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   Chapter 13 AT THE STANTONS’

Tom Slade on the River By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 15807

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The return of Harry Stanton to his home was a nine days' wonder in the village. Poor Mrs. Stanton seemed almost unable to comprehend the wonderful reality of his actual presence and she kept him by her constantly, even to the point of accompanying him back and forth from the river. The boys noted these affectionate attentions with dismay, for they wished to make a cruise in the beautiful boat, with its proud owner as their companion.

"You leave it to me," said Pee-wee. "I know how to handle mothers; we've got to wait for the something or otherological moment."

The days which followed were days of stress but of happiness to all concerned. Mr. Stanton lost no time in going to Poughkeepsie where he got all the information that could be obtained from Mr. Waring's executor and friends as to how the eccentric but kindly old gentleman came into possession of the so-called nephew on whom he had showered wealth and sympathetic attention.

Because he had been eccentric, his intimates knew but little of his affairs, but the facts, as Mr. Stanton was able to piece them together, were that Mr. Waring had lost his wife and only son and that he had never been the same afterward. He lived the life of a recluse in his lonely, luxurious home. Two years before he had started up the Hudson in his beautiful boat, accompanied by a valet and a man to run the craft, intending to visit some remote spot where he had enjoyed the trout fishing in his early years.

All that his business friends knew in addition to this was that he had returned almost immediately, bringing with him an apparently weak-minded boy whom he called his nephew and whose self-appointed guardian and benefactor he became.

Mr. Stanton tried to find the two men who had accompanied their employer on that mysterious cruise. The valet had died, but he located the other man working in a munitions plant not far from Poughkeepsie. From this man, who spoke only broken English, he learned something of his son's rescue.

While cruising upstream at night, he said, they had heard a cry from the water and throwing the searchlight about had located a drowning person, whom they pulled aboard. It was a boy, the man said, whose head had been frightfully injured, the skull being cracked, as was discernible through his plastered, soaking hair. He was bruised in several other places and lost consciousness as soon as they got him aboard the launch.

They had turned the boat at once and returned home, where the victim, still unconscious, was attended by "great doctors." The man had not lived at Mr. Waring's house and he knew very little more except what he had heard indirectly. The boy jabbered, he said, and did not know who he was and talked nonsense. Then he had heard that an operation was performed, that the edges of the broken skull were lifted up into place, and that the boy was better but "nutty." He had later heard a rumor that the boy was dead. That was all he knew.

Mr. Stanton had had no difficulty in locating James, the chauffeur, whom Jeffrey Waring had mentioned in connection with his pigeons, and from him he had received a more coherent account of Mr. Waring's second cruise, which was destined to have a fatal sequel for himself and momentous consequences for his ward.

James had, he said, entered Mr. Waring's employ the year before and found the old gentleman's nephew to be a "queer lad" who, he understood, had once had a dreadful accident of some sort. He got excited easily, the man said, and at such times said the most extravagant things. He had pigeons and dogs and lived an odd sort of life by himself.

In the early part of the summer Mr. Waring had again planned a trip to his favorite fishing retreat, believing that the quiet and remoteness of the place would help the boy, who was already greatly improved. The doctors, so the man said, had recommended the camping trip.

They had made an uneventful but pleasant trip up the river in the Rambler and after they had moored her near Catskill Landing Mr. Waring had sent James back to Vale Centre to attend to his regular duties there.

That was all that Mr. Stanton could learn and he returned home somewhat puzzled as to whether Mr. Waring had ever tried to locate Harry's people, or whether he intended to do so when the boy should have regained his health and mental poise. He had lavished wealth and kindness on the stricken lad, that was certain; the last days of his life had been spent in a sojourn to a remote spot dear to his own memory in the hope that it might hasten the boy's recovery; and the Stantons could not think otherwise of him than as one, peculiar indeed, but of the purest motive and overflowing with kindness. Nor did they ever learn exactly what had happened to Harry while in the water, though they held to the belief that he had been injured by the paddlewheel of some steamer.

That Garry Everson, scout, had completed the work which the old gentleman had begun was now realized by all and with it the boys realized the quiet patience with which he had borne their coldness and even their taunts.

"He's a real hero," said Pee-wee.

"All others are imitations," agreed Roy.

During Mr. Stanton's absence, Mr. Ellsworth had made a flying trip to Bridgeboro to arrange for the troop's absence for another week or two, and meanwhile the scouts camped on the boat, spending much of their time at the Stanton place, where they played tennis and basket-ball and taught the parrot to say "I'm a scout," and "Poor Pee-wee."

Those were days of great delight to Ruth Stanton. In contemptuous defiance of Pee-wee's proud assertion that "boys could do things that girls couldn't do" she beat him again and again at tennis, and beat the rest of them, too, for she was an old hand at the game.

For the first time, too, her brother showed his interest and skill in outdoor games; his fondness for tennis seemed to come back on him in a rush, and though he sometimes got rattled and did not think quickly enough, his playing was rapid and accurate in the main and he and Ruth came out first in the tournament in which they all joined.

"And wait till you see Harry swim!" she said proudly, as, racket in hand, she sank onto a garden bench; "he can swim across the river and back; do you know how far that is?"

"I know how far it is over; I don't know how far it is back," said Roy.

"You think you're smart, don't you!"

"I'll give you a correct imitation of a boy scout raising a racket," Roy said, holding his racket high in the air. "Next imitation, that of a boy scout following a trail," he added, going on his hands and knees and with an absurd air of scrutiny and stealth following the chalk mark around the tennis court.

"Isn't he too silly!" laughed Ruth.

Roy resumed his seat beside her. "Did you hear about the Germans bombarding a man's garden and shelling all his peas?"

"Really-" began Ruth. "Oh, nonsense, it's a joke!"

"Why is a boy scout?" he persisted.

"What's the answer?"

"There isn't any. Here's another. What's the aim of a scout?"

"Well?"

"A correct aim. Did you hear about the scout that went camping without any duffel bag or baggage, yet he carried fifteen good-sized articles in his back pocket?"

"He couldn't! How could he?"

"He had a copy of Boys' Life with fifteen articles in it. Which has the most stories, Boy's Life or the Mutual Life? Here's another. If Every Boys' Library caught fire, how would the smoke come out?"

"Silly!"

"In volumes, of course. Say, if it's cowardly to strike a person who is on the ground, is it all right to hit the trail? Here's another--"

"You seem to know so much about them," Ruth interrupted. "Tell me what an Honor Scout is?"

"Is it a riddle?"

"No, it isn't a riddle; I really want to know."

"An Honor Scout is a scout that has a sense of honor. There's only one scout i

n our troop that has any sense of honor-that's Honorable Tomasso Slade alias Sherlock Nobody Holmes. He has the gold cross. Honorable Garry Everson has the silver cross. That means he has some sense of honor, but not so much."

"I don't believe a word you're telling me," she said.

Roy looked at her through the strings of his racket. "Boy Scout behind prison bars," said he, teasingly.

"You tell me," she said, turning to Doc Carson.

"I'll tell you," said Pee-wee; "you've got to look out for him, he's a jollier. An Honor Scout is one that has saved somebody's life-and gets an honor medal-see? If he takes a big chance and-and-kind of plunges into the jaws of death-kind of-"

"How?" said Roy.

"Then he gets the gold cross. If he-"

"Lands just outside the jaws," interrupted Roy.

"Shut up!" said Pee-wee. "If he doesn't take quite such a big chance but a pretty big one, then he gets the silver cross. And if he takes a small chance-"

"About the size of Pee-wee," Roy put in.

"Then he gets the bronze cross," Pee-wee finished. "See?"

They were lolling on and about the bench near the tennis court, laughing at each other's nonsense, when Harry Stanton jumped up suddenly. Garry and Ruth watched him keenly, as they always did when he became excited.

"Oh, I've got an idea, a fine idea!" he cried. "I got it from what Pee-wee said--"

"All right, take your time, Stan," said Garry.

"I tried to think of a name-a new name-for the Rambler but I couldn't think of any. I told my mother I'd name it for Tom Slade only that wouldn't be fair to Garry, and it would be the same if I named it for Garry-see? Anyway-anyway-she said a boy's name wouldn't be good, anyway. But if I name it Honor Scout, it will be naming it for both of them-won't it?" he asked anxiously.

"Oh, crinkums, you hit it!" shouted Pee-wee, enthusiastically. "It's an insulation-"

"Inspiration, you mean," corrected Connie.

"What's the difference?" demanded Pee-wee.

"Nothing-only insulation is the covering around a wire and inspiration is a good idea."

"Otherwise they're the same," said Roy.

"Oh, it's one peach of a name!" repeated Pee-wee, undaunted, and pounding the back of the bench. "It's a piperino!"

Harry Stanton was delighted.

"It is a bully name," said Westy Martin.

"And-and I thought of it-didn't I," said Harry, with the touch of childishness that still showed itself at times.

"You sure did," said Garry.

"It's sort of two names in one," said Will Bronson.

"I-I thought of it just this minute," repeated Harry, nervously.

"You're all right, Stan," said Garry. "Sit down and watch the game now-watch your sister trim Roy."

"I wouldn't play with him, he's too silly," said Ruth.

"You're afraid of being beaten," challenged Roy.

"By you? You don't even know how to volley."

"I know how to jolly," Roy came back.

They played much to Harry's amusement, which was just what Garry wanted, and Roy was ignominiously vanquished.

"Now you're supposed to say 'Deuce'!" Ruth called to him.

"I don't use such language," answered Roy.

"Bat it over there, silly, and then say 'My advantage!'"

"I wouldn't take advantage of a girl," he answered.

It was no wonder he was beaten.

Roy and one or two of the others stayed for supper and Ruth took him into the kitchen (to the consternation of her mother and the colored cook) and taught him to make popovers. Being the troop's chef, he was greatly interested and wore a huge kitchen apron on which he was continually tripping.

Upon Mr. Stanton's return a slight cloud was cast upon the rosy plans for a cruise, partly from his hesitancy to let Harry go with them and partly because of his doubts as to whether his son ought to keep the boat at all. Of these latter misgivings he was cured by an elaborate argument of Pee-wee's. Or, in any event, he surrendered-and Pee-wee took the credit.

"I've got a peach of an argument I'm going to give him," said Pee-wee, as he and Roy and Garry were hiking it to Shady Lawn for a set of tennis. "It's what the lawyers call a teckinality. Don't you remember he used one last year when he gave us the boat?"

He found Mr. Stanton on the porch, and perched himself upon the railing near him, swinging his legs.

"I don't know," said Mr. Stanton, when Pee-wee broached the subject, "whether I shall let Harry keep the boat or not. Mr. Waring was rather a queer man, and I don't know whether we ought to take his will too seriously. I shouldn't wish you boys to be disappointed," he added, thoughtfully.

"Well, I'll tell you how it is," said Pee-wee. "You're a lawyer, kind of, aren't you?"

"Kind of," Mr. Stanton conceded.

"I thought it all out last night. Now you gave us a boat, didn't you? And I'm not saying that wasn't a dandy thing to do."

"I'm glad you have found pleasure in it."

"Only the trouble was the fellow that owned the boat was alive all the time and so you really didn't have any right to give it to us. That's a teckinality, isn't it?"

Mr. Stanton laughed.

"So if Harry didn't have a boat of his own, why, then, of course, we'd have to give the Good Turn back to him-'cause it's his, see? But, of course, as long as he has a boat of his own, it's all right. Anyway, you couldn't stop us from leaving the Good Turn at Nyack Landing if we wanted to. Even if you were a-a-judge, you couldn't do that, could you?"

"I seem to be at your mercy," said Mr. Stanton.

"And there's another dandy argument, too-a peach!"

"If it's one of your own, I should like to hear it."

"Well, you want Harry to get well, don't you? Maybe you don't know all that Garry Everson did to make him-to help him get better. And then he gave him up so's Tom could have a full patrol. Gee, even we didn't know what kind of a fellow Garry was-we didn't. But we know now, you can bet. Maybe Harry would get worse again if you took that boat away from him. He's just thought of a dandy name for it-the Honor Scout."

"Hmmm," mused Mr. Stanton.

"Isn't that one pippin of a name?"

"I think we may let him have the boat," said Mr. Stanton, thoughtfully. "The whole circumstance is so very strange--"

"And can he make the cruise with us to Plattsburg?"

"We will see what Mr. Ellsworth thinks-and the doctor. I don't quite see," Mr. Stanton added, after a thoughtful pause, "how Harry can become a member of Tom Slade's patrol, much as I should like to see him the companion of you boys. We live so far from Bridgeboro--"

"It seems that way to you because you're not a scout," interrupted Pee-wee, patronizingly. "But we've thought it all out and we've decided that twenty-three miles isn't so far. You see, when you're a scout distance doesn't amount to anything, because we hike. And if you go scout-pace, you don't get tired at all. Did you ever try scout-pace?"

"No, I never did."

"Well, you've missed something. You ought to try it. Would you like me to show you?"

"I think I'll stick to the automobile," said Mr. Stanton, dubiously.

"Well, you know, when Harry gets all well he could paddle down and he could run the machine, and besides they have two autos at Roy's and he runs them, and they've got one at Westy's-of course, it isn't exactly an automobile, it's a Ford-and in the summer it would be easy going back and forth and in the winter we only have one meeting a week, and he could come down Fridays and stay at my house till Sunday. Oh, gee, I hope nothing will happen now to stop him from joining Tom's patrol. Tom would be awful disappointed."

Nothing did happen, and Pee-wee took his full measure of glory. The doctor proved his staunch supporter, and even Mrs. Stanton said reluctantly that she supposed Harry might go, but that they must be very careful to bring him safely home to her again.

"Didn't we bring him home once?" Pee-wee demanded. "You leave it to me."

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