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Tom Slade on the River By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 5235

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

"We'll have the initiation on the boat, hey?" exclaimed Pee-wee. "Just like in Pinafore, kind of. Ever see that play? It's a dandy! I saw it-the whole of it is supposed to be on a ship."

"Can I come and see the initiation?" Ruth Stanton asked.

"I'm sorry," began Roy, "but--"

"I don't believe a word you say."

"You leave it to me," said Pee-wee. "I'll fix it."

So the installation of Harry Stanton as a scout and a member of the Elk Patrol took place on the deck of his own beautiful cruising launch as it lay at Nyack Landing. The troop's own ceremony, by which Tom himself had become a scout, was used, but it had been performed so many times since then that it went off with a routine smoothness, free from any of the little hitches that are apt to mar the impressiveness of scout ceremonials. The three patrols were grouped separately and Mr. Ellsworth stood apart from them.

Garry, who, though an outsider, was asked to participate, presented the applicant to Tom.

The three simple requirements of the tenderfoot-familiarity with the twelve laws and the history of the American flag, and the ability to tie four kinds of knots-had been proved informally at Shady Lawn and it remained only for Tom to read the laws one by one, pausing after each and asking the applicant if he agreed to accept it and abide by it. Then Tom presented him to Mr. Ellsworth and Harry, nervous but trying to be self-possessed, made him the scout salute, then offered him the hand-clasp, and then made the scout sign, holding up his hand with the three fingers upright.

Then he took the familiar scout oath, and Tom stepped forward and pinned the tenderfoot badge on him. Then the whole troop filed past, each giving him the scout hand-clasp, after which he stepped back with Tom as the members of the Elk Patrol raised their voices in unison, simulating the cry of the elk.

And so the Elks, for whom the former hoodlum of Barrel Alley had striven and worked and planned, became a complete patrol at last.

"All over but the shouting," said Roy, not letting a minute elapse. "Better to be a pro-ally Elk than a German Silver Fox, hey? Listen to the Ravens rave," he added, as that patrol set up its familiar cry in honor of the occasion. "Some flock! Let's give the voice of the package-I mean the pack. Come on, Foxes!"

The Silver Foxes prided themselves on the accuracy of their fox call, and the attenuated "Haa-haa" resounded musically from the hills around.

"It's beautiful, isn't it," said Ruth Stanton, standing close to Garry and Raymond, who were watching half enviously. "I don't see how the

y can do it. Did you have a call when you had your patrol last summer?"

"It wasn't much of a call, it was kind of a squeak," said Garry in his quiet way. "We called ourselves the 'Church Mice' because we were so poor. It wasn't very much of a patrol and it all fizzled out."

"Wasn't that too bad! Why did it?"

"Oh, one fellow had to go away to school; another moved out west, and-oh, I don't know, it evaporated, sort of. You see, Edgevale isn't much of a place."

"They used to have a lake there," interrupted Roy, "but a bird stopped for a drink one day and after that they couldn't find the lake. Shows you what a big place it is-hey, Garry?"

Garry laughed good-naturedly.

"Not very far from where we live is Vale Centre; Warrentown is near, too. That's the county seat and they've got a bully troop there."

"Why don't you join that?" asked Ruth.

"Well, it's a full troop, and when a troop's full it can't be any fuller. You just have to start another and I guess I wasn't smart enough-hey, Raymond? We're just free lance scouts now," he added. "I don't know as they'll call us scouts at all at National Headquarters."

"You should worry," called Roy, overhearing scraps of their talk.

"You've done something more than form a patrol," Ruth said, soberly. "You should have heard what Dr. Brown said about you-and my father and mother. That headquarters wouldn't dare to say you aren't a scout."

"Oh yes, they would-they're very brave. They've got heroes in there who'd think no more of cancelling an index card--"

"You're almost as silly as Roy. But I know you don't think it's a joke. I can see by the way you look at them how you feel."

"They're a fine troop," Garry said, as he watched the boys. "Next to that troop in Warrentown they're the best all-around troop I ever saw-and you see some pretty good ones up there at camp."

Ruth told her mother that afternoon that she liked Garry better than any of them-he was so quiet and had such a funny way of saying things.

"Better than Roy?" Mrs. Stanton asked.

"Yes, Roy's so foolish."

But just the same, after the Honor Scout had gone away, she missed Roy immensely. Indeed, she missed them all; their brief stay (entirely apart from the miraculous return of her brother) had been a delightful event in her life, and now with only the parrot to relieve her loneliness, it seemed as if the bottom had fallen out of things. Even the parrot reminded her of Roy, for when she told the bird that it was lonesome and slow at Shady Lawn, he replied, "You should worry!"-a phrase which he had never been known to use before.

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