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   Chapter 8 JEFFREY WARING

Tom Slade on the River By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 20929

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The scene just described was in the Pow-wow Circle, as they called the open space where the camp fire burned by night at Temple Camp. After a difficult descent of the hill the boys had been met at the wood's edge by Jeb with more scouts, a couple of visiting scoutmasters and a physician from the not far distant village. To Jeffrey, whose poor efforts had been so futile and bewildering, this orderly sequel to Garry's smudge signal was nothing less than a miracle, and he gazed at the party from camp as if they had dropped from the clouds.

Despite their burden and the special caution which had been necessary in picking their way down, the descent had been easier than the laborious journey in the dark the night before, but it was long past noontime when they emerged at the edge of the woods.

Perhaps it was natural that Jeffrey, not knowing of that battle with the thicket and the darkness should have seen the signalling as the most astonishing feat, and since Doc had assumed responsibility for his injured uncle and in a way superintended the descent, perhaps it was natural too that the first-aid boy, who received a flattering comment from the real doctor, should come second to Garry in his estimation. Whatever his peculiarities, he certainly did not stint his hero-worship. But Tom he disregarded altogether.

"Do you know why that is?" said Gordon Lord, of the First Oakwood, N. J., Troop, talking the thing over with Honorable Pee-wee Harris, of Bridgeboro. "Do you know why that is?"

Pee-wee couldn't guess, but he hazarded the observation that Jeffrey was a kind of a nut.

"It's because Tom Slade doesn't wear any uniform," said Gordon. "It's the uniform that gets people-specially girls. Gee, they all fall for the uniform-everybody does. You wouldn't catch me going without it."

"I don't know why Tom doesn't wear one," said Pee-wee. "But even if he did I don't think girls would notice him much-he isn't that kind. He's kind of clumsy, like. He worked after school all winter and he must have got a lot of money saved up, but when Roy asked him if he wasn't going to get a suit and things, he said he wasn't going to bother-he was more comfortable that way. We all got new outfits this year. Mr. Ellsworth says Tom's a kind of a law inside himself-or something like that."

It troubled Gordon that a boy who could do the things Tom had done should eschew the khaki regalia, the hanging jack knife, the belt axe and the scarf, and he spoke to Roy about it.

"Search me, kiddo," said Roy. "He ought to have forty-'leven dollars and some trading stamps saved up. He's a thrifty soul and he sold the Friday Evening Pest all winter. It's got me guessing. Maybe he's sending it to Belgium-he's come out strong for the Allies now. He's a sketch."

The doctor had shaken his head when he looked at Mr. Waring, and said that his life was hanging on a thread, and that the thread was pretty sure to break. They took him to the little hospital in the village and from there telegraphed to his home.

On the doctor's suggestion, seconded by Jeb and the scoutmasters, the boy was kept at camp awaiting developments, and it was well toward evening of that first Sunday while they were waiting for supper, that the tension and suspense relaxed somewhat in this general talk which had ended in Jeffrey's impulsive and rather surprising act.

To the great delight of Raymond the strange boy was allowed to bunk in the little cabin with himself and Garry, where he spent practically the whole of the next day watching Garry unpack his luggage and reading the Scout Handbook, turning more than once to the chapter about signalling, which he seemed to regard as a sort of sleight-of-hand.

He made an aimless tour about the camp, pausing here and there before tent or cabin and chatting with the scouts who received him kindly enough, listening to his rather rambling talk and affecting an interest in the wealth and especially the boat, of which he was never weary of boasting. He seemed fascinated with this view of real camp life. What the boys really thought of him it would be hard to say, but they were for the most part indulgent and if there were a few who yielded to the temptation to jolly him, they were promptly discouraged by the others.

For Garry, however, there was less patience and Jeffrey more than once felt moved to defend his hero against the plainer sort of abuse. The sarcastic references to his chosen friend he did not quite appreciate.

Garry, indeed, was paying dearly (especially at the hands of the Bridgeboro Troop) for his act of walking away with Jeffrey to the humiliation and disappointment of Tom Slade.

"Well," said one scout, who was raising the patrol pennant outside his cabin as Jeffrey came along, "how do you think you like it?"

"Can you signal?" Jeffrey asked, as if that were really the important subject.

"I'm not so worse at it," the scout replied, "but I'm not much good as a kidnapper."

Jeffrey did not catch the sense of this. He looked at the boy for a moment and then strolled on, pausing in front of the Silver Fox's cabin, where Roy Blakeley, Pee-wee Harris, and others of that notoriously flippant patrol were building a couple of balsam beds outside, for the overflow.

"Good-morning glory," said Roy.

"How do you do drop-that's the way you should answer him," said Pee-wee; "come right back at him-don't let him get away with it."

Jeffrey stared. "That's a good thick one," he said, referring to a branch Roy was about to use.

"Sure, it was brought up on oatmeal," said Roy. "Stand from under!"

Jeffrey hastened to get out of the way.

"How long is it?" said he.

"'Bout as long as a short circuit," said Roy.

"What?"

"I said it's a beautiful afternoon this morning," said Roy. "Well, you got wished onto the large Edgevale Patrol, hey? Three members. Some patrol!"

"Whose cabin is that next one?" Jeffrey asked irrelevantly.

"That? That's Mr. Rushmore's cabin. He has charge of the grounds-all of 'em, even the coffee grounds."

"What?" said Jeffrey.

"And the next cabin," said Roy, "belongs to the Elks-Tom Slade."

"I don't like him so much," said Jeffrey.

"You don't, hey? Well, you might have got into a regular patrol," said Roy, busy with his work. "It was up to you."

Not having been of the party which rescued Jeffrey, and hence not having had the same opportunity to observe him, Roy was not as patient with him as some of the others.

"What's the matter with you?" he demanded, wheeling about and becoming serious. "Don't you know who you've got to thank for getting you out of your scrape? Don't you know who saved you from starving up there? What's the matter with you, anyway? I know fellows who'd be glad of the chance to get into the Elk Patrol. They've got the gold cross in that patrol, let me tell you-and sixteen merit badges! And you, like a big chump, pass it up, and run after that pair that isn't any patrol at all! Let me tell you something, my fraptious boy, in case you should ever get to be a scout--"

"I am a scout," said Jeffrey, and doubtless he thought he was.

"There's a little old book with a red cover you've got to take a squint into before you're a B. S., let me tell you. And it's got some good dope about making sacrifices and being generous and you can't be a good scout walking away with somebody else's prize-you can't! You tell your patrol leader, or whatever you call him, to look in that little old Handbook and see if he finds anything there that'll give him the right to put one over on the fellow that found you and brought you here; and the fellow that saved his own life, too! Hand me that other branch, Pee-wee."

Jeffrey could only stare.

"Is that cross solid gold?" he finally asked, weakly.

"Sure-14 carrots-a couple of turnips and a few potatoes. Stand out of the way, will you?"

Jeffrey made way for Westy Martin, who was tugging a balsam branch to Roy. Then he moved away together.

Outside the Elks' cabin was Dory Bronson, spearing papers, for the Elks were a tidy lot and took great pride in their surroundings.

"Is that a game?" Jeffrey asked.

"Hello, Sister Anne," said Dory. "What's going to be the name of your patrol?"

"Do we have to have a name?" asked Jeffrey.

"You sure do. I was thinking 'magpie' would be a good one. They usually get everything in sight."

Jeffrey was not good at repartee; he did not understand these boys and he could not cope with them. Much less did he understand the wholesome spirit of rivalry and of loyalty which now made Garry an outsider-ostracized for what the whole camp regarded as a piece of selfishness and unfairness. His winking at Mr. Ellsworth as he walked away with his new recruit was taken as a deliberate attempt to flaunt his triumph.

Some said he had changed since the previous summer. There were a few who said it was natural, perhaps, that he should have taken the strange boy under his wing so promptly, seeing that their homes were not far apart. But everyone agreed that by all the rules of the game Jeffrey should have gone with Tom.

"We asked Garry to go up the hill with us that night," said Connie Bennet, "even though he isn't in our troop, just because we liked him."

"And we stopped at Edgevale and brought him along in the Good Turn," said Will Bronson, "even though we were crowded already. And now he puts one over on us like that! He's a fine scout!"

"Only you have to say it quick to keep from choking!" added Roy, who had stopped before the Elks cabin.

"He sure got away with it," added Connie. "He's got this Jeffrey, or whatever his name is, eating out of his hand."

"You should worry," said Roy, as he strolled on.

The next day two men arrived in an automobile, bringing with them the news that Jeffrey's benefactor was dead. It cast a shadow over the camp even among the many who had not seen the injured man. The boy himself was greatly distressed, wringing his hands like a child, and clinging to Garry.

One of these gentlemen was Mr. Waring's executor, the other a friend, and since both of them lived in Poughkeepsie, which was the nearest city to Edgevale, neither knew much about Mr. Waring's home life. They agreed with Mr. Ellsworth that it would be in all ways best for this unfortunate nephew, who seemed to be Mr. Waring's only survivor, to remain where he was, and accept the hospitality of the camp until his un

cle's affairs could be settled.

"Can I stay with Garry and Raymond and be in their club and take them out in my boat?" Jeffrey asked, excitedly; "it's mine now, isn't it?"

"I suppose you boys will have to settle that among yourselves," said the executor; "but I don't know about the boat," he added. "Undoubtedly it will be yours, but you mustn't try to run it by yourself. It would be all right to use it if these gentlemen (turning to Mr. Ellsworth and one of the camp trustees) will take charge of it."

"Garry understands marine engines," Raymond ventured timidly to the visitors, whom the boys had just been showing about the camp.

"Gee, is he after the boat, too?" sneered Connie.

"No, he isn't after the boat!" Raymond flared back; "and he's got a uniform and that's more than your patrol leader has!" he added irrelevantly.

Garry quieted Raymond and the others laughed. No one had any resentment against him, nor much against Jeffrey, for whom they made full allowance, but Garry was ignored, and this was the unhappy sequel of his friendship with the Bridgeboro boys and of the expedition which he had made with three of them up the wooded hill.

It was not the policy of Jeb Rushmore nor of the scoutmasters and trustees to seek to adjust differences between the scouts and so the golden days (which were all too fleeting for quarrels and bad-feeling) were clouded by this estrangement.

At last, one day, Harry Arnold took it upon himself to go to Garry's cabin and talk with him. He, at least, had not altogether shunned Garry and he felt free to approach him. He found him teaching Jeffrey to carve designs on a willow stick by artistic removal of the bark. Raymond was making birchbark ornaments.

"Hello," said Garry; "want to join the kindergarten class?"

"Hello, Jeff, old scout!" said Arnold, slapping him on the shoulder. "Hello, Raymond, how's the giant of the Hudson Highlands? I thought I'd drop around and see if you were still alive-you stay by yourselves so much."

"We're not exactly what you'd call popular," said Garry, smiling a little. "How's the birthday celebration coming on?"

"Swell. I understand Slade's own patrol is going to give him one of those bugles that's advertised in Scouting-so he can blow himself, Blakeley says-with a fancy cord and tassels and the names of all his patrol engraved on it. Too bad he hasn't got a full patrol. Just one more name and--"

"What's the camp going to give him?" interrupted Garry.

"The camp is going to give him a wireless set."

"Gee!"

"It's a peach, too! Did you hear what Jeb's going to give him? An elk's head-gee, you ought to see the antlers on it. He wrote to some ranch or other away out in Montana to send it. He shot the elk himself. Roosevelt told him it was one of the finest he ever saw."

"He ought to know," said Garry.

"There's where you said something! It'll be appropriate, hey-Elk Patrol. And, let's see, the Bridgeboro Troop's going to give him a high grade searchlight for tracking. Jeb nearly fell off his grocery box when he heard that! He thinks you ought to go blindfold when you're tracking. Then there's a lot of crazy stuff-that fellow Blakeley hasn't had any sleep the last week thinking up fool things. He's going to give Tom a cat's collar to use for a belt."

"That's a good one," laughed Raymond.

"And-oh, I don't know what all. Pee-wee Harris is going to give him Boy's Life for a year--"

"Next Saturday, isn't it?" asked Garry, indifferently.

"Yes-Elks will be two years old. Blakeley was telling me their whole history. You don't mind if I sit down on these bricks, do you. It's kind of damp on the ground. Do all your own cooking here?"

"Yes, most of it. Make yourself at home."

"Make yourself homely, as Blakeley would say," laughed Arnold, changing his seat.

"Suppose you fellows go and get some more willow," said Garry. "Go ahead with what you were saying," he added, as Raymond and Jeffrey obediently started off toward the lake. "I was afraid you might say something that I wouldn't want Jeff to hear. I have to be awful careful with him."

"Queer duck, isn't he!"

"Not when you know how to handle him. My father was a doctor and I've often heard him tell about people like that. I think he's got what they call amnesia or something like that. I've a kind of a hunch that his-er, this Mr. Waring took him up there in that woods so's he could just live quiet and natural like and maybe get better. I've often heard my father talk about the woods being a medicine for the mind. Don't you remember there was some old duffer of a king who was cured that way-in some forest or other? I guess Jeff's a whole lot better than he was when he first came up here in the woods. From little things he says sometimes, I guess he was pretty bad at first. Ever take a flyer at carving birchbark? Look here, what Jeff and the kid have done. They're fiends at it."

Arnold looked at Garry curiously.

"I want to talk to you about this Tom Slade-this patrol business."

"I thought you did."

"Of course, I'm kind of an outsider-it's none of my business-except that I happened to be the one to get your smudge signal. But, of course, I've heard all about you and the Bridgeboro fellows last year-what good friends you were and all, and how Tom Slade went up through that fire to your shack up there, and it seems a blamed shame that you're not good friends now. We're all here such a short time anyway--"

"Next Monday for us," said Garry, ruefully.

"That's just what I was thinking. The birthday dinner, then Sunday and then--"

"There'll be others here to take our places though," finished Garry.

"And I was wondering," continued Arnold, "if we couldn't kind of straighten things up before that. You know, ever since that first night I've sort of hung out with the Bridgeboro fellows. Gordon and I are here on our own hook and he sort of stands in with Pee-wee-and, oh, I don't know, Tom and Blakeley sort of got me. That first night when you fellows were up the hill Blakeley spieled off a lot of stuff at campfire. He told us all about their trip up in the motor-boat last year and about the fellow that used to own it-how he lost his life. Funny though, how that part of the rowboat got back to the launch, wasn't it? I guess Tom's notion doesn't amount to much, though. Anyway, that's what 'our beloved scoutmaster' as Roy calls him, seems to think."

"Mr. Ellsworth?"

"Yes. He says Tom's got a little vein of the dime novel in him-'Back From Death' or the 'Mystery of the Busted Dory' as Roy says. He calls Tom Sherlock Nobody Holmes."

"I guess nobody understands Tom Slade very well," said Garry.

"I suppose maybe that's just the reason the troop makes such a lot of him. If you played-if somebody played a mean trick on-on-Doc Carson, for instance, the fellows wouldn't be so sore about it. But when you put one over on Tom you hit them all."

"Do you think I play mean tricks?" queried Garry, beginning to carve a willow stick.

"I didn't say that. But you can see Tom is a favorite and anybody with two squinters in his head, surely any scout, can see why. He came out of the slums and he's poor and in some ways he's different from these fellows. They're all rich fellows and pretty well educated-you know what I mean. They made him a scout, and they're always on the watch for fear he'll see some difference. They're proud of him because he's made good and they're going to see to it that the scouts make good. They want him to have all that's coming to him just because he hasn't got some things that they've got-you understand, don't you?"

"I think I come pretty near knowing what it is to be poor," said Garry, whittling.

"Well, these fellows here have been pretty decent to you, too, first and last, haven't they?"

"Do you think I don't know that?"

"Do you know what I think?" said Arnold, after a pause.

"What?"

"Every fellow has some kind of a bug. Pee-wee's bug is good turns. Doc Carson's bug is first-aid-honest, I believe that fellow'd give you a black eye just for the fun of putting a bandage on it--"

Garry laughed.

"I'm Gordon's bug. Tom's bug is that poor fellow that's been dead two years-and they kid the life out of him about it."

"Do they?"

"Sure; and your bug is--"

"Break it to me gently."

"Your bug is Raymond Hollister."

"He's getting to be a strong, healthy bug, don't you think?"

"I think that's just the reason you copped this new fellow, Jeffrey. You wanted to please Raymond. And you let them both think that you're a patrol--"

Garry smiled.

"I think maybe the fact that Jeffrey lives near you--"

"It isn't so near."

"Well, anyway, I think maybe that has something to do with it. But I'm going to pass you some straight talk, Everson, and I don't want you to get mad. You know, Slade is crazy about his patrol and by all the rules of the game this fellow belongs with him. He's nutty about his patrol, whereas you haven't really any patrol at all."

"Do you think I don't know that?"

"Well, then, why not let Tom have him?"

"Jeffrey isn't a slave."

"I know, but he'll do anything you tell him is best for him."

"Well, I think it's best for him to stay right here where he is."

Arnold rose angrily. Garry went on whittling.

"These fellows are beginning to see you in your true light, I'm afraid," said Arnold. "I thought maybe they were mistaken but I guess they're not. They're saying now that you did Tom Slade out of the Silver Cross last year."

"Does Tom say that?"

"The rest of them do. Well, I don't see as I can do much good staying here and talking. What I came to ask you was if you didn't think it would be a bully idea to turn Jeffrey over to the Elks on Saturday-as a birthday present to the patrol." Arnold waited a moment hoping Garry would make some reply. "Tom found him-he plowed up through that mess-Jeb calls it nature tied in a knot-it was his idea and it was his job-and it's about all he could be expected to do."

"He may have more to do."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, nothing in particular."

"Well," concluded Arnold, "it's just a case of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. What do you say?"

"What do you mean?"

"Will you fix it up with Jeffrey Waring to join the Elks?"

"No, I won't," said Garry.

Arnold looked steadily at him for a moment, then turned on his heel and strode away.

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