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Roy Blakeley's Adventures in Camp by Percy Keese Fitzhugh

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"I guess you're right," I said, "but, anyway, I'm willing to try
twenty, if you say so."

No fellow could ever say _I_ was a quitter.

CHAPTER XXVIII

TELLS ABOUT HOW DAME NATURE CHANGED HER MIND

Maybe you'll laugh at that stopping a shower with sodas. But once on my
way home from school I stopped in Vander's Drug Store to get a soda,
and wait for the rain to stop. When I was finished it hadn't stopped,
so I got another soda--a strawberry. Even after that the rain didn't
stop and I was just going to start out anyway, when a man who was in
there said, "Why don't you try one more?" So I did--a pineapple--and by
the time I had finished that, the rain had stopped. So that proves it.

But that day I'm telling you about, I guess it wouldn't have stopped
even if we had stayed in Catskill a couple of hours drinking sodas. We
sat on one of the benches in the waiting room of the wharf where the
Albany boats stop, and watched it rain. It was so thick that we could
hardly see across the river. Merry Christmas, didn't it come down! We
saw the big day boat go up and all her lights were burning, it was so
dark on the river. I guess we waited a couple of hours.

"It's all on account of the old what's-his-name, St. Swithin," I said.
"I bet he was the head of an umbrella trust."

Bert said, "Oh, I don't know, I kind of like rain. It's all part of the
scout game." That was just like him, he had some use for everything.

I guess it must have been about supper time when it held up enough for
us to start across. Anyway, I know I was hungry. But that was no proof
it was supper time. Sometimes I've been hungry in the middle of the
night. I guess St. Swithin stopped to have his supper; anyway, it began
pouring again as soon as we got across.

"Anyway, we got the letters mailed," I said; "what do I care? Let it
rain."

"I'm willing," Bert said, "as long as we can't stop it." We were both
feeling good, even if we were wet.

"Suppose Lieutenant Donnelle writes and says he doesn't know anything
about the money?" I said. Because now the excitement of getting the
letters ready and all that was over, I began to feel a little shaky.

Bert said, "Well, if it's a case of _supposing_, suppose we start
home."

We hiked it back the same way we had come, all the way in a pelting
rain. It came down in sheets--and pillowcases. When we hit into the old
creek bed, the water was running through it just the same as if it was
a regular creek. It was right up to the top of the bushes that grew
there and dragging them sideways, as it rushed along.

"Well, what do you know about that?" I said.

Bert just stood looking at it and then he said, "That's no rain water."

"Sure it is," I said; "what else do you suppose it is?" "Something's
wrong," he said.

All of a sudden he reached in through the wet bushes and pulled
something out. "Look at that," he said.

It was a sort of a little college pennant on a stick.

"Those fellows went to Catskill didn't they?" Bert asked me, kind of
quick.

I told him, "Yes, I thought so."

"Lucky for them," he said, "that's off their tent. Come on, hurry up."

We didn't try to go through the old creek bottom, but even alongside it
we began coming to big puddles, and pretty soon we were wading through
water up to our waists. Even a hundred feet away from it, the land was
like a lake and we just plodded and stumbled through water. I knew now
that the rain itself could never have done that. Pretty soon we must
have got over into the old creek bed, because we stumbled and went
kerflop in, and the next thing we knew, we were swimming.

"Let's get out of this, but try to keep near it," Bert said, "so we'll
know where we're going. This has got me rattled. I don't know what's
happened or where we're at. I don't even know if we're north or south
of the creek bed."

It was pretty hard keeping near the hollow, because all the land was
flooded and we had to feel each step. But if we got away from it, _good
night,_ we didn't know where we might end. Only the trouble was, it
kept getting worse and worse the farther we went, and it nearly toppled
us over backwards, it was flowing so strong.

Pretty soon Bert stopped and said, "Listen."

We were both standing in the water up to our waists, and I was
shivering, it was so cold.

"Do you hear the sound of water rushing?" he asked me.

I listened and heard a sound far off like a water fall.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Search _me_," Bert answered, "but we're in bad here. Let's head for
the mountains."

Now I didn't know what had happened, except that the whole country was
under water. When it comes to the lay of the land I can usually tell
where I'm at, but when it comes to the lay of the water, _good night_.
And believe me, there's nothing that changes the looks of things like
water.

"I think those are the mountains that make Nick's Valley," I said;
"let's try to get over that way."

"There's a waterfall coming down out of a crevice between them," Bert
said; "I know what's happened, the valley is flooded."

You see we were in the low fields west of those mountains. I can't tell
you just where, but somewhere. There were hollows in the fields so
sometimes we were walking and sometimes we were swimming. It was the
outside of the mountains that we saw, as you might say; I mean the side
away from the valley, so the water coming out through a cleft proved
that the water must be pretty high inside--I mean in Nick's Valley. I
guess you'll see what I mean if you'll look at the map.

But, believe me, it wasn't easy to get to those mountains. Seeing them
was one thing and getting to them was another. We just plodded around,
stumbling off little hills that were under water and we didn't seem to
get anywhere. After a while we came out on higher land where there
wasn't much water except puddles.

"Some cruise, hey?" I said.

"Shh, listen!" Bert said. "You can hear it plainer now. Look over
there."

Now as near as I can tell you we must have been standing near the north
side of the old creek bottom and we must have been pretty close to the
old silo, or whatever you call it, but we didn't know that then.
Believe _me_, we didn't know anything, except that we were wet. We were
standing on a little sort of a hill and the water was washing up almost
to our feet. Besides it was getting dark.

But anyway, this is what we saw, and if you just make believe that
you're standing on a little hill near that old pit and looking south
toward Black Lake, you'll see just what we saw--as you might say. We
saw the water just pouring through Nick's Valley and coming toward us
and going pell-mell into the old creek bed. Now that's the best way I
can tell it to you. I guess the little hill we were on acted kind of
like a back stop maybe (anyway, that's what Bert said) because the
water only beat against it and then went tumbling back into the creek
bed and down toward the Hudson. It was down that way that it overflowed
mostly and flooded the fields we had been plodding through.

"One thing, we had a grandstand view," I said.

And believe me, that was true. The water just came pouring and rushing
between those mountains, and sometimes we could see trees, and things
we thought might be parts of houses coming along. One big white thing
we saw, and we knew it was a tent. Black Lake was coming out to meet us
through Nick's Valley.

CHAPTER XXIX

TELLS ABOUT HOW WE LOOKED INTO THE PIT

I never saw anything like that before and it--it didn't exactly scare
me--but it made me feel sort of funny. It gave me the creeps to see
right in front of me like that, how lakes and valleys and all the land
could be changed and me standing there watching it. It seemed as if the
earth was being made all over again, as you might say.

"That's where we came through only a little while ago," I said, "how
will it be inside where the lake was--is?"

Especially it seemed queer like, because it was getting dark fast and
the sound of the water rushing and the sky all black made everything
seem awful gloomy.

"Is Temple Camp all right, do you suppose?" I asked Bert.

"Guess so," he said, "that's over on the south shore. But hanged if I
know how we're going to get there or anywhere else. Guess we'll just
have to stand here like the Statue of Liberty."

I said, "Listen to the water."

"It isn't so high in the valley," Bert said; "it must have been worse a
couple of hours ago." Then all of a sudden he said.

"Shh--listen!"

"I hear it," I said.

"No, not the water," he said; "listen. Do you hear a sound like
groaning?"

I listened, and as sure as I was standing there, I heard a low sound,
as if someone was groaning far away.

"That isn't the water, is it?" Bert asked

"Sure it isn't," I told him, "and it isn't from up through Nick's
Valley, because, look, the wind is blowing from us that way."

I held up my scout scarf to show him how it blew toward the valley. And
again we heard the groans, long and low, sort of.

"It's somewhere right around here," Bert said; then all of a sudden he
said, "Look!"

Just in back of us, not more than twenty or thirty feet off, was the
pit I could see it plain, because the stone work came up a couple of
feet or so above the ground. Right close to it was a canoe all smashed
in. I could see now that a couple of hours or so earlier, the water
must have poured through there when it first overflowed the creek.

We listened again and could hear the groaning plain.

"I don't know who it is," Bert said, "but that's the Gold Dust Twins'
canoe. Come on."

We plodded over through the mud and water to the pit and looked over
the edge. It was pretty dark down there, but I could see that there was
only a little water in the bottom of it--not much more than before.

"That's funny," Bert said; "it must have overflowed in there when it
first splashed down into the creek bed."

He felt in his pocket and took out a flashlight and held it down the
hole, but it was wet and wouldn't light.

"Look down at the bottom, over at the left side," he said; "do you see
something?"

At first it looked like a bundle all covered with mud. Then I saw
something white on it. It was a face. It didn't budge, just lay there;
and it seemed awful white on account of the bottom being almost dark.

"It's Skinny," Bert said, in a kind of whisper.

I just said, "Yes."

I couldn't say anything more, because I was all trembling.

CHAPTER XXX

TELLS ABOUT HOW TIGERS LEAP

Of course, we didn't stop to think about it then, but I knew that when
the water first came rushing through Nick's Valley, it must have been
dashed right into the pit. There was Skinny's body to prove it.
Afterward, when it got flowing into the creek bottom and spreading out
over the fields below, I could see how it wouldn't flow into that hole.
But you can see for yourself, if you look at the map, that in the first
rush it _must_ have done that. Gee, I'm no civil engineer, but anyway,
I could see that. Anyway, we didn't stop to think about that, or the
canoe either, but only just Skinny.

"See if the paddle's anywhere around," Bert said. His voice was awful
funny--sharp kind of, as if he meant business.

"What do you want that for?" I asked him, all excited.

"Look and see--do as I tell you," he just said.

It was in the smashed canoe and I just stood there holding it.

"What'll I do with it?" I asked him.

"Just hold it," he said. Then he said, "Now, Blakeley, there's only one
way to get down there and that's to jump. It's pretty deep, but the
main question is, 'is it wide enough?' If it is--well, I'm a tiger and
I ought to manage it."

I didn't know then, but I found out afterward that when a tiger makes a
leap out of a tree he rolls over when he hits ground and turns a sort
of summersault, so as to break the shock. There's a certain way to do
it, that's all I know. But I knew when he said it, that the Royal
Bengal Tigers from Ohio were like the others away out in India, in more
ways than I ever thought about.

I said, "Bert, you can't do it--tigers are--"

"Shut up," he said, "and listen--"

"Even if you did," I said--"No, I _won't_ shut up--_you_ listen. Even
if you did, how could you get out? Have some sense. I've followed you
all the time, but now you've got to listen. I like you better than any
fellow--even Westy--and--_please_ wait a minute--even Skinny. It's too
late--Bert."

He said, "Blakeley, we have two chances--just two. You know the third
law. I don't tell you what you've got to do, Blakeley. That's your
business--but listen." He put his hand on my shoulder and his voice
was all husky. He said, "Blakeley, if I don't make it, you'll have my
body to ease the shock for you. People--people will be here to-morrow--
you'll get out. It's getting _in_ we have to think about. If I don't
make it, try to land on your feet--a little forward--like this--see?
And duck your head and do a summersault forward--see? If you don't want
to, it's none of my business. Only I'm telling you how. Here," he said,
and he threw a lot of things out of his pockets; "you give them to my
patrol."

"Keep them," I said, "I'll get them when I come down, if that's
necessary. It's--it's you and I and Skinny, Bert--sink or swim--live
or die--it's the three of us. I'm ready."

CHAPTER XXXI

TELLS ABOUT THE OLD PASSAGEWAY

Honest, as sure as I'm sitting here, I would have gone down first--
after the way that fellow spoke to me. It just sent thrills through me.
And only a couple of days before, I didn't like him and I thought he
didn't trust Skinny.

I grabbed hold of him and I said, "Bert, I--just a second--_please_--I
have to tell you--if I don't see you again--I mean so I can speak to
you--I have to tell you, you're a hero--"

But he jerked my hand off his sleeve. He didn't say anything, but just
jerked my hand off his sleeve. And I stood there holding the paddle,
and I could hear the water rushing in the valley, and I was breathing
hard and all trembling.

I called, "Bert! Are you all right, Bert?" But he didn't answer. Then I
went to the edge and I was all shaking from head to foot. But I was
ready. It was all dark down there and I couldn't see. Anyway, I was
ready.

"Bert!" I called, and I just waited. I could hear the water rushing
through the valley and sometimes sounds like trees breaking. And I
heard a tree-toad moaning--it seemed funny to hear that.

"Bert!" I called. I felt cold, and my wrists were all tingling. "Bert!"

Then I stuck the paddle in the mud and hung my hat on the end of it.
Just then I heard a voice. It sounded strained and not like Bert's, as
if it couldn't speak on account of pain.

"Don't--jump--stay--"

I waited a few seconds and then called, "If _you're_ hurt, I'm coming
anyway."

"Don't--jump," he kind of groaned; "I'm all right. Just a strain. Don't
jump."

I sat on the edge waiting. I was just counting the seconds. I was
afraid he'd never speak again.

Then he said, "All right, kiddo--just strained my wrist."

"Are you _sure_?" I called down; "dip it in the water; slap some mud on
it. Is he dead?"

I knew now that he must be all right, because I heard him move. For
about half a minute he didn't answer. Then he called up:

"He's alive, but he isn't conscious."

"How about _you_?" I said.

"Alive and conscious," he said; "don't worry."

Then for about a minute he didn't speak.

"Do you want the paddle?" I called.

"Nope--chuck it," he said. "This is a place of mystery. Know where the
water went? There's a passageway down here; it's big enough to crawl
through. Ouch!"

"Tell me the truth," I said, "you're hurt."

"I'm in a very critical condition from a swollen wrist," he said; "shut
up, will you! There's a secret passageway or something or other down
here. Where do you suppose it goes?"

"Hanged if _I_ know," I said; "what about Skinny?"

"He's breathing, that's all _I_ know," he said.

For a couple of minutes I sat on the edge thinking and I could hear him
down there. I didn't know what he was doing.

Then I called, "You know Rebel's Cave, don't you? Above the shore south
of Nick's Cove--near the outlet? Maybe it comes out there--the passage,
I mean."

"What makes you think so?" he called.

"I don't say I think so," I said; "only there's a kind of a passageway
that goes into the hills there. It starts in the cave. None of us ever
followed it, because it's so dark and wet. A fellow found an old musket
stock there once."

"What do you say?" he called; "there's no time to lose, that's sure.
Shall I try it? It would take an hour to flood this pesky old hole,
even if I could stop up the passage."

Then all of a sudden I knew why he had told me to be ready with the
paddle. It was so I could open a little trench through the muddy land
and start the water flowing into the pit. That way he'd get to the top
with Skinny.

"But you can't stop up the passageway," I said. "The water flowed
through it and went out somewhere--maybe through the cave and back
into the lake. If it's big enough you could do the same. Both of us--"

"Stay where you are," he shouted, "and don't be a fool. Do you suppose
I want to carry two fellows through there? One's enough. By heck, I'm
going to try it--it's the only thing to do."

"Suppose it shouldn't bring you out anywhere?" I said.

"Suppose it should," he fired back at me.

Then he said, "Now, Blakeley, I'll tell you what to do. I'm going to
start through this place with the kid--he's alive, that's the most I
can tell you. It must come out somewhere and I'll bank on its coming
out where you say. If it doesn't and--"

"Don't talk like that, Bert," I said; "it's _got_ to, if _you_ want it
to. What is it you want me to do?"

He said, "I want you to beat it up through the mountains that close in
Nick's Valley. That way you'll get to the lake. Don't expect to see
Nick's Cove, because it's off the map. When you get to the lake, find
somebody. Get over to camp if you can--I don't care how. Maybe the boat
we left in the cove is cast up there--you can't tell. Anyway, keep your
head and don't get excited. The lake is there. It'll be lower than it
was, but all the water below the valley level will be there. Get some
people and take them to Rebels' Cave or whatever you call it and just
wait."

"Is that all I shall do?" I asked him.

"What else can you do? Just wait there; or two or three of you might
come in with lanterns to meet me."

"Suppose you're not there?" I said, all trembling.

"Well, if I'm not there, you'll know I'm with Skinny anyway, and if
anybody ever digs up our bones, they won't know who's who. Hurry up
now. Beat it. And remember you're a scout"

"But suppose--"

"You leave that to me," he said.

CHAPTER XXXII

TELLS ABOUT WHAT I DISCOVERED IN REBELS' CAVE

"All righto, so long," I heard him say.

After a few seconds I called, "Are you all right?"

And I heard him say, as if his voice was muffled and far away, "All
right, so far."

I said to myself, "Poor little kid, he isn't very heavy, that's one
thing." Then I started off.

It wasn't hard to swim across the old creek bed, because the water was
flowing easier now, and pretty soon I was hiking it up through the
mountains. Now, the way I went was through those mountains west of
Nick's Valley. And I went south toward the lake. You look at the map
and you'll see just the way I went.

The woods are pretty thick up in those mountains and a couple of times
I got rattled about which way to go. But most of the time I could look
down and see the valley and the water in the bottom of it, just like a
river. It wasn't rushing any more and I guessed that whatever happened,
the worst of it was over.

Pretty soon I came out where I could look down and see the lake all
spread out before me. It was there all right But first I didn't get the
hang of things, because Nick's Cove wasn't there at all. There was just
a kind of a river flowing from where Nick's Cove used to be, right
through the valley. There were lots of trees, all uprooted, down there,
too, and the place was so different that I couldn't even tell where the
Gold Dust Twins' tent had been. Anyhow, it wasn't there any more, that
was sure. All around the lake was a kind of gray border and I guess it
showed how much the water had gone down. But, gee, there was enough
lake left to satisfy anybody. A scout that wouldn't be satisfied with
what was left must be a hog. But, oh, boy, when that flood started, it
must have piled up in Nick's Valley. Anyway, I could see Temple Camp
all safe across the water, but the spring-board was way up in the air--
gee, it looked awful funny.

There were half a dozen or so of the Temple Camp boats with fellows in
them, flopping around near the old cove. It was almost dark, but I
could see them plain. I guess they had rowed across just to look around
and see how things looked there. A couple of hours before they would
have been carried right through on the flood, but when I looked down it
was pretty calm there.

I shouted to them and started down the mountainside for the shore. I
could see Westy and Pee-wee and a couple of Portland scouts in one of
the boats. All the while I was coming down I kept shouting and when I
got to the shore, there were half a dozen boats to meet me. Mr. Elting
and Uncle Jeb were in one of them. Besides, I could see half a dozen
fellows plodding around on shore. I knew they were looking for Gold
Dust Camp.

"Don't bother hunting for those fellows," I shouted, all out of breath;
"they're all right; they're down at Catskill or somewhere. Bert Winton
started through the passageway from an old pit--he's got Skinny--take
me in and row down to Rebels' Cave. Anybody got a lantern?"

I guess they thought I was crazy, appearing from up in the mountains
like that and shouting about pits and passageways and Rebels' Cave. But
as soon as Mr. Elting and Uncle Jeb took me into their boat, I told
them about all that happened.

Uncle Jeb just looked at Mr. Elting and Mr, Elting looked awful
serious. Then Uncle Jeb shook his head and said, "It daon't come out
through Rebels' Cave, I reckon. I ain't never _explored_ Rebel's Cave,
but it daon't come out thar, nohow."

I was just trembling all over when I heard him say that.

"It was the only way he could do, anyway," I said. "It must come out
somewhere."

Mr. Elting said, "We're not blaming you, my boy, nor Winton, either."
Then he said, kind of serious, "Let me go ashore, Uncle Jeb. Some of
you row over to the cave. Here, some of you boys, come along with me.
Who wants to volunteer to go back through the mountains? George," he
said (he's in a Boston troop, that fellow George), "you row across and
get some lanterns--quick. You go with him, Harry; get your fists on
those oars--hurry up. Bring some rope and an aid kit. You stay with
Uncle Jeb, Roy."

Gee, I can hardly tell you how things happened. The next second fellows
were hurrying back and forth, getting in and out of boats, while the
one boat skimmed across to the camp landing.

In a half a minute Mr. Elting and about a dozen scouts were standing on
the cove shore, waiting for the boat to come back, and meanwhile we
rowed down along the south shore to where the cave is. It's about half
way down to the outlet. You can see about where it is. Several other
boats went down there with us. Westy was in one of them and I made him
come in our boat, because now that Bert was gone, maybe dead, and
Skinny, too, I just felt as if I'd like to have one of my patrol near
me--I just felt that way. Besides, Westy was my special chum and after
all I liked him best of any. When you're feeling kind of shaky, that's
the time you like to have one of your own patrol with you--you bet.

Soon we heard the boat coming back and could see the lanterns bobbing.
"Pull hard," I heard Mr. Elting call from the shore. It sounded awful
clear in the night. The fellows in the boat rowed straight for us and
gave us an aid kit and a couple of lanterns.

"That you, Blakeley?" I heard a fellow say. It was young Mr. Winter;
he's Mr. Temple's secretary, and he always spends his vacations at
Temple Camp. "Who's there?" he asked.

"Uncle Jeb and Westy and I," I said; "I don't know who's in the other
boats; everybody, I guess."

They didn't stop but a second and they pulled for where Mr. Elting and
the fellows were waiting. I could hear their voices and see the
lanterns rocking, as they hiked up the side of the mountains.

"Maybe I ought to have gone with them," I said.

"They'll find the place, I reckon," Uncle Jeb said. "Naow let's pull
ashore and root around."

The fellows in the other boats waited, just rowing around close to
shore, while Uncle Jeb and Westy and I climbed up to the cave. It was
higher above the lake than it was before, on account of the water
escaping and we had to scramble up through a lot of mud.

I was so excited I couldn't keep still and I just stumbled into the
cave and stood there for a couple of seconds, holding the lantern. It
was as dark as pitch and smelled like earth. I kind of had a feeling
that it was a grave. I was sorry I had ever shouted down to Bert Winton
that maybe the passageway came out there. Anyway, I held the lantern
into the passage way. It was a sort of an opening between two big rocks
inside. Then I squeezed myself in and went ahead about thirty or forty
feet, I guess. And that was every bit as far as I could go. The
passageway just fizzled out against a great big rock. It didn't lead
anywhere at all.

Then, all of a sudden, a cold feeling came over me and my fingers just
loosened and I dropped the lantern. It sort of scared me when I heard
the glass crash on the ground. For about half a minute I couldn't
budge; I just couldn't go out and tell Westy and Uncle Jeb that it was
all up with Bert Winton--I just couldn't do it. Because I knew I was to
blame for shouting that down to him like a fool.

If I had been a good scout I would have _known_ that passage didn't
lead anywhere. Look how Bert was always finding things out and how he
knew all about the country around there. I could just kind of see him
poking around with his stick. And I just couldn't call and I felt sick,
as if I was going to fall right down.

"It was me that killed him," I cried, and I heard a voice say, "_killed
him_."

It was just an echo, I guess.

CHAPTER XXXIII

TELLS ABOUT HOW WESTY AND I WAITED

Uncle Jeb and Westy came in and saw how it was and there wasn't
anything more to do, so we went back to the boat. The fellows who were
waiting around in the other boats said it wasn't my fault, but anyway,
I knew it was.

Uncle Jeb said, "Wall, naow, you take it kinder hard, Roay. Remember
thars two strings ter this here bow, as the feller says. We got another
party uv good scouts ter hear frum yet. You jest come over ter camp 'n
get a cup uv hot coffee."

I said I didn't want any hot coffee and that I was just going to wait
around with Westy. I just wanted to be with Westy. So Uncle Jeb went
back in one of the other boats and Westy and I just rowed around
together. At the spot where the others had started up the mountain, a
couple of boats were pulled up so that the fellows could cross when
they got back. It was pitch dark up the mountainside and I looked up to
see if I could see any lights that might be their lanterns.

"They can't get back for an hour yet," Westy said; "don't let's get too
close to the new outlet. It may be running pretty strong, even yet."

I said, "I don't care a lot what happens to me now."

"Well, _I_ do," Westy said.

"I know I haven't seen much of you in the last couple of days," I told
him; "but I don't want you to think it's because I don't care any more.
It was mostly because I was trying to help Skinny. Anyway, it's all
over now. How did the fellows treat him to-day? If they'd known it was
his last day, they'd have treated him decent, I bet."

"I didn't see him," Westy said; "I was hunting for you most all the
afternoon."

"I'm going to stick by you closer after this," I said. "It was only
because Bert Winton was, sort of--you know--"

"I know," Westy said, "everybody fell for him. I'm not blaming you."

"But anyway, I'm glad I've got you now," I told him; "we were always
good friends, that's one sure thing. I'd feel mighty lonesome if I
didn't have you."

"I never got jealous," Westy said; "I always knew how it was with us. I
just went stalking with the Ravens--it was so kind of slow."

"It won't be that way any more," I told him; and I just almost had to
gulp--gee, I don't know why. "Only a couple of nights ago I was
flopping around like this with Bert Winton and now he's gone--he was a
hero, that's sure--and you and I are together again."

"We heard you while we were at camp-fire," Westy said.

"Did you mind?" I asked.

"No, I didn't mind," he said.

"It's funny how two fellows get to be chums," I said.

Westy didn't say anything, only just rowed around. After a while he
said, "He knew how to feather, that fellow did. I guess his troop will
go home now, hey?"

"Maybe he turned and went back through the passage and they'll find him
all safe in the pit," Westy said.

"Nope," I told him; "the lake's different--everything is changed.
Skinny won the cross and he's dead. And Bert is dead. It doesn't make
any difference what the camp thinks about Skinny now, because he won't
know it. And even if they're sore still, Bert won't know it. They won't
be back. Everything is changed."

"You just said you and I are not changed," Westy said.

Then we just rowed around and neither one of us said anything. It was
awful dark and still.

"How do you suppose Skinny happened to get there?" I asked Westy.

"The flood carried him through," he said.

"But how did he happen to be in the cove? It couldn't have carried him
through if he hadn't been in the cove," I said.

"Guess we'll never know that," I told him.

Then we rowed around some more and neither of us said anything.

"Look up there and see if you think that's a lantern," Westy said,
after a while.

"Yes, it is," I said, "they're coming back." And then my heart began to
thump.

"I bet they've got them and that everything's all right," Westy said;
"I kind of think so by the way the lantern is swinging."

Pretty soon we saw another light and then another one; and then I could
hear some of the fellows talking and hear twigs crunch under their feet
as they scrambled down. I didn't dare to call them, but Westy called.

"Any news? Are they all right?"

"Who's there?" a fellow called.

"Two fellows from Bridgeboro troop," Westy shouted. "Have you got them?
Any news?"

Just then a fellow came scrambling down and stood on the shore. "The
whole blamed pit has fallen in," he said; "it's just a pile of rocks
and mud. It's filled up to within six or eight feet of the surface.
Just collapsed. Must have been some flood over that way."

CHAPTER XXXIV

TELLS ABOUT THE STRANGE FIGURE

I didn't want to see them and I didn't want to hear anything more. I
just said, "I knew it," to Westy, but all the while I knew I had been
hoping all to myself. And now I couldn't even do that.

"I don't want to talk to them," I said; "Let's row along the north
shore and go home the long way. I don't want to go back yet. I just
want to stay on the lake with _you_!"

Westy said, "Just as you say."

"Row along the north shore," I said, "I'd rather be here in the dark."

"Just as you say," he said, awful nice and friendly like.

* * * * *

We could hear them rowing across and talking. The lanterns looked like
two little stars. One fellow said it would take a week to clear out the
pit. I heard Mr. Elting say, "It must have happened as soon as he
crawled into that passage, because the passage surely didn't go far."

"Now are you satisfied?" I said to Westy; "you see how I'm to blame. I
though it could be a mile long."

"Winton thought so too," Westy said.

"I wouldn't listen to anything against him--not now," I said. Anyway, I
knew he couldn't be saved--I just did. Then I said, "Westy, Bert and I
were going to square Skinny. We were going to prove he didn't take the
money. And we were going to see he got the cross. I never heard you say
what you thought. All I know is what everyone in camp thinks. But
listen. If a fellow is willing to give up his life, as Bert did, trying
to prove a fellow innocent--if he's just willing to give up doing
everything else--he sat on the top of his troop cabin--he did--and said
to me--"

"Don talk," Westy said; "just sit still and let me row you around. Hear
that night hawk?"

"Then doesn't that prove that he's innocent?" I asked him. "Any fellow
with any sense can see that. You needn't tell me what you think--but
the--the gold cross isn't dead--it isn't--and a fellow can--he can win
it after he's dead--and those Elks--"

"Listen," Westy said; "there's somebody on shore."

"What do I care?" I said.

He said, "I know, but maybe it's the Gold Dust Twins. If they came home
through the open country, they'd be sure to hit the lake at the wrong
spot. Maybe they're looking for their camp. Let's get closer in,
anyway."

I didn't care much what he did. If it hadn't been for the Gold Dust
Twins there would never have been any trouble, I knew that.

"I don't care where you go," I said.

"A good turn is a good turn," Westy said. "Maybe everything has
changed, but good turns haven't changed. Their own tent is gone, their
canoe is smashed--you said so yourself--and they're on the opposite
side from Temple Camp. You know our signboard over there, '_Welcome to
friend or stranger!_'"

"Come on in and get them," I said, "I don't care. I don't care about
anything. Why did he ever try to paddle across in all that rain? That
was the beginning of all the trouble. A couple of bungling tenderfeet--"

As we rowed in and skirted the shore, I could see a dark figure
following along at the edge.

"Who are you? What are you doing there?" Westy asked.

"Want to get across," the person said and his voice sounded kind of
husky.

"What for?" Westy asked him.

I guess he didn't answer; anyway, I didn't hear him, because I wasn't
paying much attention. Westy rowed in and the fellow stepped out on a
rock in the water and waited.

I saw he had a stick in his hand.

CHAPTER XXXV

TELLS ABOUT A NEW CAMP

"That you, kiddo?" he called.

"Bert!" I said.

"Give us a lift over, will you?"

I just said, "What--is it you--Bert? Say yes, Say it's you."

"Well, then, it's me," he said; "hold her steady, my leg is stiff. All
right, shall I push off?"

He stood there in the boat and he was lame and his left hand was
hanging in his scout scarf that was made into a sling. In the lantern
light I could see the yellow and black stripes. And he pushed against
the stone with the stick that he had in his free hand, and started the
boat off.

All I could say was just "Bert!" And I held the lantern close to him as
he sat down. There was a long cut on his face and he didn't have any
hat or jacket on and his trousers were all torn and dirty.

"Where--did--you--where is Skinny?" I asked him.

"Ever see a tiger use a crutch before?" he said. "I'm a punk tiger--
what d'ye say."

"Royal--Royal Bengal," Westy said.

"The kid is down near the Hudson shore," Bert said, in that easy way he
had; "he's at Camp McCord. He's come up in the world since you saw
him."

"Bert," I said, "tell me--tell us--quick."

"Not much to tell," he said, "except Skinny and I are both on the job.
We're in the hands of the Gold Dust Twins."

"The which?" I blurted out.

"That's them," he said, "and if you ever want to guy those fellows
you'd better not do it when I'm around. They're fourteen karat gold
dust, that's what. Skinny walked around to their camp this morning, to
ask them not to believe that he took the money."

"Poor little codger," Westy said.

"Oh, he isn't so poor," Bert said. "He's in soft with that pair. He
went around and asked them _please_ not to believe it--_please_. Do you
get that? _Please_. He asked them not to take the money if anyone gave
it to them, because it _really wasn't theirs_. That's him. They kept
him to lunch and told him they believed him and that nobody could cram
any money down their throats with a ramrod. Hey? What do you think of
that?"

"They may be green campers, but they're the whitest green campers I
ever heard of," I said.

"You said it," Bert shouted. "They told Skinny to stay right there with
them and never mind about the fellows over at camp. They told him he
could have the tent and the flag and the canoe instead of the cross,
and to just stay and make himself at home. When they started for the
races down below Catskill, they left him sitting in the canoe--happy--
with a capital H.

"After that you know what happened. Skinny and the canoe and the whole
shebang went pell-mell through the valley. Lucky the twins weren't
there. When I got to Catskill with Skinny, who should we meet but the
twins and I told them everything that happened--how you and I rescued
Skinny and all that."

I said, "How on earth did you get to Catskill with him?"

"Well, what do you think those twins did? You have three guesses. They
bought a tent in Catskill and a lot of canned stuff. One of them
telegraphed his father for more stuff--and money, I guess. And we're
camping out in a nice little grove right near the Hudson. Good fishing
and a row across whenever you want an ice cream soda. Ought to appeal
to _you_, hey? You notice I say we? That's us. Camp McCord is the name
of the place and--"

"But how about rescuing Skinny?" I asked him; "how did you get him to
Catskill? How about--"

"Shut up!" he said. "Camp McCord is the name of the place and there
Skinny's going to stay till the Elk Patrol of the Bridgeboro Troop
marches down in a body and hands him the gold cross. Those are the Gold
Dust Twins' orders."

"But Bert," I said, "that isn't the way they present the cross. You
have to have a special meeting and the scoutmaster--"

"Scoutmaster be hanged," he said; "the Elk Patrol is going to march
down to Camp McCord and hand the gold cross to Skinny. We're just
waiting for a letter. Scout Bennett is going to do the handing. We
haven't made up our minds yet whether we'll have him kneel down or
not."

CHAPTER XXXVI

TELLS ABOUT WHAT BERT TOLD ME

He seemed different from the way he was before. He was all excited when
he talked, and I could see he was just crazy about those new plans.

I said, "But tell us how you rescued Skinny."

"Don't bother your head about trifles," he said. "The passage came out
in the old creek bed in the high land east of the flood; I'll tell you
about it later. Listen, do you know what those fellows were doing? They
may be rotten scouts, Blakeley, but they're A-1 sports. They're having
a pennant made in Catskill. They're going to fly it over the tent. It
says Camp McCord."

"I don't see how you did all this so soon," I told him; "I wish you'd
tell me about the rescue."

"Row quicker," he said, "I've got to see my patrol and get some duds
and beat it back by the road. They'll understand. It'll only be a few
days."

"Bert," I said, "I'm going with you; Westy and I are--"

He said, "Now don't begin that. We've had one flood already; isn't that
enough? Do you want everybody leaving camp? The trustees won't stand
for that. I can speak to my scoutmaster, but _you_ can't because yours
is away. Now don't spoil everything, _please_. Come down and see us
to-morrow, both of you, and we'll give you a couple of home-made
doughnuts."

"Will the twins make them?"

"Never you mind. Come down to-morrow and give us the once over. Just
follow the shore up from Pike's Landing; you'll see a khaki colored
tent in among the trees. That's us. They're putting up the tent now."

"Have you got drainage?" Westy asked him, kind of funny.

"They're digging a regular Panama Canal around that tent," he said.

"Bert," I told him, "you know the rule--"

"Now don't begin about rules. Listen. Your scoutmaster is away. About
every fellow in Temple Camp thinks Skinny is just a miserable little
thief. He went over to see those fellows because--well you know why.
They took him in. And, by jinks, he's going to stay there and so am I--
till this thing is fixed up. Blakeley and Westy," he said, and I could
see he was pretty serious now; "I went into that passageway with that
kid on my back. I was ready to crawl a mile and drag him along if I had
to. As it turned out, the passage was about a couple of hundred feet
long and came out in the old creek bed, like I said--up above the flood
area. Blakeley, when I saw the light of day--or the light of night
rather, because anything was lighter than that black hole--and when I
laid that skinny little kid down--he doesn't weigh fifty pounds,
Blakeley--I just said to myself, '_By the great Eternal, I'm going to
stick to him like glue!_' That's what I said. Even then I didn't know
he had been over to plead with those fellows and ask them _please_ not
to believe he was a thief. When I heard that--"

[Illustration: I WENT INTO THAT PASSAGEWAY WITH THAT KID ON MY BACK.]

"I know, Bert," I told him, "you're right"

"I'm not thinking about myself," he said; "my troop understands me; and
they understand Skinny. He could bunk with us, or with you fellows. But
this is better."

"I hope nobody'll raise a kick," Westy said.

Bert said, "A kick? We're the ones to raise a kick. Haven't I got
anything to say about it? I _couldn't_ bring the kid here--I'm not a
horse. So I did the next best thing; I carried him down the old creek
bed a ways, to where the water flowed into it. It was flowing easy
then. I laced a couple of broken off branches together and made the
craziest raft _you_ ever saw. Then I laid the kid on it and held his
head and poled with the other hand and that way we got down to the
Hudson. I intended to get him to some house down there and then notify
camp. He was a little better by then and a fellow stayed with him near
the shore, while I rowed over to Catskill for some iodine and stuff.
Would you believe it? I ran plunk into the Gold Dust Twins in the drug
store; they were drinking sodas. They've got you beaten seven ways at
that game. Well, I told them all about the flood and how I found Skinny
and how their camp was carried away, and they didn't seem to take it
hard at all, they just laughed and said it was part of the game.

"Oh, Blakeley," he said, "then was when the fun started--telegrams! One
of them had to buy out a peanut stand for Skinny--and then for a tent.
We rooted out that old sail maker from bed, and made him sell us a
tent. They gave him an order for a flag--_CAMP McCORD_--mind you.
Laugh! I just followed them around. They're two of the gamest sports
you ever saw. We went back to the landing in a taxi with cans of food
rolling all over the floor. _'Go faster_,' one of them shouted to the
taxi man, 'or I'll fire a can of pickled beets at your head.' We hired
a motor-boat to take us over and then they retired from the game. Some
whirligig, take it from me!

[Illustration: map: "This map shows you how the water broke through
Frick's Cove and flowed into the old creek bed."]

"But they wouldn't pick out the place for a camp," Bert said; "they
made me do that. 'We don't want to be drowned out again,' they said.
Honest, Westy, those two fellows are down there now, digging a drain
ditch and carrying it way over to the Hudson. '_Safety First_--that's
what they said. And Skinny's sitting there with a bandage around his
head, eating peanuts."

As soon as Bert got out of the boat, he started right off up the hill
for Tigers' Den, as they called it. We could see him stumbling up the
path, limping to favor his leg.

"He'll go back by the road, I suppose," I said.

Westy and I just sat in the boat watching until we couldn't see him any
more. Then he said:

"_Some_ scout, hey?"

CHAPTER XXXVII

TELLS ABOUT HOW I VISITED CAMP MC CORD

Of course, everybody in camp said that Bert Winton was a wonder; they
couldn't help saying that. His own troop didn't seem to think so much
about it. One of them said to me that he guessed Bert was having the
time of his life. They were funny in that way--those tigers. They
didn't seem to get excited over him at all. None of them went around
shouting.

The next morning everybody was talking about Bert. All the time fellows
kept going over in boats to see the remains of Nick's Cove, and most
all they talked about was Bert. Some of them said, Skinny wasn't worth
it--they meant being rescued like that. I could see they all thought
that he took the money. Some said he was crazy. Some of them thought he
knew about the money and just swam out for that.

The Elks didn't seem to care much. Connie told a fellow that he thought
they had a peach, but it turned out to be a lemon. I guess he thought
that was funny. I told Vic Norris about how Bert held Skinny tight and
he said Bert was some lemon squeezer. It made me mad and I just walked
away.

I don't know what would have happened if Mr. Ellsworth had been there.
I guessed he had the money still, because I knew he was called away in
a hurry. I didn't know whether he had sent for the cross or not.

I don't know what the directors thought. I guessed maybe they decided
not to do anything till Mr. Ellsworth got back. Anyway, Skinny stayed
where he was. George Bent--he's in a troop from Washington--told me
that Mr. Storer went down to the Hudson early in the morning to see how
everything was. I guess maybe he did, because Temple Camp would be
responsible for Skinny until he was sent away. George said they gave
Mr. Storer a doughnut down there, and that it hurt him. I don't know
whether they threw it at him or gave it to him to eat. Either way it
might have hurt him. Anyway, I was glad Skinny was away on account of
the way the fellows felt about him.

The next afternoon Westy and I hiked down to see the new camp. I have
to admit they had everything fine. Those Gold Dust Twins were older
than most of the fellows at camp and now that they had something
special to be interested in, I could see that they were pretty game.

"We're going to fight it out on these lines if it takes all summer,"
that's what one of them said.

And the other one said, "That's us. _Skinny forever!"_

They seemed to be getting a lot of fun out of it anyway. I don't
believe either one of them knew much about the gold cross, but they
were going to see Skinny win. It was funny to hear them talk about
scouting. The big one--the one called Reggie--asked me if we had a
badge for dancing. Can you beat that? He said he thought he might make
a stab for it. The other one thought that stalking meant picking corn
off the stalk. _Good night_!

They seemed to like Bert a lot, but I guess it was Skinny's going over
to see them that got them interested. When he asked them _please_ to
believe in him and not take the money, that was what clinched it--
that's what _I_ think. Anyway, that's what Bert told me. He said that
was what started Camp McCord.

Skinny was all bunged up but, oh, boy, you should have seen the scout
smile when he saw me. If that smile had been any longer it would have
cut his head off. He said he was a hero, and that he had a camp of his
own now. Poor little duffer, he didn't mean to be boasting; it was only
that funny way he had.

Westy and Bert and I took a little walk and I said, "The only trouble
is, suppose we shouldn't get the letter. Maybe the money doesn't belong
to the lieutenant. Then what?"

"Well then, we'll find out who it does belong to, that's what," Bert
said. "Camp McCord doesn't strike its colors as easily as all that. Mr.
What's-his-name back?"

I told him no, Mr. Ellsworth wasn't back yet. Then I said, "Maybe
Lieutenant Donnelle was sent away; maybe he had to go to South Africa
on account of the League of Nations. I read that the Zulu's were having
a war."

"You're a regular Calamity Jane," Bert said; "can't you think of
something better than that to worry about?"

CHAPTER XXXVIII

TELLS ABOUT THE SCOUT PACE

We had it fixed that as soon as I got a letter I would start right down
to Camp McCord with it. And, oh, boy, didn't I hang around
Administration Shack, where the camp mail was sorted. I guess my patrol
thought I was crazy and I bet that robin in the maple tree wondered
what had become of me. Gee, you can say I was a Calamity Jane if you
want to, but honest, I had Lieutenant Donnelle sent all over the world.
One minute I was saying he was dead, and the next minute I was saying
he had gone to Russia, and the next minute I was saying the money
wasn't his at all. Then I was saying that he'd be mad, because I told
Bert about him and wouldn't send any answer at all. Then I'd get to
thinking about Bert and that would kind of cheer me up; because he was
so sure.

Three days went by and no letter came. Every time they handed me a
letter I'd be shaky all over till I saw who it was from, and then I'd
just be all down and out when I'd see it was from my mother or my
father. Even the letters with my allowance in didn't make me feel good,
so you can see from that how anxious I was.

All the fellows around camp didn't say much about Skinny. They thought
he was just a little thief, but anyway, they weren't the kind of
fellows to be always talking about it. They had something else to do.
They talked a lot about Bert though, and said he was a kind of a crank
about Skinny. But anyway, they admitted that he was a hero. Gee, they
_had_ to do that.

All the while I didn't go down to see Bert, and he didn't come up to
camp. I just didn't want to go unless I had the letter. Reggie hiked up
one day and wanted to know if he could borrow a pair of smoked glasses.
"The fellows here don't smoke," Doc Carson told him. It was a shame to
guy him, he was such a nice fellow, but oh, boy, I had to laugh to see
him start back with that pair of big auto goggles on. But anyhow, all
the fellows admitted that the Gold Dust Twins were all right. They were
terrible bunglers when it came to scouting, and they even laughed at
themselves; that was the best part of it. But you know what a tin horn
sport is. Well, they weren't that, anyway. They had one of those long
fancy brass things with a wax taper to light their camp-fire with;
honest, it was a scream. I guess it was used in the parlor at home, to
reach the chandelier with.

Well, it got to be Tuesday and no letter came. Oh, wasn't I
discouraged. I just started out through the woods, because I didn't
want to see anybody. All of a sudden, who should I meet but Pee-wee. He
motioned to me to keep still, because he was stalking a hop-toad. Even
though I didn't feel much like laughing, I had to laugh.

"Why don't you track an angleworm some day?" I said.

He said, "What's the matter with you lately?"

"Nothing much," I told him.

"You don't hang out with the fellows at all," he said; "we're having a
lot of thrilling adventures."

"Thrilling, hey?" I said; and I just had to laugh, because it was the
same old Pee-wee with his hair's-breadth escapes and thrilling
adventures, and all that stuff.

"Well," I said, "you want to be careful; it's pretty dangerous business
stalking hop-toads."

"I came all the way from Catskill scout pace," he said.

I said, "Bully for you."

"I did it in fifty-two minutes," he said; "scout pace is my middle
name. Are you worrying about anything?"

"I'm worrying because I don't get a letter, kid," I said; "if it
doesn't come to-morrow--"

"Don't you worry," he said; "it'll come to-morrow. I'll fix it for
you."

"You're one bully little fixer," I said (because he was always talking
about fixing things), "but if Uncle Sam doesn't bring it, _you_ can't.
But, anyway, you and I are going to have a good hike, you little raving
Raven," I said; "just as soon as we can. I know I haven't seen much of
you, Pee-wee, but it isn't because I don't like you."

He just said, "_Hsh_" and went off on tiptoe through the woods,
stalking his hop-toad. He's a mighty nice little fellow, Pee-wee is.
And he's a bully little scout. Scout pace and good turns, those are his
specialties. He just stalks hop-toads on the side.

* * * * *

Late that night Mr. Ellsworth came back. The bus brought him up from
Catskill. I didn't see him, but early in the morning on my way over to
wait for the mail, I met Vic Norris and Hunt Ward of the Elks.

Vic Norris said, "This'll be the end of Camp McCord. Mr. E. is going to
take Skinny to Bridgeboro this morning."

"Oh, is that so?" I said; "Skinny is with the Gold Dust Twins, and they
have nothing to do with Temple Camp."

"Skinny is in Mr. Ellsworth's care," Hunt Ward said.

"Pretty soon he'll be in the Reformatory's care," Vic blurted out.

"Yes," I said, "and all because you had his head all turned with
swimming, before he's even passed his second class tests. You were glad
enough to use him. You were glad enough to see his poor little skinny
legs kicking in the water, just so as you could get something out of
it. Now you throw him down. Those Gold Dust Twins are better scouts
than you are--they are. You're not fit to stay in the same camp with
Bert Winton; you're in my own troop, but I tell you that. You leave Mr.
Ellsworth out of it."

"Who says so?" Vic shouted.

"I say so," I told him. "You don't hear Mr. Ellsworth around saying
mean things about Skinny, do you? You leave Mr. Ellsworth out of it
It's none of your business what he does. Even if Skinny does go back,
the least you can do is keep still about it. You don't hear those
tigers around talking, do you? I guess not. Or my patrol either. You
keep your mouths shut about Skinny!"

Then I went over to Administration Shack to wait for the mail to be
sorted. The reason I didn't say more to Vic and Hunt was just because I
was getting discouraged, and in my heart I thought maybe Skinny would
have to go. I knew that Camp McCord was no use if Mr. Ellsworth said he
must go back.

I was glad I didn't say any more, because anyway, there was no letter
there.

CHAPTER XXXIX

TELLS ABOUT HOW CAMP MC CORD DIDN'T STRIKE ITS COLORS

There were a lot of us hanging around Administration Shack, and I heard
a couple of fellows say that Mr. Ellsworth was going down in the bus to
catch the eleven-ten train. They said he was going to stop at Camp
McCord for Skinny. "He's likely to get a home-made doughnut thrown at
his head," one of them said, and they all laughed. I just couldn't
listen to them.

After the mail was distributed and I saw there wasn't anything for me,
I just went in and said to Slaty, I said, "Are you _sure_ there isn't
anything? Would you mind looking again?" I knew it wasn't any use and I
guess he did too, but anyway, he looked and said no.

Then I started back to Silver Fox Cabin. I guess I never felt worse
than I did then. First I thought I'd just go and beg Mr. Ellsworth not
to take Skinny away from Camp McCord, anyway, even if he couldn't have
the cross. I was hanging my head and just kind of wandering along and
wondering what I'd say to Bert and the twins. I could just sort of see
that new flag with Camp McCord on it, and I could hear Bert saying,
"Camp McCord doesn't strike its colors as easily as all that." Anyway,
what more could I do. I knew Mr. Ellsworth would be nice to me, but
that he wouldn't do anything just because _I_ wanted him to. I said to
myself, "It's all up; nobody can do anything now. Skinny was born
unlucky--poor little kid--"

All of a sudden I stumbled plunk into Pee-wee as he came pell-mell
around the corner of the big pavilion.

"What in--" I began.

"_I've got it for you! I've got it for you!_" he shouted; "forty-nine
minutes, scout pace! _I beat my record!_ I thought maybe it wouldn't
come in the reg--in the reg--in the reg--" He was so out of breath he
couldn't talk.

"There's a sec--there's a sec--there's a second train; here--"

And then he handed me a letter.

"There--there are--two," he said; "this--one's--for you."

My hand trembled so I could hardly open the envelope. And, honest, I
could hardly speak to him. I just blurted out, "Pee-wee, you're the
bulliest little scout in this camp--you and your scout pacing! You're
just the best little scout that ever was. Give me your hand, you bully
little raving Raven. Talk about good turns! Oh, Pee-wee, you're just--"

Honest, I couldn't finish. And I stood there with my eyes all sort of
wet, and watched him start up again scout pace.

"See you later," he called back; "I want to make Administration Shack
in fifty minutes."

That was him all over.

This was the letter and, oh, boy, you bet I'll always keep it, because
that was my lucky day. Even since then, Wednesday has been my lucky
day. When I get a good stalking snapshot it's always on a Wednesday.

Skeezeks, old Pal:

Yours received. Have sent letter to your superior officer or whatever
you call him. Will be up after my two hundred buckarinos next week.
Could you put me up for a couple of nights? I'll show you how to roast
potatoes French style, and we'll have a hike.

Everything O.K., so don't worry. You're a little brick.

In a hurry,

H.D.

Believe me, I read that letter about seven times, But even then I
wouldn't go to see Mr. Ellsworth, because I wanted to wait till the
other letter was sent over to him from the shack. I guess I waited
about half an hour, because I wanted to give him a chance to read his
seven times too. Then I went to his tent where I knew he'd be getting
ready to start away.

I just said kind of sober like, "Can I take your grip over to the bus
for you, Mr. Ellsworth?"

Oh, boy, you ought to have seen him.

"Guess you'll have to root around and find another good turn for
to-day, Roy," he said; "something has happened."

I just said very sober like (because I'm not afraid of him), "Did
Skinny take any more money?" He said, "Here, read this, you little
Silver Fox, and then clear out and give me a chance to get my wits
together. You're right and I'm wrong as you usually are--I mean as I
usually am--I don't know what I mean. Here, read this and then let's
see your scout smile--you little rascal!"

This is how the letter read:

Mr. E. C Ellsworth, Temple Camp.

Dear Sir:--

May I ask you to go to the trouble of forcing open the second locker in
my father's house-boat and rescuing a sum of money which I carelessly
left there? I think you will find it in an old pair of trousers
belonging to me. The amount is a little over two hundred dollars. I
would greatly appreciate it if you will hold this in safe keeping till
I have a chance to visit your camp. I hope you will not consider that I
am presuming upon a very slight acquaintance, in asking you to do me
this service.

Sincerely yours,

Lieutenant Harry C. Donnelle. Stationed at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, N. J.

Oh, boy, I wish I could tell you about everything. I don't know what
Mr. Ellsworth told the Elks. I should worry about that. He knew how to
handle them, you can bet. Oh, bibbie, but he's one peachy scoutmaster!
Pretty soon everybody in camp was talking, but I didn't pay any
attention. A fellow from Virginia came up and told me they were going
to have the spring-board fixed. What do you know about that? I said,
"Get out from under and don't bother me; I have something else to think
about."

I didn't eat much dinner; maybe you won't believe it, but I didn't.
Right afterward I started down to the Hudson. I saw a woodchuck's
tracks, but I didn't bother with them. I should worry about woodchucks.
I didn't even stop in the village to have a soda. I got some ice cream
in a paper, so I could eat it going along. And, oh, boy, when I saw
that new flag in among the trees, didn't I just shout! _Camp McCord_,
it said, in big red letters. Oh, they were dandy fellows, those Gold
Dust Twins. Then I thought of what Bert said about Camp McCord not
striking its colors. I noticed they didn't have their door to the
south, but anyway, that didn't matter. The north is all right--
sometimes.

I just went running in there pell mell.

"Hurrah for Camp McCord," I shouted. "You were right about not striking
your colors, but I'll strike you, all right, you old Bengal Tiger!" And
I gave Bert Winton a thump that nearly knocked him over. Good night!

"Don't you know enough to have your door open to the south or east or
west--what's the difference?" I just yelled. "Hurrah! Lieutenant
Donnelle is coming to get his two hundred and I'm going to make him
stay till Skin--I mean Alfred--gets the cross. Three cheers for the
Gold Dust Twins! And anybody who says--"

"Just a minute," Bert said; "calm down. You're talking in chunks."

"Why shouldn't I talk in chunks, I'd like to know?" I said.

Then I told them all about it.

"It's going to be just as you said," I told them; "we're going to make
the Elks come down here and give him the cross--when it comes. Mr.
Ellsworth says all right. Oh, but he was fine about it He said it's
only fair. Isn't he some scoutmaster? But you don't have to be in the
scouts--"

The fellow they called Reggie just came over and put his hand over my
shoulder, awful nice. "Yes, you do," he said; "you have to be in the
scouts. We won't hear any talk against the scouts here."

Oh, but he was one fine fellow; I don't care if he didn't know anything
about digging a drain ditch and all that. But anyway, I just can't tell
you all we said.

And one thing, you should have seen Skinny. That's all I've got to
say--you ought to have seen him.

After a little while, when the rumpus was over, Bert and I walked over
to the shore of the river and sat down and just looked across at
Catskill and the big hills in back. I kind of felt as if I'd like to be
alone with him a little while.

I said, "You did it all, Bert. The whole camp is crazy about you."

"Those campers are bully scouts," he said.

I said, "Yes, but _you_--if it wasn't for _you_--"

"If it wasn't for Pee-wee, Skinny would be on that train," he said.

We listened and could hear the West Shore train coming along and could
see the smoke blowing away into the mountains. It seemed as if that
train didn't care for anything or anybody. Pretty soon it would be in
the hot city and the people on it would go through big gates and across
in ferries and up the streets all filled with people. And everything
would be hot and stuffy.

But Skinny wouldn't be on it.

We saw it stop at the station in Catskill and we heard the bell ring
and saw it start again and go scooting along the shore and far away,
till we couldn't see it any more. Only the smoke.

But anyway, Skinny wasn't on it.

"Kind of, as you might say, Pee-wee can even beat a train--going scout
pace," I said.

"It'll go winding and turning in and out along the shore," Bert said;
"but Pee-wee can beat it on good turns."

"Yop," I said.

After that we didn't say anything for about five minutes.

Then I said, "One thing sure; _you_ ought to get the gold cross."

He didn't say anything, only broke a stick off a bush and began marking
on the grass with it.

"What do I want with the cross?" he said.

"It's a big honor," I told him.

"Sure," he said.

"You deserve it for what you did," I told him; "you ought to _want_
it--you ought to want to have it--on account of your patrol."

"Nice fellows, eh?" he said.

"Well then, why don't you take more interest in it for _their_ sake?"

"Ever notice how blue the Hudson is above Poughkeepsie?" he said.

I didn't say anything, just looked at the river. Then all of a sudden a
thought came to me.

I said, "Bert, you've got the cross already--haven't you? Why didn't
you tell me?"

"Dunno--didn't think of it, I guess," he said.

"Tell me how you won it, Bert," I said; "_please_ tell me."

But he just kept poking around with the stick and wouldn't tell me.

"Look at that worm," he said; and he held one up on his stick. "Good
fishing bait around here, hey? What d'ye say we go back?"

That was just like him--_just exactly like him_.

[Illustration: "LET GO, I'VE GOT HIM!"]

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