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Tom Slade on the River By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 11024

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

It was around the glowing camp fire on that memorable night that the wondering boys heard Garry Everson's simple, unboastful tale of the new kind of first-aid which had helped him to solve the mystery of Jeffrey Waring and put Tom Slade in the way of realizing his fondest dream-that of returning Harry Stanton to his young sister and his home.

"If we looked like beans, I'd say you were trying to string us," observed Roy, as he sat in his familiar posture near the fire, his knees drawn up and his hands clasped about them. "It beats anything I ever heard. Our beloved scoutmaster will have to go away, way back and sit down."

Mr. Ellsworth, still half incredulous, shook his head. "The pity of it is," said he, "that there's no merit badge for this kind of first-aid. There can be no doubt of the truth of this thing, I suppose?" he added.

Garry laughed good-naturedly. "I wish I could be as sure of his having the boat for his own-now that he's somebody else. It's one peacherino."

"And you suspected that first night, you say?"

"Well, no-not exactly. You fellows have got to remember that my father was an alienist, if you know what that is, and I've heard him tell about just such troubles as Harry's. So I don't deserve much credit. Only I had to be very careful. You can see yourselves it wasn't a case for bandages and splints and things."

"It would be pretty hard to give you too much credit," Doc Carson said.

"The first thing I noticed," Garry went on, "was the way Tom stared when he first saw him that night up in the woods. He was sure he'd seen him before. I didn't think much about that though till afterwards when other little things set me thinking and then I remembered about it and I began to put two and two together. When Jeffrey told me where he belonged I remembered about the old gentleman in Vale Centre who came home one time with a young fellow he called his nephew and how all the people in the village wondered who the nephew was. They didn't live near enough for me to know much about them and I don't know as I ever saw Jeffrey until that night up on the mountain.

"Well, it was while we were bringing Mr. Waring down through the woods on the stretcher that Tom said something about the Stantons-he just mentioned the name sort of off-hand, and I noticed that Jeffrey stared at him and looked sort of worried or puzzled, kind of, and then started in again chattering in that way of his.

"Then it came jumping into my head all of a sudden that he was trying to think of something and couldn't. And I was wondering if Tom really ever had seen him before, when I just happened to think-the idea came to me, sort of-that maybe it was his sister that Tom had seen. Of course, I didn't think so but the idea wouldn't go away and I decided that anyway I'd keep Jeffrey near me if I could and not let him get mixed up with the crowd where he'd be all the time getting excited, and see if I couldn't find out something about him. And even as it was, that was some tall job, believe me."

"You certainly kept by yourselves," some one said.

"I knew the time was short and I wanted to see if maybe he wouldn't get better by just being quiet. I knew a person could get to be-sort of-flighty, like, from an accident or something like that, and lose his memory, and be like a kid, and that sometimes, if he lives quiet and don't get excited or see many people, he'll begin to remember things--"

"Garry, we've got to hand it to you," said Roy, earnestly. "You've spent your whole vacation buried alive."

"Even still I didn't exactly think he was Harry Stanton," Garry went on, "but after, a while, just for experiment, kind of, I began springing words on him that I thought he might remember. I sprung Stanton and Nyack but there wasn't any come-back until one day-it was the day Arnold dropped in to see me-I sprung the word Nymph as a good name for a boat and that seemed to kind of hit him. He just stared and stared and stared. After that I decided to take him down to Catskill Landing to look at that sumptuous yacht of his and then to show him the Good Turn. I knew that sometimes when a person sees the thing that caused his trouble or goes back to the same place, maybe, or something of that sort, his memory comes back to him all of a sudden and he wakes up as if he'd been dreaming, as you might say. There's a long name they have for it, but I can't seem to remember it. Anyway, it's a blamed funny thing, but it's true. If you want to know what happened when we trespassed on the Good Turn, you'd better let him tell you, hey, Jeff?"

The boy who had been the subject of Garry's simple narrative was smiling, as every one turned toward him, and though the familiar trace of childishness was not entirely gone from his smile, there was a suggestion of mental poise or self-possession, even in the face of this public stare, which had not been there before. And though one or two noticed (for they were scouts and noticed things) that he twirled one finger nervously with his other hand, he at least did not begin to chatter with that distressing agitation and irrational boastfulness which the camp had known so well.

He had not changed his habit and demeanor as a lightning change performer will doff his costume, but there was a difference and everyone could see it. The woods and the quiet water and the sympathetic surroundings were to do much for him yet and it would be a long journey back to mental keenness and physical vigor. But he

was different, and it seemed all very wonderful. It was a knockout blow to Doc Carson, proficient though he was in his chosen specialty, for not a word about this kind of business had he ever seen in his study of First-Aid.

"Hey, Stanton, you old Jekyll and Hyde," Garry repeated, cheerily; "you came near getting me in Dutch with this bunch. Tell them about the Nymph."

Harry Stanton smiled naturally and now Tom Slade, who was watching his every movement, realized how much like his young sister he looked. His nose wrinkled a little, just like hers, when he smiled. There was no doubt as to who he was.

"I knew it was my boat," he said. "I thought it was the next morning. It seemed as if I was just waking up. I don't mean it's my boat, now, of course--"

"It sure is yours, all right," said Roy.

"I've got my other one and I don't want it. But it seemed as if I had fallen asleep on it and--"

"He thought I was Benty Willis for a minute," said Garry.

"And then-then, sort of, I knew all about what happened. When I saw my-the-boat, I knew. I knew for sure."

There were a few seconds of silence, broken by Mr. Ellsworth's saying, "It's wonderful, almost unbelievable." And still no one else spoke, the company only gazing at Harry Stanton, as one might look at an apparition.

Then Doc Carson, Raven and First-Aid Scout, said, "Garry, you're a wonder."

"And all the thanks he got--" began Connie Bennet.

"Oh, I didn't mind that," laughed Garry; "I had my little trail to follow, and I followed it, that's all. I just kept my eyes on the trail and not on you fellows-just as Jeb is all the time telling us. If he had seen that boat too soon, or been jollied or got too much excited or tired he might have gone nutty, for sure. Tell us a camp-fire yarn, Roy, I want Harry to see that we've got a real 'nut' in the camp."

But Roy told no yarn, and still they were all silent. After a while, Tom spoke.

"I don't want to make you talk about it, if you don't feel like it," he said, "or if you don't remember, but I always thought that maybe you were alive because a board belonging to your launch's skiff was in the launch when we got her."

Garry laughed. "Tell him how it happened, Stanton," said he.

"I remember all about it," said Harry. "I was in the launch and Benty was in the tender, bailing it out. There was a long rope from the tender to the Nymph. He was singing and I was sitting in the cabin talking to him. We had a light on the launch. That's the same way as I told it to you-isn't it?" he questioned, turning to Garry.

"Sure-go on."

"Then I heard a speed-boat coming-down?"

"That's what you said," Garry encouraged.

"Maybe it was up. Anyway I called, but I suppose they couldn't hear me on account of their exhaust."

"You see," said Garry. "He wanted to warn them about the small boat which was about thirty feet away and had no light."

"They crashed into it and Benty yelled that he was hurt and said he had hold of the rope. And then-and then-" Stanton broke off, looking frightened and perplexed, and rubbed his hands together distressingly.

"You let me finish it for you and see if I don't get it right," said Garry, soothingly. "Jeff pulled the rope so as to save Benty, who couldn't swim very well. But Benty must have let go. That right, Jeff?"

"Yes, and-"

"Now wait a minute." Garry looked across the fire at Tom. "And all there was at the end of the rope was a board from the skiff. The skiff must have been all smashed to pieces. It was the board that had the ring in it that the boat was tied to--"

"Yes?" said Tom.

"Well, that's all there is to it. Stanton pulled it aboard thinking his friend was clinging to it. And when he saw how it was he dived for him--"

"I dived right away," interrupted Harry Stanton, shuddering, "and I swam all around and I called-I swam way out and then there was a big light that dazzled me--"

"And that's all," concluded Garry. "He can't tell you any more because he doesn't remember any more till he was in Mr. Waring's house. We're going to try to find out about it, aren't we. Stan?"

He moved closer to the boy and put his arm about his shoulder with a significant look at the others as if to ask them not to question him further.

"And he wants us all to go down to Nyack with him in his own boat which has the other one beat forty-'leven ways. He says he wouldn't ride in that old tub now, hey, Stan? And you can keep it or sink it just as you please. And when we get to Nyack he wants a committee of three scouts to go home with him while the rest of us stay on the boat. And after that, if we can fix it up, we're all going to take a cruise up the river and through the lakes for a little call on Uncle Sam at Plattsburg. Hey, Stan?"

"And the three scouts that he wants to go up home with him (he's very particular about it) are Tom Slade and Roy and Pee-wee Harris, because they're the ones who were there last year and they know his sister, so it's up to them to take him back."

"How about you?" Roy promptly demanded.

"Oh, I'm out of it," said Garry.

Then, suddenly, such a shout as might have raised the dead resounded. It was Pee-wee Harris, flying off the handle, as he realized the meaning of Garry's proposal.

"Oh, crinkums, won't it be great!" he shouted. "And-and-I'll think up a little kind of a speech to make to her-gee, it's just like a story, with-with-yachts and long lost brothers and things--"

"Especially things," said Roy.

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