Uncle Abner rode in on them.
"Are you sure about that?" he said.
"Sure!" they echoed. "You have shown it yourself, Abner."
"No," replied my uncle, "I have not shown it. I have shown merely whither circumstantial evidence leads us when we go hotfoot after a theory. Bowers says that there was a man on the hill above Daniel Coopman's house, and this man will know that he did not kill Daniel Coopman and that his story is the truth."
They laughed in my uncle's face.
"Do you believe that there was any such person?"
My uncle seemed to increase in stature, and his voice became big and dominant.
"I do," he said, "because I am the man!"
They had got their lesson, and we rode out with Shifflet and Twiggs to a legal trial.
[C] Reprinted from "Uncle Abner." Copyright, 1918, by D. Appleton and Company.
III.—Tad Sheldon, Second-Class Scout[D]
By John Fleming Wilson
A good many Scout stories have been published, hundreds of them surely, maybe a thousand, or more, in the last nine years. But the first Scout story published in the United States was "Tad Sheldon, Second-Class Scout." It appeared first in the "Saturday Evening Post." The author has written a good many stories, Scout and otherwise, since then, but none better, I think, than this, and I count it good fortune indeed that I am able to include it in this volume of short stories for boys.—THE EDITOR.
"THERE is no har-rm in the story, though it speaks ill for us big people with Misther to our names," said Chief Engineer Mickey O'Rourke, balancing his coffee cup between his two scarred hands. "Ye remimber the lasht toime I was on leave—and I wint down to Yaquina Bay with Captain Tyler on his tin gas schooner, thinkin' to mesilf it was a holiday—and all the fun I had was insthructin' the gasoline engineer in the mysteries of how to expriss one's sintimints without injurin' the skipper's feelin's? Well, I landed in the bay and walked about in the woods, which is foine for the smell of thim which is like fresh tar; and one afternoon I find two legs and small feet stickin' out of a hole under a stump. I pulled on the two feet and the legs came out and at the end of thim a bhoy, mad with rage and dirt in his eyes.
"'Ye have spoiled me fun!' says he, lookin' at me very fierce.
"'Do yez dig yer fun out of the ground like coal?' I demands.
"'I'm investigating the habits of squirrels,' says he. 'I must find out how a squirrel turns round in his hole. Does he turn a summersault or stick his tail between his ears and go over backward?'
"'He turns inside out, like an ould sock,' I informs him, and he scorns me natural history. On the strength of mutual language we get acquainted. He is Tad Sheldon, the eldest son of Surfman No. 1 of the life-saving crew. He is fourteen years ould. Me bould Tad has troubles of his own, consisting of five other youngsters who are his gang. 'We are preparing to inter the ranks of the Bhoy Scouts,' he tells me, settin' be the side of the squirrel-hole. 'We are all tenderfeet and we can't get enlisted with the rest of the bhoys in the United States because each scout must have a dollar in the bank and between the six of us we have only one dollar and six bits and that's in me mother's apron pocket and in no bank at all.'
"'Explain,' says I.
"''Tis this way,' says me young sprig. 'All the bhoys in the country of America have joined the scouts, which is an army of felleys that know the woods and about animals and how to light a fire, and know the law.'
"'Stop!' I orders. 'No one knows the law without gold in one hand and a book in the other. If ye knew the law ye would have yer dollar.'
"''Tis the scouts' law,' says he. 'It tells ye to obey yer superiors and be fair to animals and kind to people ye care little for. Ye must know how to take care of yourself anywhere and be ready whin the country needs ye.'
"'And ye need a dollar?' I asks. 'Thin, why not work for it and stop pokin' yer nose down squirrel-holes, where there is neither profit nor wages?'
"'Because I'm to be the patrol-leader and I must know more than me men,' he retorts.
"Now, ye remimber I had in me pocket three pay checks, besides the money of Mr. Lof, the second engineer, which I had got for him and was carryin' about to send to him by the first friend I saw. So I took off me cap and pulled out one of the checks and said: 'Me bould boy, go down to the town and get the cash for this. Bring it back to me and I'll give ye a dollar; and thin ye can become a scout.'
"The lad looked at me and then at the governmint check. He shook his head till the dirt rolled into his ears, for he was still full of the clods he had rubbed into himself in the hole. 'I can't take a dollar from a man in the service,' he says. 'I must earn it.'
"'The Governmint's money is clane,' I rebukes him. 'I'm ould and me legs ends just above me feet, so that I walk with difficulty. 'Tis worth a dollar to get the coin without trampin'.'
"'I will earn it from somebody not in the service,' says me bould boy, with great firmness.
"'I'm no surfman, thank Hivin!' I remarks. 'I'm in the establishmint and look down on ye.'
"'If I'd known ye were a lighthouse man I'd have taken all ye had at first,' he retorts. 'But ye have made me a fair offer and I forgive ye. My father works for his living.'
"'Well,' says I seein' that it was poor fortune to be quarrelin' with a slip of a kid, 'do yez want the dollar or not?'
"And at that we got down to fact and he explained that this scout business was most important. It appeared that the other five bhoys depinded on him to extricate thim from their difficulties and set them all up as scouts, with uniforms and knives and a knowledge of wild animals and how to build a fire in a bucket of watther. We debated the thing back and forth till the sun dropped behind the trees and the could air came up from the ground and stuck me with needles of rheumatism.
"The lad was a good lad, and he made plain to me why his dollar was har-rd to get. He had thought of savin' the life of a summer visitor, but the law read that he must save life anyhow, without lookin' for pay. 'And we can't all save lives,' he mourns; 'for some of the kids is too young.'
"'But ye must earn money, ye scut,' I says. 'Ye're fourteen and whin I was that age I was me mother's support and joy. I made four shillin's a wake mixin' plaster for a tile-layer.'
"'I work,' he responds dolefully. 'But it goes to me mother to put with the savings in the bank against the time me father will be drowned, and leave us without support, for ye must know that we life-savers get no pensions.'
"'I niver hear-ed of a life-saver bein' drowned,' I remarks. 'But it may be, for I see ye are of an exthra-ordinary family and anything may come to such. How many are there of yez?'
"'There are six of us childher, all gur-rls but mesilf,' says he, with rage in his voice. 'And Carson—he was No. 4—broke his hip in a wreck last year and died of the bruise and left five, which the crew is lookin' after. Young Carson is one of me gang and makes a dollar and four bits a week deliverin' clams to the summer folks. Ye see he can't save a dollar for the bank.' And we got up and discussed the matther going down the hill toward the town. Before we parted Tad tould me where he lived.
"'I'd call on yer father and mother,' says I, 'if I cud be sure they would appreciate the honor. 'Tis a comedown for an officer in the lighthouse establishmint to inter the door of a surfman.'
"'Me father has a kind heart and is good to the ould,' he answers me. 'We live beyond the station, on the bluff.'
"With that we went our ways and I ate an imminse meal in the hotel with the dishes all spread out before me—and a pretty gur-rl behind me shoulder to point out the best of thim. Thin I walked out and started for the house of me bould Tad.
"I found thim all seated in the parlor excipt the missus, who was mixin' bread in the kitchen. I introduced mesilf, and Sheldon, who had No. 1 on his sleeve, offered me a pipe, which I took. I came down to business, houldin' me cap full of checks and money on me lap. 'Yer bould bhoy wants to be a scout and lacks a dollar,' I says. 'I like his looks, though I discovered him in a hole under a tree. He won't take me money and scorns me and the establishmint.'
"'He must earn it,' he answers, scowlin' over his pipe.
"'But I'll spind it,' I insists, peerin' at the bhoy out of the tail of me eye. 'If yer town weren't dhry I'd have given it to the saloon man for the good of the family he hasn't got. So why bilge at a single dollar?'
"''Tis the scouts' law,' puts in me bould Tad. 'I must make it honestly.' And he settled his head between his hands and gazed reproachfully at the clane floor. So I saved me money and sat till eight o'clock exchangin' complimints with Misther Sheldon. Thin the bell rang on the hill beyond the station and he pulled his cap off the dresser, kissed his wife and the five gur-rls and wint out to his watch and a good sleep. While he was gone I stood in the doorway and Missus Sheldon tould me of the little Carsons and how Missus Carson had sworn niver to marry again excipt in the life-saving service. 'She says the Governmint took away her husband and her support,' says the good lady, 'and she'll touch no money excipt Governmint checks, being used to thim and Uncle Sam owin' her the livin' he took away.'
"'With five childher she shud look up and marry one of the men in the establishment,' I informs her. 'They are good husbands and make money.'
"'Though a widow, she has pride,' she responds sharply; and I left, with young Tad follerin' at me heels till I let him overtake me and whisper: 'If ye'd buy some clams off of young Carson it wud help the widow.'
"'I am starved for clams,' I whispers back like a base conspirator for the hand of the lovely gur-rl in the castle. 'Show me the house of me bould Carson.' He pointed to a light through the thin woods.
"They thought I was crazy whin I returned to the hotel with a hundred pounds of clams dripping down me back. 'I dug thim with me own hands this night,' I tould the man in the office. 'Cook thim all for me breakfast.'
"'Ye're a miracle of strength and endurance under watther,' says he; 'for 'tis now high tide and the surf is heavy.'
"'I found their tracks in the road and followed thim to their lair,' I retorts. 'Do I get thim for breakfast?'
"And in the mor-rin', whin I was that full of clams that I needed a shell instead of a weskit, I walked on the beach with the admirin' crowds of summer tourists and lovely women. It was fine weather and the little ones were barefooted and the old ones bareheaded, and the wind was gentle, and the life-savers were polishin' their boat in full view of the wondherin' throng; and I thought of this ould tub out here on the ind of a chain and pitied thim all. Thin I sthrolled around the point to the bay and found me bould Tad dhrillin' his gang in an ould skiff, with home-made oars in their little fists and Tad sthandin' in the stern-sheets, with a huge steerin' sweep between his arms and much loud language in his mouth. When I appeared they looked at me and Tad swung his boat up to the beach and invited me in. 'We will show you a dhrill ye will remimber,' says he, very polite. And with my steppin' in he thrust the skiff off and the bhoys rowed with tremenjous strength. We wint along a full three knots an hour, till he yelled another ordher and the bhoys dropped their oars and jumped over to one side; and I found mesilf undher the boat, with me mouth full of salt watther and ropes. Whin I saw the sun again me bould Tad says to me with disapprobation: 'Ye aren't experienced in capsize dhrill.'
"'In the establishment we use boats to keep us out of the watther,' I responds, hunting for the papers out of me cap. 'The newspapers are full of rebukes for thim that rock boats to their own peril.'
"With that they all felt ashamed and picked up me papers and grunted at each other, tryin' to blame somebody else. And when I had me checks and me papers all safe again I smiled on thim and me bould Tad took heart. ''Tis not to tip the boat over,' says he, 'but to get it back on an even keel after a sea's capsized her—that is the point of the dhrill.' And we pulled ashore to dhry.
"Whiles we were sittin' on the sand drainin' the watther out of our shoes a small, brassy launch came down the bay, with many men and women on her little decks. Me bould Tad looked at her with half-shut eyes and snorted. 'Some day it will be the life-saving crew that must bring those ninnies back to their homes,' he says. 'The Pacific is nothing to fool with in a gasoline launch. 'Tis betther to be safe and buy your fish.' And we watched the launch chug by and out on the bar and to sea. I learned that she was the Gladys by name and fetched tourists to the fishing grounds, nine miles down the coast.
"All the bhoys were respictful to me excipt young Carson, who recognized in me bould Mickey the man who had asked for a hundredweight of clams. He stared at me superciliously and refused to have speech with me, bein' ashamed, if I can judge of his youthful thoughts, of bein' in the same company with a fool.
"But I discovered that the gang was all bent on becomin' what they called second-class scouts, which they made plain to me was betther by one than a tenderfoot. But they niver mintioned the lackings of the dollar, bein' gintlemin. They wanted to know of me whether I thought that boatmanship and knowledge of sailing would be accipted be the powers instid of wisdom as to bird-tracks and intimacy with wild animals and bugs. And the heart of me opened, the youth of me came back; and I spoke to thim as one lad to another, with riference to me years in a steamer and the need of hard hands and a hard head.
"The ind of it was that they rolled across the sand to me side and we all lay belly down over a chart, which me bould Tad had procured after the manner of bhoys, and they explained to me how they knew the coast for twelve miles each side of Yaquina Bay, with the tides and currents all plain in their heads. And I was surprised at what the young scuts knew—God save thim!
"At noon the visitors suddenly stopped lookin' at the scenery and hastened away with hunger in their eyes. The crew ran the surfboat back into the station and the bhoys drew their skiff up out of har-rm's way; and I wint back to me hotel and more clams. On the steps I found young Carson, grinning like a cat.
"'Ye don't have to eat thim shell fish,' says he, lookin' away. 'Gimme the sack of thim and I'll peddle thim to the tourists and bring ye the money.'
"'Whisht and away with ye!' I commanded. 'Who are you to be dictatin' the diet of yer betthers?' And he fled, without glancin' behind him.
"There was some remar-rks passed upon me wet clothes, but I tould the clerk in the office that me duty often called me to get drippin' soaked and went into the dinin'-room with a stiff neck under me proud chin. There were but few in the place and the gur-rl stood by me shoulder to pilot me through the various coorses infor-rmed me that the most of the guests were out on the Gladys fishin'. 'And the most of thim will have little appetite for their dinners,' she mused gently, thereby rebukin' me for a second helpin' of the fresh meat.
"In the afternoon I sthrolled out on the beach again, but saw little. A heavy fog was rowlin' from the nor'ard and the breeze before it was chill and damp as a widow's bed. I walked for me health for an hour and then ran to kape war-rm. At the ind of my spurt I was amazed to find mesilf exactly at the hotel steps. I wint in and laid me down be the fire and slept. I woke to hear a woman wailin'.
"Whin me eyes were properly open, and both pointed in the same direction, I found mesilf in the midst of a crowd. The sittin'-room was full of people, all with misery in their faces. The woman whose cries had woke me was standin' be the windey, with one hand around a handkerchief. 'My God!' she was sayin'—'My God. And me bhoy is on that boat!' And I knew that it was throuble and that many people would have their heads in their hands that night, with aches in their throats. I got up—shoes in me hand. At sight of me bright unifor-rm ten men flung themselves on me. 'You will help save them?' they cried at me.
"'I will so soon as I get me shoes on,' I remar-rked, pushing them off me toes. I put on me boots and stood up. 'Now I'll save thim,' says I. 'Where are they?'
"'They're on the Gladys,' says three at once. 'Thirty of our people—women and men and childher.'
"'Why wake me?' I demanded crosslike. 'Aren't the brave life-savers even now sitting be the fire waitin' for people to come and be saved? I'm a chief engineer in the lighthouse establishmint and we save no lives excipt whin we can't help it. Get the life-saving crew.'
"And they explained to me bould Mickey that the crew was gone twenty miles up the coast to rescue the men on a steam schooner that was wrecked off the Siletz, word of it having come down but two hours since. They looked at me unifor-rm and demanded their relatives at me hands. I shoved them away and wint out to think. In the prociss it occurred to me that the Gladys might not be lost. I wint back and asked thim how they knew it was time to mourn. 'If that launch is ashore they are as close to the fire as they can get,' I tould thim. 'And if she has gone down 'tis too late to dhry their stockings.'
"'She is lost in the fog,' I was infor-rmed. She shud have been back at her wharf at four o'clock. 'Twas now turned six and the bar was rough and blanketed in mist. The captain of the harbor tug had stated, with wise shakes of the head, that the Gladys cud do no more than lay outside the night and wait for sunshine and a smooth crossing. I shoved thim away from me again and wint out to think.
"It was a mur-rky fog, that sort that slathers over the watther like thick oil. Beyond the hill I cud hear the surf pounding like a riveter in a boiler. Overhead was a sheet of gray cloud, flying in curds before the wind, and in me mouth was the taste of the deep sea, blown in upon me with the scent of the storm.
"Two words with the skipper of the tug tould me the rest. 'It's coming on to blow a little from the south-ard,' said me bould mariner. 'It's so thick the Gladys can't find her way back. Her passengers will be cold and hungry whin they retur-rn in the mor-rnin'.'
"'And will ye not go after thim?'
"'I can't,' says he. 'Me steamer is built for the bay and one sea on the bar wud destroy the investmint. The life-saving crew is up north after a wreck.'
"'Is there no seagoin' craft in this harbor?' I demands.
"'There is not,' says he. 'Captain Tyler took his gas schooner down the coast yesterday.'
"So I sat down and thought, wonderin' how I cud sneak off me unifor-rm and have peace. For I knew me brass buttons wud keep me tongue busy all night explainin' that I was not a special providence paid by the Governmint to save fools from purgat-ry. In me thoughts I heard a wor-rd in me ear. I looked up. 'Twas me bould Tad, with a gang clustherin' at his heels.
"'Ye have followed the sea for many years?' says he.
"'I have followed it whin it was fair weather,' I responded, 'but the most of the time the sea has chased me ahead of it. Me coattail is still wet from the times it caught me. Speak up! What is it?'
"The bhoy pulled out of his jacket his ould chart and laid it before me. 'The Gladys is at anchor off these rocks,' says he, layin' a small finger on a spot. 'And in this weather she will have to lie there as long as she can. Whin it blows she must up anchor and get out or go ashore here.' He moved his finger a mite and it rested on what meant rocks.
"'Well,' I remar-rks.
"'Me father and all the bhoys' fathers are gone up north to rescue the crew of a steam schooner that's wrecked. Before they get back it will be too late. I thought——'
"'What were ye thinkin', ye scut?' says I fiercely.
"He dropped one foot on the other and looked me between the eyes. 'I was thinkin' we wud go afther her and save her,' says he, very bould.
"I cast me eyes over the bunch of little felleys and laughed. But me bould Tad didn't wink. 'There's people out there drownding,' says he. 'We've dhrilled and we know all the ropes; but we can't pull our skiff across the bar and the big boat is not for us, bein' the keeper's orders. And we haven't the weight to pull it anyhow.' And he stared me out of me laugh.
"'There's no seagoin' craft in the harbor,' I says, to stop his nonsinse.
"'There is another launch,' he remar-rks casually.
"We looked at each other and he thin says: 'Can ye run a gasoline engine?'
"'I have had to,' I infor-rms him, 'but I dislike the smell.'
"'The owner of this launch is not here,' says me young sprig. 'And he niver tould us not to take it. If you'll run the engine we'll be off and rescue the folks on the Gladys!'
"Be the saints! I laughed to kill mesilf, till the little brat up and remar-rks to his gang: 'These lighthouse officers wear a unifor-rm and have no wor-rkin' clothes at all, not needin' thim in their business.'
"So I parleyed with thim a momint to save me face. 'And how will ye save thim that's dyin' in deep watthers?'
"'By to-morrow nobody can cross the bar,' I'm infor-rmed. 'And the skipper of the Gladys don't know this coast. We'll just pick him up and pilot him in.'
"'But the bar!' I protests. 'It's too rough to cross a launch inward-bound, even if ye can get out.'
"'I know the soft places,' says the little sprig of a bhoy, very proudly. 'Come on.'
"'And if I don't come?' I inquired.
"He leaned over and touched the brass buttons on me jacket. 'Ye have sworn to do your best,' says he. 'I've not had a chance to take me oath yet as a second-class scout, but between ourselves we have done so. I appeal to yez as one man to another.'
"I got up. 'I niver expicted to serve undher so small a captain,' I remarks, 'but that is neither here nor there. Where is that gasoline engine?'
"We stepped proudly off in the dusk, me bould Tad houldin' himsilf very straight beside me and the gang marchin' at our heels shoulder to shoulder. Prisintly we came to a wharf, and ridin' to the float below it was a big white launch, cabined and decked. Tad jumped down and the gang folleyed. Thin I lowered mesilf down with dignity and intered the miserable engine room.
"I have run every sort of engine and machine made by experts and other ignoramuses. I balk at nothing. The engine was new to me, but I lit a lantern and examined its inwards with anxiety and superciliousness. Prisintly, by the grace of God, it started off. A very small bhoy held the lantern for me while I adjusted the valves and the carbureter, and this bould lad infor-rmed me with pride that the 'leader' had assigned him to me as my engine-room crew. And whin the machine was revolvin' with some speed that individal thrust his head in at the door to ask me if I was ready. 'If ye are,' says that limb of wickedness, 'we will start, chief.'
"'Ye may start any time,' I says, with great respict. 'But whin we'll stop is another matther.'
"'Ye must keep her goin' whiles we cross the bar,' he infor-rms me, with a straight look.
"The little gong rang and I threw in the clutch and felt the launch slide away. The jingle came and I opened her up. 'Twas a powerful machine and whin I felt the jerk and pull of her four cylinders I sint me assistant to find the gasoline tank and see whether we had oil enough. Thinks I, if this machine eats up fuel like this we must e'en have enough and aplenty. The bhoy came back with smut on his nose and sthated that the tank was full.
"'How do ye know?' I demanded.
"'I've helped the owner fill her up several times,' says the brat. 'The leader insists that we know the insides of every boat on the bay. 'Tis part of our practice, and whin we get to be scouts we will all run gasoline engines.'
"So we went along and the engines war-rmed up; and I trimmed the lantern and sat me down comfortable as a cat on a pan of dough. Thin there was a horrible rumpus on deck and some watther splashed down the back of me neck. ''Tis the bar,' says me proud engine-room crew, balancin' himsilf on the plates.
"'They are shovin' dhrinks across it too fast for me,' I retorts, as more watther simmers down.
"'Oh, the leader knows all the soft places,' he returns proudly, this bould sprig. And with a whoop we drove through a big felly that almost swamped us. Thin, as far as I cud judge, the worst was over.
"Prisintly we got into the trough of the sea and rowled along for an hour more. Then the jingle tinkled and I slowed down. Me bould Tad stuck his head in at the little door. 'The Gladys is right inshore from us,' he remarks, careless-like. 'We will signal her to up anchor and come with us.' He took me lantern and vanished.
"Whin I waited long enough for all the oil to have burned out of three lanterns I turned the engines over to me crew and stepped out on deck. It was a weepin' fog, with more rowlin' in all the time, and the feel on me cheek was like that of a stor-rm. I saw me bould Tad on the little for'a'd deck, swingin' his little lamp.
"'What's the matther with that scut of a skipper?' I inquires.
"The boy was fair cryin' with rage and shame. 'He cannot undherstand the signal,' says he; 'and 'tis dangerous to run closer to him in this sea.'
"'If he don't understand yer signal,' says I, ''tis useless to talk more to him with yer ar-rms. Use yer tongue.'
"And at that he raised a squeal that cud be heard a hundred feet, the voice of him bein' but a bhoy's, without noise and power. 'Let be,' says I. 'I've talked me mind across the deep watthers many times.' And I filled me lungs and let out a blast that fetched everybody on deck on the other launch. Then I tould that skipper, with rage in me throat, that he must up anchor and folley us or be drownded with all his passengers dragging on his coattails through purgat'ry. And he listened, and prisintly we saw the Gladys creep through the darkness and fog up till us. When she crossed our stern me bould Tad tould me to command her to folley us into port.