Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Roy Blakeley's Adventures in Camp by Percy Keese Fitzhugh

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

be?" I tried to answer him, but there was a loud noise and he couldn't
hear and then, all of a sudden, I woke up and I knew the noise was
thunder and Skinny wasn't there at all. Anyway, it made me feel kind of
creepy and I was glad when I saw him at breakfast.

All that morning it rained and most of the scouts stayed in their tents
and cabins. Some of them played basketball in the pavilion. Three
fellows from the Boston troop went out fishing, but they had to come in
it was raining so hard.

Before dinnertime, Uncle Jeb called some of us to move the mess boards
into the pavilion, because it was beginning to blow from the east and
the awnings and thatch roofs over the mess boards didn't keep the rain
off, because it blew sideways. Out on the lake the water was churning
up rough with little white caps. Jiminy, I never saw it like that
before.

It was so dark and rainy that a fellow couldn't read even; anyway _I_
couldn't because, oh, I don't know, I felt queer kind of. A lot of us
sat on the wide porch of the pavilion--the side facing the lake. It was
wide enough so the rain didn't come in and wet us as long as we stayed
way back near the windows. We sat in a long row with our chairs tilted
back. It was nice there.

Somebody said, "That spring-board looks lonely sticking out into the
lake; look how the drops jump off it, just like fellows diving."

"Not much of a day for the race," Doc Carson said.

"What race?" Pee-wee shouted.

"The human race," Doc said; "no sooner said than stung."

We were just starting to jolly Pee-wee, because that's our favorite
indoor sport, when somebody said, "There's one of the gold dust twins
out; he must be crazy."

"He comes from Maine," another fellow said; "I guess he's a maniac."

But anyway, it was no joke, that was sure. Away over near the other
side of the lake we could see the canoe bobbing up and down and it
seemed to be coming toward us.

"Only one of them is in it," I said.

"And that's one too much on a day like this; that pair are sure nutty,"
Doc said.

But just the same the canoe came along and one of those campers was
sitting in the stern paddling it. He was having a pretty hard job, I
could see that, but maybe it wasn't as dangerous as it looked, because
if you know how to manage a canoe it's better than an old tub of a boat
in bad weather.

"He's making it all right," one of the fellows said; "he's game, that's
sure."

Pretty soon he came alongside the landing and turned his canoe over to
let the water out, and then came up to the pavilion.

"Pretty wet," he said.

"You said something," Westy answered him; "you took a big chance coming
over."

"I'd sure have been drowned if I _hadn't_ come," he laughed; "I wonder
if you fellows can sell us a shovel? Our tent is floating."

I had to laugh, because that's always the one thing that most campers
who aren't used to it forget about--I mean digging a drain ditch
outside their tent. And the first time it rains, _good night,_ they get
drowned out like rats. I thought he was a pretty nice kind of a fellow,
only he was one tenderfoot, that was sure. He had a swell bathing suit
on with one of those waterproof mackinaw jackets over it. I guess his
people were rich all right, and I suppose that's why the fellows at
camp called the pair the gold dust twins. He took some bills out of his
pocket and said, "We want to buy a shovel; you can't dig a trench with
a canoe paddle. There's fine swimming in our tent."

Then Bert Winton said, kind of quiet in that way he had, "I don't think
you'll need any money here. I'll get hold of one of the scoutmasters,"
and he started down the steps. Just then I noticed Skinny standing on
the steps and Bert Winton gave him a push, just for fun, as he went by.

"Come on in out of the rain, Alf," I said; because I knew he was just
hanging there, because he was afraid to come up where the rest of us
were. I asked him where his patrol was, and he said, "In the cabin,
playing checkers." I said, "Don't _you_ know how to play checkers," and
he said, "No." After that I didn't notice him.

Pretty soon the gold dust twin came back with a shovel and Mr. Elting,
who is resident trustee, was with him, telling him he'd better not go
back across the lake on account of its blowing up harder.

"I could never get around through the woods," he said; "because I tried
it."

"Some of these boys will show you the trail," Mr. Elting said.

But he said, "No," and that as long as he came he was going to go back.
He said he didn't want any escort. He was pretty game, that was one
sure thing. I guess maybe he felt sort of ashamed to have boy scouts
show him the way, because he was older than most of us. Anyway, he
started back and we sat there watching him, and pretty soon it seemed
as if a kind of a screen was behind him, the rain was so thick and
there was so much mist. It made him look sort of like a ghost or a--you
know--a spectre.

Then, all of a sudden Artie Van Arlen's hat blew off and I heard a
branch of a tree crack.

"Where is the canoe?" Doc said, all excited; "do you see it?"

We looked all over, but couldn't see him anywhere. That was just how
quickly it happened. Then, all of a sudden I could hear a voice, but I
couldn't hear it plain, because the wind was blowing the other way and
the rain was making such a racket on the porch roof. The voice was all
mixed up with the wind and it sounded spooky and gave me the creeps.

For a couple of seconds nobody said anything.

CHAPTER XV

TELLS ABOUT AN ACCIDENT

The next thing I knew there was a loud splash and I heard the
spring-board down on the shore crack, and when I looked there I could see
it jumping up and down.

I knew what that meant.

"Who dived?" Westy shouted; "he must be crazy! He can't make it. Hurry
up, let's get a boat out! Do you hear the voice now?"

After that everything seemed to happen all in a jumble. Westy and Doc
and I ran to the landing and got one of the boats off, while the
fellows up on the porch shouted to the fellow who had dived to come
back, because he couldn't make it. I heard one fellow yell, "You're
crazy; come back while you can! They're getting a boat out!"

I was so busy helping to push the boat into deep water that I didn't
think any more about the fellow who dived, only I supposed he must have
turned back. I heard the fellows shouting, but I didn't pay any
attention. Out on the lake I could hear the voice now calling help, and
it sounded creepy, like a person trying to call while he's gargling.

Doc said, "It's all up with him; hurry, anyway."

It was pretty hard getting the boat started, because the wind kept
blowing it ashore, and we had to pull and tug for all we were worth. I
got in back of it and shoved out till I was beyond my depth, then
jumped in while Dock and Westy pulled for all they were worth, trying
to get her ahead.

I guess most everybody at the camp was up on the porch by now, and
there were a lot crowding on the spring-board.

"Pull hard," Doc said; "the next cry will be the last one; I know the
sound."

Just then we heard a long cry, but it didn't say any word, just h--e--
e--

And then it stopped.

Doc said, "Pull hard anyway; you steer her, Roy. Right over there--a
little to the left--you can see the canoe."

I looked over there and saw it upset and no one was near it.

* * * * *

I can't tell you all about what happened. I tried and tore up three
pages. Because it makes me all excited myself, as you might say. I can
hear that crowd on the porch shouting just as plain as on that very day
it happened. And every time it rains and it's dark and windy, it
reminds me of it too. The next thing I knew we were right close beside
two fellows and Westy was holding them and shouting, "_Let go, I've got
him!_"

The fellow who wouldn't let go was Skinny.

I can't tell you about how he looked--honest, I just can't tell you.
But there was blood on his face just the same as I saw in the dream--as
sure as I'm sitting here, there was. He had hold of the camping
fellow's mackinaw jacket with his teeth and the fellow's mouth was
stretched wide open and Skinny's hand was clutching his teeth and chin
and holding his head above water that way. It wasn't like any rule for
holding a drowning fellow, anyway, no rule _I_ ever heard of. Even now
I can see that skinny little white hand straining to hold that mouth
and chin, and afterward I saw how there was a cut across Skinny's
fingers where the fellow's teeth had pressed. Skinny's arm was shaking
just like a rope shakes when it's pulled too tight and his eyes were
staring crazy.

While I kept the boat steady, Doc leaned out and pressed Skinny's jaws
so as to make his teeth let go. And even then when we dragged him in
over the stern, he had a piece of mackinaw jacket in his mouth.

I said, "Skinny, don't act crazy, he's saved," but he only sat on the
back seat trembling all over as if he had a fit. It wasn't because he
was cold, it was just because he was excited and crazy like.

I didn't notice the camping fellow much after I saw that he was alive
and that Doc had him breathing all right. Westy took the oars but I
couldn't help him on account of Skinny. And I couldn't do much for
Skinny either. He was gone clean out of his head and started screaming,
"_I did it; I did it!_"

I said, "Yes, you did it; try to be quiet and get rested now. Can't you
see he's all right?"

"I held him up till you came," he panted; "I'm a hero. I want to go and
be all by myself, I do."

I said, "Hsh, Skinny, listen--"

"He called me!" Skinny shouted; "_he called me_ out loud!"

"I know," I said, "and you went. Sure, you're a hero." But of course, I
knew the fellow never called him at all. Anyway, maybe the wind made it
sound that way to him. He just sat there shaking all over and staring
wild, "Three times," he panted out, "and that's the last--I--I got my
hand in his mouth before--before--he said it--I did. That's the way
murderers do--it is. I did it. Even I know how to strangle--I do. I'm a
hero!"

I said, "Listen here, Alf, you're a wonder--"

"I--I--I--could _kill_ you if I wanted to!" he screamed; "I can do
anything--I can sneak--stalk--I can take things out of your pocket--I
can choke people--I--"

That's just the way he went on and I saw he had gone all to pieces,
maybe from the strain, and didn't know what he was saying. I just put
my arm around him and I could feel that he was shaking all over, but it
wasn't anything like a chill.

He kept saying, "I want to be alone by myself now."

I said, "Alf, listen a minute--_please_. You can go and be alone by
yourself. You can go in our patrol cabin and I'll chase all the fellows
out. I know how you feel. It was wonderful, Alf. Try to get quieted
down now. You saved him."

"I--I can _bite_," he said.

I said, "Yes, I know; but try to take it easy now, because we're coming
to shore. You have to act like a real hero."

But as soon as we came into shallow water he jumped out of the boat and
scooted around the edge of the pavilion, like a wild animal. In a
couple of seconds everybody in camp was around the boat, waiting to
hear what the camp doctor said. As soon as I knew that the fellow was
going to be all right, I went away to find Skinny. No one else seemed
to miss him.

Pretty soon I heard a voice calling, "What's your hurry, Blakeley?" and
I turned around and saw Bert Winton hurrying to catch up to me.

"I'm going to look for that kid," I said.

For about half a minute we walked along together, and then he said kind
of quiet, sort of, "Do you think he's crazy?"

"I don't think he's exactly crazy," I said; "but he's all gone to
pieces."

"He sounded crazy from the shore," he said.

"He didn't know what he was saying, anybody could tell that," I
answered him.

"What did he do?" Winton asked me.

"Oh, he just nearly killed him trying to save him," I said.

"Hmph," Winton said.

"He'll be all right," I told him.

"Most of the fellows here think he's crazy," he said. "Last night they
could hear him way out on the lake, boasting about his father stealing
silver. 'Better keep your watch under your pillow and let Uncle Jeb
take care of your coin,' that's what all the fellows are saying."

"Is that what _you're_ saying?" I said.

"I'm not saying anything," he shot back.

"You saw what he just did," I told him.

"I saw what he just did," he said.

"You don't seem to be very excited about it," I shot back at him again.

"What's the good of getting excited?" he said.

"Do _you_ think he's crazy and a thief?" I asked him.

"I think he may be a little crazy--at times," he said. "As to being a
thief--" And then he screwed his mouth up, but didn't say anything
more.

"A hero-thief," I said, kind of sarcastic, for the way he talked made
me mad.

"He's sure a hero," he said.

"I'm glad you think so," I told him. "Heroes aren't usually thieves,
are they?"

"Not as a rule," he said, kind of quiet and all the while kicking a
stone.

"Well then," I said.

"Well then," he said too.

"Well then, there you are," I spoke up.

"Well then, here we are," he said, with an awful funny smile, "and the
question is, where is the little skinny fellow?"

"I guess I can find him without any help from you," I said.

Then he walked away. Cracky, maybe I couldn't understand Skinny very
well, but I sure couldn't understand Bert Winton at all.

CHAPTER XVI

TELLS ABOUT SKINNY'S ABSENCE

I hunted for Skinny for a couple of hours, but I couldn't find him. I
went all the way into Leeds for I couldn't think where else he'd be, if
he wasn't around camp. But he wasn't in the village, that was sure, and
I began to get kind of anxious, because I knew the crazy state he was
in, and besides he was soaked from being in the lake.

It cleared up nice and sunny while I was gone and when I got back to
camp, everybody was getting ready for supper. I had to change my
clothes, they were so wet, and while I was doing it Mr. Ellsworth came
into our cabin and asked me if I knew where Skinny was.

I said, "No, I don't; I hiked all over looking for him, but I couldn't
find him. That's how I got so wet I should think Connie would have his
patrol out hunting for him."

Mr. Ellsworth and I walked over to supper together, and he seemed kind
of worried. "I'm afraid this thing has jarred his balance a little,"
that's what he said.

"One reason he wants to be alone," I said, "is because he hasn't got
any friends."

"I think his patrol is very proud of him," he said; "the whole camp is
proud of him."

"They're proud of what he _did_; they couldn't help being proud of it,"
I said. "But they're not proud of _him_. Why don't they take him in and
make friends with him? He's won the gold cross for them; gee, the least
they can do is to show some interest in him. Are they ashamed of him?
They don't even trust him, that's what _I_ think."

Mr. Ellsworth said, "Yes, he's won the gold cross for them; no doubt of
that."

"Yes," I said, "and where is he now? He's gone off so's he can be
alone. One fellow around here says everybody in camp thinks he's a
thief."

"Oh, I guess he didn't say just that, Roy," Mr. Ellsworth said, very
nice like, "but we've got to have a little talk with Skinny about the
way he talks--the things he says. He's a very queer youngster. They see
he's different from the rest of us, that he's out of the slums and,
well, they don't understand him, that's all."

"He just blurts everything out," I said, "that's all."

"Well, he _mustn't_," Mr. Ellsworth laughed, "especially when he's out
on the lake. His tirade to-day, after the rescue, sounded very strange.
The boys are not used to hearing talk about picking pockets and
stealing silverware. They don't understand it."

"I should worry about them," I said; "Skinny's just a kind of a freak.
Look at the way he wanted to go away and be alone by himself. Doesn't
that prove it?"

"Well," Mr. Ellsworth said, "it will be more to the point if he comes
back all right."

"It would be more to the point if the Elks were out hunting for him," I
said. You can bet I wasn't afraid to say it--to Mr. Ellsworth or
anybody else.

"I think we'll have to organize a search if he doesn't show up soon,"
Mr. Ellsworth said. Then neither of us said anything for a few seconds.

"How about the camping fellow?" I asked him.

"They took him home in a skiff," Mr. Ellsworth said; "he wanted to go,
so three of the boys rowed him across after the weather cleared."

"I don't see how Skinny held him up--I just don't," I told Mr.
Ellsworth.

Mr. Ellsworth said, "No, it was marvelous any way you look at it. I
think Skinny nearly broke the poor fellow's jaw. There is wonderful
power in frantic desperation."

Anyway, at supper all the fellows were shouting about Skinny. Everybody
said he'd have the gold cross--even Uncle Jeb and Mr. Elting. And you
never hear Mr. Elting saying much about those things till he's sure.
All the Elks were shouting about the gold cross and where they'd keep
it, just as if it was theirs. Hardly any of them said anything about
Skinny.

At camp-fire it was just the same only more so, and I noticed across
the fire that Mr. Ellsworth and a couple of the scoutmasters were
talking together and I guessed they were deciding about getting a
searching party started.

Pretty soon Bert Winton came over and squatted down alongside of me.
"Kind of hot on the other side," he said, "flame blows right in your
face. These fellows all in your patrol?"

I told him, "Yes," and then I said, "mostly we hang together."

"Good idea," he said; "any news of the little codger?"

"_I_ couldn't find him," I said, kind of mad like.

"Guess he didn't go far," he said; "just wanted to get off by himself
and think it over. Natural enough. Didn't hit his tracks, did you?"

I said, "Nope."

"Stole a march on you," he said.

"Oh, sure, he stole a couple of marches," I said; "maybe he even stole
a look."

"Well, he stole away," Winton said; "he'll be back."

Cracky, I couldn't make heads or tails of that fellow. Somehow I kind
of liked him--I couldn't help it.

CHAPTER XVII

TELLS ABOUT CAMP-FIRE AND SKINNY

All of a sudden I heard a fellow shout, "There he is!" And then
everbody around the camp-fire set up a howl.

Skinny was standing in the dark away from the fire, just as if he was
afraid to come in among the fellows. His uniform was all wrinkled and
stained and he looked even worse than he did other times. There was a
long mark on his cheek where I guess the gold dust twin had scratched
him, and he didn't have his hat or his shoes. _Good night_, he didn't
look much like pictures you see of heroes. But he was all quieted down,
that was one thing. I guess he was played out.

"There he is, the crazy little Indian!" a fellow shouted; "come in
here, Skinny, till we get our fists on you. You've won the gold cross,
you little spindle shanks!"

Then a lot of fellows shouted, "Hurrah for Skinny! Come here, Skinny,
till we pat you on the back--you little water snake!" They didn't even
seem to know his last name or his front name either, and it made me
mad.

"You trot right over here to mamma, Skinny," Vic Norris of the Elks
shouted; "we'll take care of _you_."

The kid was smiling, all confused, as if he didn't know _what_ to do.

"Come ahead over; don't be scared," Connie Bennett shouted. So then
Skinny went over, kind of bashful and staring all around him, and sat
down with the Elk patrol.

Westy leaned over and whispered to me, "_Can you beat that?_ His own
patrol leader telling him not to be afraid to go and sit down with his
own patrol! I'll fix that bunch," he said.

Then he stood right up and shouted--oh, boy, you ought to have heard
him. He said, "Let's give three cheers for Alfred McCord, of the 1st
Bridgeboro Troop, B.S.A., the second fellow to win the gold cross in
his troop and the first one to win it in his patrol--the _only_ one in
his patrol that _could_ win it!"

Oh, boy, that was some whack.

Well, you should have heard the fellows shout for Skinny. Merry
Christmas! but that was some noise. They all stood up, the Elks too,
and gave him the biggest send-off _I_ ever heard at Temple Camp. Even
the scoutmasters and the trustees joined in and old Uncle Jeb kept
shouting, "_Hooo--ray! Hooo--ray!_" Cracky, you would have laughed if
you'd heard him. Oh, bibbie! when Temple Camp once gets started, the
west front in France is Sleepy Hollow compared to it.

And oh, didn't it make me feel good to see Skinny. He looked as if he
was going to start to run away, but Connie had him by the collar, and
all the Elks were laughing, and now I could see they were proud of him,
anyway.

Then Mr. Ellsworth held up his hand and as soon as the racket died
down, he began to speak. This is what he said, because Mr. Barrows
(he's a trustee) knows shorthand, and afterwards he gave it to me all
written out to copy in our troop book. He said:

"Scouts, you have heard that speech is silver and silence is golden. I
think this kind of shouting is highest grade sterling silver. It is
chunks of silver, as one might say. But since this is a matter of the
gold cross, I ask for just a moment or two of golden silence, while I
speak to you. I see about me, scouts from Ohio, and Michigan, and New
Hampshire--"

"And Hoboken!" Pee-wee piped out. Jiminy, that kid is the limit.

"Yes, and Hoboken," Mr. Ellsworth said, trying not to laugh. "I speak
to all of you from north, south, east and west--"

"One of them has been up in an airplane, too!" Pee-wee yelled.

"I speak to all scouts here," Mr. Ellsworth said, "whether they come
from the heavens above or from the earth beneath or from the waters
under the earth. That will include any scout who may happen to have
been in a submarine. Will that do?" And he gave Pee-wee an awful funny
look.

Then he said, "I want to thank you all for the tribute you have paid
our troop in its moment of pride and honor. This little scout is brand
new, he is not even out of the tenderfoot class, and the gold cross
award for heroism will be his. I think that every scout of his patrol
should thrill with pride at this thought. I dare say we all find him a
little strange, _we_ as well as _you_, and I'm afraid he is a kind of
law unto himself--if you understand what I mean. But this beautiful
cross which will soon be his will bring him closer to us all, I am
sure. It is said in our Handbook that a scout is a brother to every
other scout, so he has many thousands of brothers all over this broad
land. The gold cross is very bright. Look in it and you will see your
face reflected. You will see the scout smile, and that is brighter than
any gold.

"The best of all, it reflects honor--honor on him who wears it, honor
on his patrol, on his troop and on every troop and scout in this whole
great camp. And Alfred McCord has brought us this honor. Come here,
Alf, my boy, and let me shake your hand."

Wasn't that a peach of an address?

But I noticed that Skinny didn't move. He just stood there close to
Connie Bennett He was shaking all over and he was smiling and he was
crying. I saw Hunt Ward jump up and give him a rap on the back and he
was so little and so thin, that it kind of made him stagger.

Then he said, "Can't I stay here with them?"

Oh, boy, wasn't I glad!

CHAPTER XVIII

TELLS ABOUT MY TALK WITH BERT WINTON

Believe _me_, that was _some_ night. I guess I knew how Skinny felt
when he scooted off, because after camp-fire I felt just that same way
myself. Christmas! I don't know how it feels to win the gold cross, and
I guess I never will either, but just the same, after camp-fire that
night, I just felt as if I wanted to go and be by myself--I can't tell
you why.

It's fine hanging around the camp-fire after it's died down, but
they're pretty sure to chase you off to bed if you do that. It's a
danger zone, believe _me_. Anyway, I know a peach of a place on a big
rock near the shore. You just go along under the spring-board and pass
the boat landing and follow the path. So I went there and pretty soon
Hunt Ward came along on his way to the Elk cabin, and he stopped a
couple of minutes and talked to me.

"Well," he said, "we've got that little old medal in our patrol."

"You've got Alf in your patrol, you mean," I said.

"I don't know whether you could exactly say he _earned_ it," he said;
"because he was crazy and didn't know what he was doing."

"I wish I knew some more fellows who were crazy like that," I told him.

"You seem to be kind of sore at us, Foxy," he said. Most of them called
me Foxy, because I'm leader of the Silver Foxes.

"There's a difference between a mascot and a regular friend," I told
him. "You fellows treat Skinny just as if he was a sort of a mascot.
Why don't you take him in with you, just like you would any other
fellow?"

"He's a queer little duck," Hunt said.

"That isn't any reason why you shouldn't take him in. I'm not saying
you haven't--_now_. And I'm glad if you have, that's sure. You ought to
read him the Handbook and teach him some of the other stuff--the laws
and all that. Gee, that's the least you could do, now he's won the
cross for you."

"Grandpa Foxy," he said, and then he went along toward the Elk cabin.

I was just going to start off to our own cabin when I heard footsteps.
It seemed as if someone might be stealing along, and first I thought it
might be Skinny. I was glad it wasn't, because I wanted him to stay in
with his own fellows now and not bother with me.

It was Bert Winton.

"H'lo, Blakeley," he said, in that quiet kind of a way he has; "I
thought everybody was in bed."

"I see _you're_ not in bed," I told him, kind of grouchy.

He said, "Me? Oh, no, I always prowl around after fox trails and
things. I got on one fox trail, didn't I? Bet the kid won't sleep
to-night, hey?"

"I bet I won't sleep either," I said; "and that's why I'm here."

"Kind of like the kid, don't you?" he said.

I said, "Yes, and that's more than _you_ can say."

He just looked at me a minute and then he sat down on the stone
alongside of me, and he broke a stick off a bush and began marking on
the ground with it. Then he said, kind of as if he didn't take much
interest--he said, "Actions speak louder than words; did you ever hear
that?"

"Sure," I said, "but I'd like to know what that has to do with Skinny."

He just kept pushing the stick around, then he said, "If you're such a
good friend of his, instead of trotting all around and sticking your
face into every cabin like an old maid hunting for a thimble, why
didn't you find his trail and follow it?"

I said, "I don't know why I didn't"

"If you thought he just went off to be by himself, why didn't you trail
him and make sure?" he asked me, all the while very friendly and quiet
like.

"Well, if he wanted to be by himself," I said, "why should I track
him?"

"Why should you hunt for him at all, then?" he said.

"Just because I choose to," I told him.

"That's a good reason," he said.

"It's all the reason you'll get," I blurted out.

"All right," he said, very nice and polite, "only then don't go around
thinking you're a better friend to him than I am. I know this camp and
I know those fellows across the lake and I know page fifty-one of the
Handbook, and I've seen the kid once or twice."

"I suppose you think I don't know what's on page fifty-one of the
Handbook," I said, getting mad; "it's the tracking badge--pathfinding--
so there. And I see you have it on your sleeve, too."

"That's where it belongs," he said.

"Well, then, if you think it was so important to track him, why didn't
you track him?" I blurted at him, for I was good and mad.

"I did," he said.

CHAPTER XIX

TELLS ABOUT A VISIT FROM ACROSS THE LAKE

Now at last I knew for sure that I hated that fellow. And I said to
myself, "You can bet I'll never have anything more to do with _him_."

When I got to our cabin all the fellows were asleep, except Westy, and
I said to him, "Do you know that scout who's patrol leader in the Ohio
troop?"

He said, "You mean Winton?"

"That's him," I said; "I hate him so much that it makes me hate the
whole state of Ohio. I wouldn't even go canoeing on the Ohio River."

He didn't say anything--I guess he was sleepy. "I even hate the
Baltimore and Ohio railroad," I said.

The next morning just as we were going in for a swim, we saw the canoe
coming across the lake again. When it got near enough, we could see
that another fellow was in it. We all went over to the landing to ask
him how his pal was getting along. Right away he asked if he could see
Mr. Ellsworth.

I said, "Sure you can; I guess he's in the tepee, writing."

I felt sort of glad, because I thought probably it meant something good
for Skinny. All morning he was sure one hero, and at the time the
camper came he was off with the Elks somewhere, stalking I guess, and I
was mighty glad of it.

The tepee is a little tent where the scoutmasters always go when they
want to be alone, so as to write up troop stuff. Nobody ever bothers
them in there unless it's important, and even then only one fellow
goes.

I said, "Sure, come ahead, I'll find him for you."

He was a pretty nice fellow, I could see that, even if he _was_ a
tenderfoot, and he spoke mighty friendly, sort of, to me.

He said, "You have a wonderful little life saver here--with a bull dog
grip."

"It's more than a grip," I said, "it's a regular suitcase. He's going
to get the highest award we have, too."

"Bully for him," he said, "we're going to let him know what we think
about it, too."

"Scouts aren't allowed to take anything for things like that," I told
him.

"Well," he said, "we heard him shouting on the lake the other night
that he'd like to own a canoe, so we're going to give him ours when we
go away next week."

"Oh, boy!" I said. Then I just happened to think to say, "Did you hear
all he shouted out on the lake? Because," I said, "he's kind of--kind
of freakish, sometimes."

"He's a little wonder, that's what he is," he said.

When we got to the tepee, Mr. Ellsworth jumped up and shook hands with
him and said, "Glad to see you, sit down. Sit down too, Roy."

So we both sat down on the bench, and I don't know, it seemed to me as
if the fellow was sort of uncomfortable, as if he'd rather I wouldn't
be there. But he didn't say anything about it.

Mr. Ellsworth said, "Your friend had a very narrow escape. Canoes are
bad things in storms. You should be careful." And then he gave him some
mighty good advice in that nice way he has.

The camping fellow said he'd come to thank the little fellow, that's
what he called him, and to tell Mr. Ellsworth how they both felt about
it. He said they'd never forget about it, and he wanted to know if
there was anything they could do.

"Absolutely nothing," Mr. Ellsworth said. "All awards and tokens of
recognition are attended to right here among ourselves."

For about half a minute the fellow didn't say anything and I thought he
was thinking about how to spring that about the canoe. Because it
wasn't easy after what Mr. Ellsworth said. Then he said--I can tell you
almost just the very words--because Mr. Ellsworth helped me with this
part. He said:

"There's a little matter I want to speak about, Mr. Ellsworth, and it
isn't easy. My friend didn't want me to speak about it at all, for he
was afraid you might misunderstand us."

Mr. Ellsworth said, awful friendly like, "I will try not to."

Then he said, kind of smiling, "I suppose we can trust this good little
scout not to repeat out talk to anyone."

Mr. Ellsworth began to laugh, then he said, "Oh, yes, indeed; all good
little scouts are to be trusted. That's what Roy, here, would say is
their middle name. Am I right, Roy?"

I guess that made it kind of easy for the fellow, for he started right
in, though I could see it was hard for him to say it. He said, "My pal
had quite a little sum of money in his jacket, which we can't seem to
find now. It was buttoned into a flap pocket. He thought, or rather _I_
thought, that perhaps it had been taken from him and laid away for safe
keeping. Or perhaps it may have fallen into the water and gone down.
There's a lot of valuable stuff under the water these days." I think he
said that just so's to kind of make a joke about what he was saying, so
as maybe it wouldn't seem so serious like. Anyway, he was awfully
trice. "It seems pretty contemptible to be talking about money," he
said, "after my pal's life was saved by you folks, but it's just
because the money has to be paid out pretty soon that he's worrying
about it. He didn't want me to come over and ask, but I told him I was
going to, anyway. No harm in that, I guess."

"None whatever," Mr. Ellsworth said; "how much money was there?"

The fellow said a little over two hundred, but they weren't sure
exactly how much.

Mr. Ellsworth raised his eyebrows in that way he has and said, "Isn't
that a good deal of money for two young fellows to take camping?"

The camper said, "Yes, I guess it is, but we're pretty punk campers, I
suppose, any way you look at it."

Mr. Ellsworth said, "Just wait a minute," and he went away.

The camping fellow started to say how it made him feel mean and
contemptible to come over and ask about the money, and he guessed it
was probably in Davy Jones' locker, anyway.

Pretty soon Mr. Ellsworth came back and said, "I'm very sorry, my young
friend, but no sum of money was found on your companion. If it had
been, it would either have been restored to him or held by the camp
authorities through oversight. I have just made inquiries of them. The
boy who saved your friend is not in camp at present, but I think I can
answer for him, that he did not find it. To make sure, I will ask him
when he returns and one of the boys will row over and let you know."

I could see the fellow seemed kind of disappointed, but anyway, he was
mighty nice about it.

CHAPTER XX

TELLS ABOUT THE LOSS OF SOME MONEY

Mr. Ellsworth asked me to come back and get some letters to put in the
mail box, so after I saw the gold dust twin start off I went back to
the tepee, and just as I was going inside I saw Connie Bennett and Bert
McAlpin and Hunt Ward and Stut Moran and Skinny coming down the hill in
back of the tepee. Skinny was smiling all over and I could see the
wrinkles at the ends of his mouth like I always could when he smiled.
That's when you could see how thin he was. I shouted that I thought Mr.
Ellsworth wanted to see him and he started to run, only Connie grabbed
him by the collar, just for fun, and held him back. I heard him say,
"Take your time, we're all in on this."

By that I knew that Skinny expected Mr. Ellsworth was going to give him
the gold cross. I didn't blame _him_ for thinking so, but the others
might have had better sense, because it's usually a week, anyway,
before an honor medal comes.

Anyway, they all came down into the tepee and stood looking around as
if they expected to see the gold cross on the table. Hanged if I don't
think Connie had n idea that Mr. Ellsworth would hand it to _him_, he
looked so important like.

Mr. Ellsworth just went on and finished the letter he was writing, then
he said, "Alfred, our rescued mariner from across the lake can't find a
roll of money he had in his mackinaw. He thinks it may have gone down
in the lake. Don't happen to know anything about it, do you?"

I have to admit that I felt sort of funny and I looked pretty close at
Skinny. He just stood there staring and I could see by his neck that he
was breathing hard and all nervous sort of. Then Mr. Ellsworth asked
him again, very pleasant like he always spoke to him. But Skinny didn't
say a word, only stood there staring and he gulped as if he was trying
to swallow something. Gee, I was all kind of shaky myself now, because
I saw Mr. Ellsworth looked at him in a funny way--like a fellow looks
at the sun--kind of. As if he was studying him--_you_ know.

Then Connie said, "Why in the dickens don't you speak up, Skinny? If
you know anything about it, why don't you say so? Do you want to get us
all in Dutch?"

I could see that Skinny was just trying as hard as he could to speak,
but couldn't on account of that lump in his throat. I know it was none
of my business, but I just couldn't keep still any longer, so I said
right out:

"The reason he doesn't speak is because he _can't_. Haven't you got
sense enough to see that? He thought Mr. Ellsworth was going to hand
him the medal and you were crazy enough to let him think so. That's one
reason he's all rattled. So I'll answer for him and I hope that'll
satisfy you. He hasn't got the money and he never saw it and he never
heard of it. It's down at the bottom of Black Lake, that's where it is.
Don't you suppose he had something better to do with himself when he
was saving that gold dust twin, than to be going through his pockets?"

"I'm sure I would," Vic Norris said.

"_You!_" I said, "you couldn't even have held him up in the water and
you know plaguy well you couldn't--there's not one of you that could.
If you thought more about what he was doing out there in all that storm
with his teeth in that fellow's sweater and his hand being blamed near
bitten off, it would be better for _you_. All _you're_ thinking about
is getting the gold cross into your patrol. What do you suppose _he_
cares about money--a fellow that can do things like that? It's these
jelly-fish that go camping with a whole savings bank in their pockets
and no shovel to dig a drain ditch with--that's the kind that think
about money! You make me sick. Turn your pockets inside out, Alf, and
let them see what you've got--go ahead!"

All the while Mr. Ellsworth kept saying, "Shh, shh, Roy," but what did
I care? Even he couldn't stop me.

"What's _he_ got to do with it, anyway?" Connie said to Mr. Ellsworth,
"I don't see as it's any of _his_ business."

"Well," I said, "I'll _make_ it my business. You've got the kid so
nervous and scared, that he can't even find his pockets, he--"

"Just a moment, Roy," Mr. Ellsworth said. "You mustn't forget yourself.
You have done our friends across the lake an injustice."

"When I get through doing Skinny _justice_, it will be time enough to
think of _them_," I said. Oh, boy, I was mad.

Mr. Ellsworth said, "We have no wish to search Alfred, Roy. Why all
this anger?"

"Because I've heard enough hints and insinuations around this camp,
that's why!" I said. Jiminy, I could just feel my voice tremble.

Poor Skinny was fumbling at one of his pockets and he was so scared and
nervous, that he couldn't get his hand in even. So I just stepped over
and pulled his pocket inside out.

[Illustration: I STEPPED OVER AND PULLED HIS POCKETS INSIDE OUT.]

"Four pennies," I said, "see? Poor but honest, hey, Alf?" And I gave
him a good rap on the shoulder. I guess it made him feel good, because
he smiled at me even though he did look scared.

Then one after another I pulled all his other pockets inside out, and
last I turned out the flap pockets in his khaki shirt. Just as I did
that, a key fell out.

"Four cents and a key," I said; "now are you satisfied?"

"We never said he had it," Hunt Ward spoke up.

"Well, now you can see he hasn't anyway," I said.

All the while Mr. Ellsworth waited just as if he didn't have much use
for all this business, but just the same wouldn't interfere. That's
always the way he is. So now he said, very pleasant:

"I think we're having a sort of tempest in a teapot, Roy. No one has
made any accusations. Suppose you let me say a word. It wasn't at all
necessary to perform this operation on Alfred. Let me see this key,
Alf, my boy."

Skinny handed the key to Mr. Ellsworth and he screwed up his face, sort
of funny, and looked at it. Then he said, "Hmph, it's a Yale key,
belonging to a padlock, eh? What key is it, my boy?"

Skinny could hardly speak he was so scared. Even I felt sort of shaky--
I don't know why.

Skinny just said, "I found it."

"Here in camp, you mean?" Mr. Ellsworth said, just as nice as I ever
heard him talk--awful pleasant and easy, like.

"On the boat," Skinny said, "the day I found the money. It was right on
the deck."

"That was the money he gave you," I said. I just couldn't help saying
it.

Mr. Ellsworth said, "Now, Roy, you must let me do the talking. Just be
quiet a minute."

I said, "Excuse me."

"Now, Alf," Mr. Ellsworth said, "why didn't you give me this key, eh?"

Skinny kept breathing, but could hardly speak.

Then he said, "I put it in the other pocket. I forgot. Mostly I don't
put things there."

"I see," Mr. Ellsworth said, just as if he believed every word. "You
don't know what key it is, I suppose, Alf?"

"No, sir," he said. And then he gulped and seemed terribly scared and
excited.

"All right," Mr. Ellsworth said, "just leave it with me. I expect I
shall be able to pin the cross on you in a few days, Alf. Have a little
patience."

Then, all of a sudden Skinny blurted out, "Am I a hero?"

"Yes, indeed," Mr. Ellsworth said, and he smiled at him and patted his
shoulder.

CHAPTER XXI

TELLS ABOUT MY TALK WITH MR. ELLSWORTH

After they were gone, Mr. Ellsworth told me that I shouldn't get so
excited about nothing. I have to admit that's the way I often do.

I said, "Do you know what that's a key to?"

He said, "It's a key to a padlock. I have an idea that perhaps it fits
the padlock on that locker in the house-boat--the one that was always
locked."

Jiminy, I never thought of that until just then when he spoke about it.
It made me feel awfully queer. Anyhow, I guessed right off that he was
right, because probably it fell out of Lieutenant Donnelle's pocket
along with the change that he spilled all over the deck. There was a
kind of a lump in _my_ throat now.

I said, "Skinny gave you the money so we ought to believe him when he
says he just put the key in another pocket and forgot about it."

"Why, surely," he said, "I'm not suspecting him of anything. Neither is
anyone else. The only thing that puzzles me is, how the key happened to
be on the deck where he found it. We swabbed the decks so thoroughly
before leaving Bridgeboro. One of our boys might have dropped some
change and never known it But how did the key happen to be there? We
know how it happened in Alfred's pocket, but how did it happen on the
deck? We scouts claim to be observant, and yet that key was right on
the deck from Bridgeboro all the way down to St. George. That's the
queer thing."

Oh, boy, didn't I feel guilty. Especially I felt guilty because Mr.
Ellsworth was so nice and pleasant about it. Because all the while I
knew where that key came from, and it seemed just like lying not to
tell. Gee, I was kind of sorry now that I promised Lieutenant Donnelle
that I would never tell about him coming there. I couldn't say
anything, so I just kept still.

All the while Mr. Ellsworth kept looking at the key and thinking and
humming a tune to himself. Pretty soon he said, "You don't happen to
know where Alfred went when he disappeared, do you, Roy?"

I said, "No, I don't; all I know is I couldn't find him."

"He was gone for four or five hours," he said, very slow, as if he was
sort of thinking.

I guess I felt just about the same as Skinny did now. Anyway, I was all
shaky and it was hard for me to get started saying anything.

Then I said, "Mr. Ellsworth, Skinny went off because he was all scared
and excited, and he wanted to be all alone by himself. Often I've felt
that same way. I felt that way after I passed my second class tests. I
don't deny he's kind of freaky. I think he just went off in the woods.
You know yourself it's in the Handbook that trees are good companions.
He just wanted to be alone. I bet he wasn't a hundred yards from camp.
Skinny's kind of queer, you know that."

Then Mr. Ellsworth just laid down the key and put stamps on two or
three letters and said "All right, Roy, just see that these get mailed,
will you?"

He didn't say what he was going to do and I guessed he wasn't going to
do anything. And even suppose he did, what was the harm?

But just the same I felt awful queer and shaky. I guess maybe it was
because I couldn't come right out and tell him the plain truth about
that key.

CHAPTER XXII

TELLS ABOUT HOW I VISITED THE OHIO TROOP'S CABIN

One thing I was sure of, and that was that Skinny went away into the
woods just to be alone by himself, like he said. I knew it was just
like him to do that. Maybe you'll think it was funny for him to do that
when it was raining, but already he was good and wet; you have to
remember that. I said to myself, "I should worry about the key, because
anyway, that had nothing to do with Skinny." But just the same I kept
worrying about something, I don't know just what.

Pretty soon I made up my mind to do something that I didn't want to do.
I went up the hill to where the Ohio troop bunked. They had one of the
big troop cabins that holds two patrols. I guess they were a pretty
fine troop, because they had everything fixed up dandy. One patrol was
called the Royal Bengal Tigers, and the other was called the African
Tigers, and both patrols wore yellow scarfs with black stripes, and all
their scout staffs had tigers' heads on them. Even when they dived from
the spring-board they had a certain kind of a way of jumping, they
called it the tiger spring, and nobody could get the hang of it. Some
organization they had, that's what Mr. Ellsworth said. Every one of
those fellows had a tiger claw hung around his neck. Oh, boy, that was
some troop for you.

I asked one of the fellows for Bert Winton, and he came around from
behind the cabin where he was spearing papers and leaves. I said,
"_You_ fellows ought to be called the gold dust twins, your two patrols
I mean, because you're so plaguy particular--picking up leaves and
everything. You'll be dusting the roof next."

He said, "We're a lot of old maids up here."

Then he climbed up on the cabin roof and sat on the peak and I
scrambled up too, and sat down alongside of him. Honest, that fellow
would squat in the funniest places. And always he had a stick with him.

"Nice and breezy up here," he said, in that quiet, easy sort of way he
had, "and we can scan the horizon. Anything particular?"

I don't know, but I seemed to sort of feel that he knew what I was
going to talk about, and I guess he just scrambled up there so the
other fellows wouldn't hear. Cracky, that fellow always had his wits
about him, that's one sure thing.

I said, "I don't deny that I was kind of sore at you when you spoke to
me down at the lake, and I can't tell whether I like you or not,
because I can never make out what you really think. You've got to know
what a fellow thinks before you know whether you like him or not, don't
you?"

He said you sure did, and then he said, "Well, I know whether I like
_you_ or not, so it's all right."

"I don't care much whether you like _me_" I said, "it's Skinny I'm
thinking about. I know I like _him_, you can bet."

"And that's one reason I like you," he said; "because you like _him_.
Ever notice how the cedar shingles shrink in a dry spell?"

I said I didn't know they were cedar.

"You can always tell cedar by the smell," he said, "and the S warp."
Gee, I didn't even know what an S warp was.

Then I said right out--I said, "You told me that you tracked Skinny.
Would you mind telling me where he went?"

For a minute he just kept moving the stick around and then he said,
"What would be the use of telling you?"

"Because I've got a reason and I want to know," I said. Then all of a
sudden I knew why he climbed up there. It was partly so he could see
all around and be sure no one was coming.

"Well, why do you want to know?" he said.

"Because I'm a friend of Skinny's, that's why," I said. Then I just
blurted out, "I might as well tell you because, anyway, you're smarter
than I am. They found a key on Skinny."

He just said, "When?"

"To-day," I said, "and it's probably a key to one of the lockers in our
house-boat. Besides, that fellow who nearly got drowned had about a
couple of hundred dollars on him."

"Humph, I thought so," Winton said.

I said, "Why?"

"Oh, just because," he said. "The day he came over to try to buy a
fishing-pole he had a roll as big as a cobblestone with him. I
suspected he'd lose it some day and that somebody would get blamed."

"Nobody is getting blamed," I said.

"No, but somebody is being suspected," he shot back.

"Well, he _did_ lose it, I have to admit that much," I said.

"And that's all you're ever going to admit, hey?" he said, all the
while moving the stick around on the roof.

"_You_--_bet_--_your_--_sweet_--_life_, that's all I'm ever going to
admit," I said.

"Bully for you," he said; "you're about the best little scout I ever
knew--next to Skinny."

"I can stick up for a friend, that's one thing," I said.

"Through thick and thin?" he asked me; "in spite of circumstantial
evidence?"

"I should worry about circumstantial evidence," I told him. "Why should
I care about circumstantial evidence? What did circumstantial evidence
ever do for _me_, I'd like to know?"

Then he began to laugh. Gee, _I_ didn't know what he was laughing at.

"Nothing would shake you, huh?" he said.

"Believe me, it would take an earthquake," I told him.

He looked all around and moved the stick around on the shingles, as if
he was thinking.

Then he said, "Well, Skinny went over to the Hudson to that house-boat
you fellows came up on. He followed the old bed of Bowl Valley creek.
Now don't get excited. He had as much right to go there as you have. He
was all worked up, and he isn't just exactly right in his head, you
know that. He just wanted to go home and be all alone by himself. The
house-boat was the only home he knew. I didn't go on the boat, because
I had no right to, and because there was no need to. I didn't know he
had any key. I don't believe he hid anything, if that's what you're
thinking about. I tracked him because I wanted to make sure he was safe
and know what he was doing. As soon as I saw where he was headed for, I
just beat it back. Nothing to it, Blakeley; don't worry."

"But now you know he had a key to a locker," I said.

He just said, "Well, what of it? I believe in him and there you are. I
wouldn't care if he had keys to all the banks and safe deposit vaults
in the United States."

Gee, it just kind of gave me a thrill, the way he spoke. I said,
"Anyway, now I know that I like you. I ought to have had sense enough
to know before."

Then he said, "You see, Blakeley, Skinny's a mighty queer little
proposition. If it wasn't for that scoutmaster you fellows have, I'd
say he would never make a regular tip-top scout. But I think that Mr.
What's-his-name--Ellsworth--is a wonder."

"Believe me, you said something," I told him.

"You know yourself," he said, "how that kid talks--shouts, I mean.
Stealing silver, picking pockets! What are all these fellows to think?
Most of the fellows here come from good folks. They don't understand a
poor little codger like Skinny who is half crazy, because he's been
half starved. You know yourself that he doesn't fit in here. I don't
say he isn't going to. But I'm good at arithmetic, Blakeley--"

"Gee, you're a peach on tracking, too," I said.

"Well, and I know how to put two and two together," he said. "I knew, I
just felt it in my bones, that that gold dust twin with his swell
bathing suit and his waterproof mackinaw was going to lose his roll in
the water. He carried it loose in his mackinaw pocket--a camper, mind
you. He had a wad big enough to pay off the national debt, and I knew
it would tumble out and it did. Skinny's one of those poor little
codgers that's always unlucky. He happened to be there. He happened to
have a key. He happened to go to the house-boat. I got hold of his
tracks just because I didn't want him to come to any harm while he was
all worked up. The reason I didn't say anything about where he went
was, because there are a whole lot of fellows in this camp that would
put two and two together and get five. Understand? They'd say he went
to hide Goldie's freight shipment of dollar bills. So I kept still. No
harm in keeping still."

"Oh, cracky," I said, "but I like you. _I'm_ keeping still about
something too and you can bet I know how to keep my mouth shut. You can
just bet I'd do anything for a friend, I would."

"Well, Skinny's got a good friend," he said.

"I didn't mean Skinny," I told him; "but he has got two good friends,
anyway, and that's us, hey?"

He just said, "That's us," and then he slid right down the roof and
jumped off the edge, awful funny like.

CHAPTER XXIII

TELLS ABOUT HOW I DID A GOOD TURN

That night Mr. Ellsworth wasn't at camp-fire and nobody knew where he
was. All the time I had a funny feeling and I kept looking away from
the fire and up the dark path to see if he was coming. I wasn't
listening to the yarns at all.

And that night I didn't sleep--I just kind of felt that something was
wrong. You know what I mean--I could just feel it in the air. The next
morning was nice and bright and sunny and it seemed good, because there
had been such a lot of rain lately. On my way over to breakfast, I
stopped outside of Council Shack to read the bulletin board and see
what was on for the day. I saw that the Elks were going stalking, and I
was glad of that, because I knew Skinny liked stalking and I was glad
he was with them at last. But just the same I felt kind of funny all
the while I was having eats.

Afterward Artie Van Arlen (he's head of the Ravens) came and told me
that Mr. Ellsworth wanted to see me. I felt awful shaky. When I went
into Council Shack he was sitting there all alone, and on the table
right in front of him were the key and a lot of money all crunched up.
Oh, but didn't Mr. Ellsworth look sober and serious.

He said very low as if he was all discouraged sort of, "Roy," he said,
"you said something about going home for your sister's birthday?"

I said, "Yes, sir, I'd like to go down Friday and come back Monday.
I'll go both ways by train, because that's quicker. I won't go if it
isn't all right, but Marjorie is going to have a graduation party and
they're going to have cocoanut cake, but anyway, I don't care so much
about that." But, oh, boy, cocoanut cake is my middle name.

He said kind of slow, sort of, as if he was trying to make up his mind,
"Well, Roy, I have an idea I'll let you take little McCord home. I
don't know what else to do with him. I'm afraid he's too much for me.
You see there are a good many boys who have to be considered. This
isn't much of a place for a campaign of reformation," that's just what
he said.

I said, "Are you mad at Skinny?"

He said, "I'm not mad, Roy, but I'm disheartened--a little hopeless,
I'm afraid. I'm willing to believe that he isn't just right in his
head, but you see I can't help him; I'm not a doctor. His heroism is
just a phase of his condition--he gets excited." That's just exactly
what Mr. Ellsworth said, because I remember. Then he just lifted the
money and dropped it again. It was all crunched up and damp sort of.
Even where I stood near him I could smell how it was damp--you know,
kind of mildewed.

"Alfred went down to the house-boat and hid this in the locker," Mr.
Ellsworth said. "The key he had fitted the padlock and he must have
known that. It's the right sum, as nearly as our friend across the lake
remembered what he had; a little over two hundred dollars--seven
dollars over. It's a miserable piece of business, Roy. I've been lying
awake thinking it over all night, and I guess the best thing is to send
the poor little wretch home. I'll send a letter to Mr. Benton about
him. He'll get him into some institution. Maybe we can help him later.
He's a little young for us." Then he began whistling to himself and
drumming on the table.

Gee, I just stood there watching him and I didn't know what to say. I
wondered what Bert Winton would say if he were there in my place.

Pretty soon I said, "Maybe I won't go home to my sister's birthday
after all. Gee, I don't care so much about cocoanut cake anyway." He
just didn't say anything, only kept drumming and whistling.

Then I said, "Did you say anything to Connie and the Elks?"

"No," he said, "but I shall; they'll have to know why I take him out of
their patrol. They'll have to know what he did."

For a couple of minutes I couldn't say anything at all, and I just
stood there gulping. One thing, no fellow can stand up and say that I
ever talked back to Mr. Ellsworth--no, siree, no fellow can say that.
But I just happened to think of something I wanted to say and so as
soon as I could get started, I said it right out. This is what I said:

"Mr. Ellsworth, you always said a scout ought to stand up for a fellow
through thick and thin--no matter what, because we're all brothers. And
that's what Bert Winton thinks too. You know it says in the Handbook
how we're all brothers. So Skinny is my brother and I should worry
about my sister's racket. I've got a week's extra time due me at the
camp, on account of twelve snapshots last season. [Footnote: It was the
rule at Temple Camp that any scout obtaining twelve good snapshots of
birds, should have a week at camp in addition to his regular time, and
this he could transfer to another scout as a good turn.--EDITOR.] So
I've decided I'll give that to Skinny. I suppose that if the trustees
say he's a thief they can send him away, no matter what. But the
trustees don't have any meeting till next Wednesday. Maybe you'll be
willing to tell me how I can go and register Skinny for that week of
mine, because I don't know how to do it. If they want to say he's a
thief let them go ahead and do it, but anyway, I should worry, they
can't do it before next Wednesday and his week will be up then. And
that will give me a chance to prove he didn't do it."

Mr. Ellsworth smiled, kind of, and shook his head, then he just sat
looking at me. He said, "Roy, you ought to make a good lawyer when you
grow up. You have put one over on your scoutmaster." I guess he wasn't
mad. Anyway he said, awful nice like, "Go over to the Administration
rooms in the Pavilion and see the record clerk. I won't interfere, my
boy."

Gee, I was afraid I had made him sore, kind of, but when I was going
out I could see that he was just sitting there smiling at me.

Anyway, I bet you'd have done the same thing, if you'd been me.

CHAPTER XXIV

TELLS ABOUT HOW I TOLD A SECRET

I don't know how it got out, but inside of an hour every fellow in that
camp knew. I bet Mr. Ellsworth never said anything. Maybe somebody went
with him to the house-boat, or maybe somebody followed him, hey? But
that's always the way it is at Temple Camp. Things get out.

The first thing I did was to go straight to see Bert Winton. I said,
"I've got something to tell you. Can you come out alone?" Because,
honest, that fellow was so popular he could never get away from his
troop.

He said, "Come on out on the lake for a row."

So we went down to the landing and on the way a couple of fellows asked
us if we'd heard about little Skinny. Anyway, we didn't pay any
attention to them. One fellow who belonged in a troop from Boston,
said, "I hear his patrol isn't going to bother with him any more."

I said to Bert--that's what I called him now--I said, "If that was
true about the money, he wouldn't get the gold cross, would he?"

He said, "Nope, I guess not. Bravery doesn't count for much if a fellow
is crooked. A highwayman is brave if it comes to that."

By that I knew that there's a lot to being a hero besides just being
brave. Crinkums, I learned a lot of things from that fellow.

"But as long as he didn't do it, we should worry," I told him.

"That's us," he said

When we got in the boat he took the oars and I sat in the stern and we
just flopped around. There aren't many fellows out rowing mornings,
because they're either tracking or stalking or cleaning up or maybe in
for a dip. We could see the fellows busy about the cabins and hear them
shouting and it made me feel awful sorry for Skinny, somehow. I didn't
see him anywheres and I wondered where he was.

"Well, kid," Bert said (most always he called me that), "things get
worser and worser, hey?"

"Do you still say he didn't do it?" I asked him; "I don't know _what_
to think--look at that money."

"Ever take a good look at Skinny?" he said.

"Yes, but look at the money," I said.

"What do I want to look at it for?" he said; "it ought to be hung out
on the clothesline from all I've heard," he said.

Oh, boy, I was glad to hear him say that. "I wouldn't let any fellow in
this camp except you call me 'kid,'" that's what I told him.

He just rowed around a little while, making dandy feather strokes, and
then he said,

"Mr. Ellsworth didn't send that money over to Daniel Boone and Buffalo
Bill yet, did he?"

I said, "You mean the gold dust twins? No, I don't think he did."

He said, "Well then, we've got to fix _that_ and We can't ask Mr. E.
not to do it The tide's against us, kid; nobody's going to listen to
us--not yet."

Then all of a sudden he sat up, got his oars set right, and oh, bibbie,
you should have seen that fellow row. Every stroke he took he almost
lay down flat, and oh, Christmas, couldn't he feather! Pretty soon we
were over near the shore where the campers were. You could see their
tent in among the trees.

"You're not going to tell _them_, are you?" I said.

But he didn't answer me, only just called out, "Hey, there, you wild
Indians!"

One of them came through the woods and stopped and looked at us.

"Aren't you fellows going to the boat races down at Catskill?" Winton
shouted. "You're going to miss the time of your lives if you don't.
Better get a hustle."

"What time are they?" the camper shouted.

"Just about now," Bert shouted; "follow the old Bowl Creek bed and
you'll get there quicker." Then he rowed away again. "That'll fix 'em
for to-day," he said. "More than one way to kill a cat, hey?"

"There _are_ some races, aren't there?" I asked him.

"Sure there are. That pair won't get back till midnight if they once
hit Catskill."

I said, "You think of everything, don't you?"

"Now, Blakeley," he said, kind of more serious like, while he rowed
around; "what are we going to do about it? Skinny didn't take the
money, that's settled. All right then, who did? Nobody. Correct, be
seated. All right then, what became of it? Mr. David Jones has it--our
old college chum, Davy. It's at the bottom of Black Lake. How do I know
all this? Because I know young mackinaw jacket and because I know
Skinny--see? Simple as eating pie."

"Gee, I've got to admit that eating pie is easy--especially mince," I
told him.

He said, "All right, now I'm going to ask you a question and if you
want to, you can say 'none of your business.' You told me you were
keeping still about something. Has it anything to do with Skinny?"

"No, siree, it has not," I told him.

"All right, has it anything to do with the key?"

He shot it out just like that and oh, boy, wasn't I up in the air.

I said, "Maybe, kind of; yes, it has."

"Well then, you'd better tell me all about it," he said.

"I can't," I told him.

He said, "Oh, yes, you can."

"I promised I wouldn't," I said.

"Well then," he said, "we're all up in the air and I guess I can't help
you much. I just thought that maybe two heads would be better than one,
that's all. The money came out of the locker, that's sure. Any idea who
it belongs to?"

For a minute I just sat there thinking, watching him dip his oars. He
lifted them up and I could hear the water drip from them, and then it
would be all quiet till he did it again.

"I couldn't row ashore with one oar," he said; "I'd just have to scull.
Two oars are better than one. Same with heads, Blakeley. Skinny's got
till Wednesday. You've done a good job so far. I dare say the cross
will be here by Wednesday. Ever try to row feather-stroke, Blakeley?"

Gee, I just couldn't help what I did--I just couldn't resist that
fellow. I said, "Bert, you've got more brains than I have, that's one
sure thing, and I can't help doing just what you say. I have to admit
you're a wonder. I can't do any more alone, I can't. We have to be
partners, kind of. Do you believe that about the Elks throwing him
down? Bert, there was a fellow, a big fellow, and he's a son of the man
that owns this boat, and he's a lieutenant." This is just what I told
him. I said, "He's had a whole lot of dandy adventures and he took his
uniform off to go fishing and hid it in the house-boat. And then when
he came to get it, the boat was gone, because his father told our troop
that we could use it. And after we got way down as far as Staten Island
he sneaked on board one night and put his old clothes in the locker and
took his uniform, and afterwards he dropped the key when he tried to
give me some money and Skinny found it. He found the money, too, and he
gave it to Mr. Ellsworth, but he forgot about the key."

"He gave it to Mr. Ellsworth, huh?" Bert said.

"Yes, he did," I told him, "and that's why I'm going to stick to him
through thick and thin, I am, I don't care what. So now I told and I
have to be to blame."

"I'll be to blame," Bert said.

"But anyway, it's on account of Skinny," I said, "and a fellow doesn't
know what to do all alone and I like you--gee, I like you a lot," I
said it right out to him, just like that. He looked at me steady, but
didn't say a word. And then I could feel my eyes all glistening and
everything looked funny and all of a sudden I didn't know what I was
saying at all. "You have to help me," I said, "because you're a regular
scout, I can see that, and you bet I'd like to be just like you if I
only could--I would--you can bet--that fellow had lots of adventures
and he called me 'Skeezeks' and kind of laughed at me and kidded me
along--but, anyway, maybe he's all right, hey? I guess it's his money,
but anyway, you've got to help me--you have.

"That's one sure thing, because Skinny's more important. Maybe he'll
think that a little fellow like Skinny isn't important, and that's the
trouble, hey? Because he kind of punched me in the chest and laughed
and said I was a good little sport. He said fellows by the name of Roy
are all right."

All the while Bert Winton just sat there holding his oars out of the
water and watching me steady, like a fellow watching a bird that he's
been stalking.

Then he just said, "Well, I guess the big fellow was right."

CHAPTER XXV

TELLS ABOUT THE LETTER WE WROTE

Anyway, I don't care. Maybe you'll think I was wrong, but I don't care.
I just had to tell that fellow. There was something about that
fellow--I just can't tell you what it was.

So then we fixed everything all up while we were rowing around. What
did I care about going tracking or stalking with my patrol? I should
worry, they could get along one day without me, all right We decided
we'd write two letters to Lieutenant Donnelle and send one to his house
and the other to Camp Dix in Wrightstown. We decided we'd write them
that very day and hike into Catskill to mail them, so he'd be sure to
get one wherever he was, in time for us to get an answer before next
Wednesday.

Mr. Ellsworth went to Albany that day, because he had some business to
attend to, but I knew he wouldn't do anything more about Skinny till he
got back and that was one good thing. This was the letter that we
decided to send because I kept the first copy we made. We wrote it as
if it came from me, but Bert Winton helped me.

Dear Lieutenant Donnelle:--

I hope you got back to camp all right and that Uncle Sam didn't get mad
about it. I hope you're there now, so you'll surely get this. Anyway, I
hope you'll admit that two heads are better than one, because I had to
tell a fellow about you. That was because I guess he's the only one
here who would help me.

There's a little fellow named Skinny McCord here, and he came from
Bridgeboro with us. His name isn't really Skinny, but they call him
that because he's that way, and one thing, you'd be sorry for him if
you saw him. He talks kind of crazy sometimes, but that's because he
lived in a tenement house and didn't have enough to eat. You know it's
bad when you don't have enough to eat.

He swam out and saved a fellow's life and then there was a lot of money
missing out of the fellow's pocket, and the fellows here think Skinny
stole it.

The reason they think that is, because he found the key to your locker
and he went to the house-boat. After that our scoutmaster went there
with the key and found about two hundred dollars in your locker. I
don't know whether it was in the old clothes you took off or not. But
anyway, the fellow who's a good friend of mine, says that maybe you'll
send a letter right away as quick as you can and say that that money
belongs to you. So will you please do that? I send you a stamped
envelope so you'll be sure to do it.

Maybe a big fellow that has had a lot of adventures like you, and
nearly lost his life a lot of times and did other dandy things,
wouldn't think it was so much to save a fellow from drowning. But
anyway, there's a medal called the gold cross that we have, and only a
fellow can win it that has saved somebody's life. Maybe it isn't as
much as the Distinguished Service Cross or that French Cross either,
but anyway, its a big honor, that's sure, and we want Skinny to get it.
So will you please answer this letter right away? Maybe you won't
remember, because you have so many adventures, but I'm the fellow you
met on the house-boat. So please answer so we will get it before next
Wednesday. Maybe you've got a lot of important things to do, but if you
could just see Skinny you'd answer quick. Because anyway, you were nice
to me and you said I was a bully little pal. Maybe you won't remember
it, but you did. Anyway, you bet I'll do something for you if I ever
get a chance.

Your friend,

Roy Blakeley.

P.S. Be sure to send the answer as soon as you can.

We wrote the letter up on sunset rock near the camp and as soon as we
got it finished we started off to Catskill, because it would go sooner
than if we mailed it in Leeds. Just as we were passing the pavilion, we
met Connie Bennett and Hunt Ward and Vic Norris.

Connie said, "Well, I suppose you know what your little birthday
present put over on us." He called Skinny a birthday present, because
Westy Martin and I gave Skinny to the Elks when we first found him. "I
suppose you think we were after that two hundred, too. Well, you can
take your little birthday present back. It was a lemon. We got stung."

"If you got what you deserved," I said, "you'd get more than stung."

He said, "Yes?"

"Yes," I said--"Y--e--s--yes! I never said you wanted the money. I know
every one of you is square--Skinny too. Did I ever say you were not? I
said you wanted the cross--that's what I said. And so you did. And I
tell you now that you're going to get it and Skinny's going to bring it
to you. Chuck him out if you want to--he should worry. If he isn't good
enough for you, he's good enough--do you see that cabin up on the hill?
Do you see this fellow that's with me? He belongs to the Royal Bengal
Tigers, if anybody should ask you, and Skinny's good enough for _him_.
He can sleep up there--he should worry. They've got three extra cots.

"They'd better keep their watches near them," Vic Norris said. "Take
him, you're welcome to him. Nobody ever said we were crooks in our
patrol."

"Nobody said you were," I shouted, and Bert Winton just had to hold me
back, "but you wouldn't talk like that if Mr. Ellsworth was here, and
you know you wouldn't. Do you suppose I'd let anybody say you weren't
on the square? We're all in the one troop. But you boosted Skinny--you
used him. And in a crazy fit he went out and blamed near gave his life
for you. He doesn't know two of the laws. He can't say the oath
straight, because you had his head filled with awards and medals and
things. You wanted the gold cross and now, by Christopher, I'm going to
see that you get it. You'll have nothing to say about it. Skinny McCord
is going to bring you the gold cross just as you wanted, and you're
going to shout and cheer till you can't speak."

"Who'll make us?" Connie said.

"_I will_," I told him.

CHAPTER XXVI

TELLS ABOUT GEOGRAPHY AND ALL THAT KIND OF STUFF

First we tried to find Skinny to take him with us, but he wasn't
anywhere around. Somebody told us they thought he was off somewhere
with Uncle Jeb. I guess maybe Uncle Jeb didn't know anything about all
the talk, because that was often the way it was with him. And even if
he did know, maybe he took Skinny anyway. One thing sure, I hoped it
was true, because whenever a fellow goes off with Uncle Jeb, he tells
him all about the trees and things like that. Trees can be friends to
you and they never go back on you, that's one thing.

I said, "He'll be all right as long as he's with Uncle Jeb."

Bert said, "Yes, but we'll have to get back before camp-fire. He'll be
wandering around alone. I'll take him up to our cabin. Guess he'll be
all right till we get back. Temple Camp can be a mighty lonely place
sometimes, Blakeley."

Just the same, all the way over to the Hudson I kept thinking about
Skinny and hoping he wasn't hiding away from the fellows or off all
alone somewhere. I knew they wouldn't bother with him, especially now,
and I kept thinking that maybe he'd go away by himself and get into
some harm. I kept thinking about how he said, "I want to be alone by
myself," and he'd feel that way even more now, on account of the
disgrace.

I said, "Poor little Skinny, I wish we had him along."

"He's with Uncle Jeb most likely," Bert said. "Wonder what the old man
thinks about it? Ever look into those gray eyes of his?"

"You never catch Uncle Jeb saying anything till he's sure," I said,
"and even then, it takes him a couple of minutes to get his pipe out of
his mouth. He says when you aim always aim as if you had only one
bullet and it was the last one in the world."

"That's him all right," Bert said.

"Well, there's no good worrying," I told him; "we'll just get back as
soon as we can."

"What do you say we row across and cut through Nick's Valley?" Bert
asked, "It's shorter."

"I'm game," I said, "the quicker the sooner."

"We can follow the old creek bed," he said. "Know where that is, don't
you?"

I said, "Believe me, the only bed I know anything about is the one I
sleep in. I don't see how you find out so many things, especially as
you were never here before."

"Oh, I like to just prowl around," he said, "that's the way with
tigers."

"I notice you always have a stick, too," I said.

He said, "Sure a stick's good company. I just root around with it."

"This is my third season here," I said, "and I never even heard about
any old creek bed. I never heard about Nick's Valley either."

"Guess you never talked much with the old farmers, hey?" he asked.

We rowed across the lake to Nick's Cove (I knew all about that, because
it was where the campers were and besides I knew about it anyway). If
you will look on the map you'll see it and you'll notice how there are
mountains there--kind of two sets of mountains with a space between. I
made that map so you could see just how everything happened, because,
believe me, we were going to have _some_ adventure. Only we didn't know
it.

We rowed way up into the end of Nick's Cove and pulled the skiff part
way up on shore. One thing I noticed and that was that some of the
trees around there stood in the water. I knew that was on account of
the lake being swollen, because there had been so much rain lately.
Even over at Temple Camp the water was up to the spring-board, so that
when we jumped on it, it splashed right into the lake.

"Cove is pretty big after all the rain," Bert said. And then, sure
enough, he looked around and broke a branch off a tree and pulled the
twigs off it. "That'll do to poke around with," he said, "now come
ahead."

"You and your stick are like Uncle Jeb and his pipe," I told him.

He said, "Now we'll wend our way through old Nick's Valley. It'll bring
us right out near the old creek bed. Then we can follow that right down
to the river. That's the way Skinny did, but I guess he just stumbled
through that way. Ever hear of old Nick?"

"Only on account of the name, Nick's Cove," I said; "is he dead?"

"Oh, very much dead," he said; "he died about a hundred years ago.
Didn't you know he was dead?"

"Believe _me_, I never even knew he was sick," I told him.

Then he said, "Well, from all I can learn, old Nick owned all the land
for miles around here, and he lived at the bottom of Black Lake."

"Good night," I said, "if I owned as much land as that, I wouldn't live
at the bottom of a lake."

"Kind of damp, huh?" he asked; "but you see Black Lake wasn't here
then."

"Where was it?" I asked him.

"Well it just wasn't," he said; "it was dry land. The way I make it
out, it was Bowl Valley, and old Nick lived right down in the bottom of
Bowl Valley. There's an old woman on the Berry Creek road who smokes a
clay pipe. She's about a hundred years old. She told me all about it.
People around here can't even tell you where Bowl Valley was. They
don't know what you're talking about when you mention such a place. I
dug up a whole lot of stuff about it. Old Nick's got descendants living
around here now, and they don't even know about it."

"But you found out," I said.

"That's because I'm an old tramp," he said, laughing sort of; "I like
to sit up on barnyard fences and chin with old wives--whenever I can
manage to get away from my patrol."

"Gee, I don't blame them for not letting you get away from them," I
said.

All the while we were hiking it along between the mountains and it was
pretty wet in some places, because it was a low valley we were in.

"Now this is Nick's Valley," Bert said; "it's all full of puddles, hey?
Look out for your feet. This will bring us out at the old creek bed and
we can follow that down to the Hudson. Look at that fish, will you? A
killie, huh? Washed away in here. Some rains!" He poked a little killie
out from under some grass with his stick--honest, that fellow never
missed anything. "Sometimes I root out the funniest kinds of insects
you ever saw with a stick," he said; "it's a kind of a magic wand. Ever
talk with a civil engineer?"

"Believe me," I said, "the only civil engineer I ever talked with, did
most of the talking. He wouldn't let us play ball in his lot. He was an
uncivil engineer, that's what _he_ was."

Bert said, "Well, there was a civil engineer here with a troop from out
west somewhere. He was a scoutmaster. He took me on a couple of good
hikes. We found some turtle shells over through there, a little farther
along, and when he took a squint at the land he saw how a little
valley, all grown up with weeds and brush, ran along east and west. He
said that was where the creek once flowed and it didn't come within a
mile of the lake. Savvy? The place where the lake is now used to be
Bowl Valley. When the creek changed its bed and cut through a couple of
miles south, it just filled up Bowl Valley and there you are--Black
Lake. Presto chango! Funny how old Dame Nature changes her mind now and
then."

"That's just the way it is with girls," I said.

Bert said, "Well, and that scoutmaster said she'd be changing her mind
again some day, too. He said the topography around here is pretty
shaky--whatever that means."

"Oh, boy," I said, "break it to me gently. Do you mean that some fine
day we'll wake up and find Black Lake has sneaked off?"

"That's just about it," he said.

"Do you call that fair and square?" I asked; "after Mr. Temple bought
the lake and gave it to Temple Camp. Believe me, it _ought_ to be
called Black Lake; it isn't very white, that's one sure thing."

"That may not happen for a thousand years," Bert said.

CHAPTER XXVII

TELLS ABOUT HOW WE TRIED TO STOP IT RAINING

Jumping jiminy! That was a new one on _me_. Lakes moving around like
people that live in flats--_good night_! And where would Temple Camp
be, I'd like to know? And just after we paid four dollars and eighteen
cents to put up a springboard.

"If you wouldn't mind," I said, "I'd like to know how that could
happen. Because if it's going away I'm going to stalk it."

"Do you know what erosion is?" he said.

"Not guilty," I told him.

"Well," he said, "it's earth being eaten away, kind of."

"By who?" I asked, "he must have some appetite."

"By the water," he said; "that's what causes changes in topography."

"All right," I said, "I'll take your word for it. But will the lake be
there when we get back, because I've got some eel lines out?"

He said, "Oh, yes, it won't move till May first." "Thank goodness for
that," I told him.

I guess maybe you'd better look at the map now, hey? It isn't much of a
map, but you should worry. If you don't take a good look at it, pretty
soon you won't know where you're at. I guess you can squint out the
valley between the mountains. That's Nick's Valley, everything around
there belonged to old Nick. If he didn't own the moon, it was because
he couldn't reach it.

Now, that's just where we went through, see? And it was all full of
puddles--young lakes. I couldn't draw them with a pencil, but they were
there. I can prove it, because I got my feet wet. Pretty soon Bert
said, "Here's where you ought to have your scout staff with you," and
just then I stumbled down among a lot of brush.

"Now you're in it," he said.

"In what?" I asked him.

"In the bed," he said.

"You call this a bed?" I asked him, "I like a brass bed better."

"If you'd only had your staff, you could have felt ahead."

"I can feel a head now," I told him, "and it's got a good bump on it."

"Well," he said, "you're right in the hollow where the old creek used
to flow. Let's push along through it a little ways and see what we can
dig up."

You couldn't see that it was a hollow just looking at it, but you had
to go down into it and then you knew. It was all grown up with bushes
and we just went along through it, the same as if we were pushing
through a jungle. All of a sudden I felt something crunch under my
foot, and when I picked it up, I saw it was a fish's backbone.

"See," Bert said, "what did I tell you?"

It seemed funny to be squirming our way along where a creek used to
flow before it changed its mind and decided to flow into Bowl Valley.
"Maybe it changed its mind and made the lake because it knew the scouts
were coming, hey?" I asked. "That was a good turn."

"It was a good _long_ turn," he said. "And nobody around here seems to
know anything about this old creek bottom. We just stumbled into it the
same as you did. That's some bump you've got."

"Sure, my topography is changed," I told him.

He said, "Old Nick fought in the Revolutionary War. He owned all this
land around here right through to the lake--I mean Bowl Valley. His
house was at the bottom of Bowl Valley."

"What do you say we fish it up some day?" I asked him.

"All this was his farm," Bert said. "See that old silo there? I guess
that's what it was, or something like it."

"Maybe he hid muskets or powder from the redcoats there, hey?" I said.

Now if you'll look at the map, you'll see just where we were. I was
right on the edge of that ring I made. Do you see the ring? Well, that
ring was really a round hole in the ground just beside the old creek
bottom. Gee, I wish you could have seen that hole. Because you can't
make a hole on a map.

It was about fifty feet deep and about thirty feet wide, I guess, and
it was all walled in with masonry. It looked like a great well. Bert
thought it had something to do with the farm that used to be there,
because quite near it, there was an old foundation. Maybe it was some
kind of a silo, I don't know.

I said, "I'd like to get down in that."

"What for?" Bert said; "there's nothing but puddles at the bottom. How
would you ever get out?"

"Couldn't we drop one of those saplings into it and I could shin up
that?" I said. Because I saw two or three saplings lying around. I
suppose they blew down in the storms lately.

"What would be the use?" he asked; "you can see what's down there. If
we're going to get those letters onto a mail train, we've got to
hustle."

That was enough for me, because I cared more about Skinny than I did
about all the old creek bottoms and holes in the ground this side of
Jericho. So I just said, "Righto," and we started following the old
creek bed, till pretty soon the bushes were so thick that we hit up
north of it a little ways and hiked straight over to the houseboat.

When we got to the house-boat we lowered the skiff and rowed across to
Catskill and mailed the letters. Then we went up the street for a
couple of sodas. Bert bought some peanut brittle, too--I'm crazy about
that. Then we went to another store and got some post cards. Some of
them had pictures of Temple Camp on them. I sent home about six. All
the while it was getting dark and pretty soon it began to rain, so I
said, "Let's go and get a couple more sodas till it holds up." We drank
two sodas each, but even still it didn't hold up.

"We can't make it hold up that way," Bert said; "I don't believe twenty
sodas would do it, the way it's raining now."

Book of the day: