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Tom Slade on the River By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 12742

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

"What the dickens does he mean by an invisible badge, do you suppose?" Westy Martin asked.

"You can go through my pockets," said Roy. "Tomasso is the Boy Scout puzzle. They ought to give him away with a years subscription to Boys' Life. I wish that hadn't happened, though. Jiminy, who'd have thought that kid would go up in the air like that!"

Tom had not been long in regaining his stolid composure; he appeared to entertain no grudge against Raymond, and even offered to bait his hook for him, for the little fellow angled continually, notwithstanding that he never caught anything. But his offer was indignantly refused, and Raymond would have nothing to do with him.

The Honor Scout cruised leisurely up the river, held at anchor for the scouts to swim now and then, and making shore at safe places when the tide was full, for luncheon or supper on the wooded banks with the precipitous mountains rising sheer above them.

Harry Stanton was hardly recognizable now as the panic-stricken, scatter-brained youth whom they had found on the mountain. Under Mr. Ellsworth's eagle eye he had a chance to show his skill at swimming, but his wish to be ever in the water was discouraged and for the most part he contented himself with reading the Handbook and studying the second-class tests. Already he had "backfired" which was the word they used for the act of qualifying for a merit badge before one reached the stage where the scout rules would permit him to receive such a badge.

This was in music. He had played a mandolin in former days and now he had one of those Hawaiian instruments-a Ukulele-and he would sit on the cabin locker by the hour picking out the soft South Sea airs, to the delight of the whole troop.

The dream of his life at present was to attain to second-class, and he would talk eagerly about tracking and signalling and first-aid. His impulsiveness sometimes ran to the point of agitation and he seemed to have little balance wheel when he got excited, but he was getting better fast and as the boys came to know him for what he was they grew to like him immensely.

In the course of their meanderings northward, they came again to Catskill Landing and Roy, Doc Carson and Pee-wee hiked up to the camp to see how things were and to get a sweater which Doc had left there, while the others transferred some of the luggage from the Honor Scout to the Good Turn, for the Elks meant to continue in the smaller boat so as to relieve the rather congested condition of the other.

Late in the afternoon the three scouts returned, Doc carrying the sweater on the end of his staff like a pennant. Roy carried a large jar of marmalade (or "motherlade" as he called it) which the chief cook had presented to the voyagers; and Pee-wee carried an extensive scout smile. He was Law Eight, personified.


"What's the news?" called one of the group that was lolling on the Honor Scout's cabin.

"The plot grows thinner," said Roy. "Here, take this and put it in the galley, compliments of Beefsteak Ben.... Don't say a word, a dark and bloody mystery has been solved. Believe me, they've got a sleuth up there that has Tom beaten forty-'leven ways."

"How's everybody?" Will Bronson asked.

"Fine," said Doc. "There's two troops there from Boston--"

"You ought to see the beans that crowd eats," Roy interrupted; "and mince pie-go-o-odnight!"

"There's a bunch came from Brooklyn--"

"Can you blame them?" interrupted Roy again.

"And a troop from Canada--"

"Daon'tcher knaow," interrupted Roy, with an exaggerated imitation of the English accent.

"Gee, that's some troop," said Doc. "They came from Montreal and they wear trousers that don't tuck in and show part of their legs and they wear little silver swastika badges that they get for special service. They look awfully different from the other fellows--"

"They showed us how to raise the English flag," said Pee-wee, excitedly. "Maybe you think the English flag hasn't got any top and bottom to it. Anybody can tell when the American flag is upside down--"

"Well, I should hope so," said Mr. Ellsworth.

"And maybe you think because the English flag has a center design that you can't fly it upside down-- There's where you're wrong!"

"I don't see that any of us is wrong since none of us has committed that crime," laughed Mr. Ellsworth. "We're not in the habit of flying the British flag at all."

"I did," boasted Pee-wee.

"Well, then, don't blame us for your sins," chuckled the scoutmaster.

Pee-wee subsided for the moment, but the time was to come, and that not so far distant, when this redoubtable "good turner" should enter stores and even public buildings, in Uncle Sam's domain, and do the British Empire a good turn by explaining how her proud emblem was being flown without, upside down.

"They've been doing war work," said Doc. "They built recruiting stands in Montreal, and they sand-papered three thousand muskets that had to be varnished, and distributed enlistment posters, and-- Oh, I don't know what all. They showed us a poster like the ones they distributed. It said 'Meet me at the battle-line.'"

"Meet me at the clothes-line, that's where I hang out!" put in Roy.

"Oh, they're one peach of a troop!" enthused Pee-wee.

This troop of Canadian scouts had produced a great impression on the three boys, and, from their account, had done the same on all the others at Temple Camp. The three were full of enthusiasm for their wide-awakeness and efficiency, to say nothing of their patriotic activities. It started the Bridgeboro boys thinking of what part they might be permitted to play if Uncle Sam were drawn into the great war.

These Canadian youngsters, according to Doc, had shown the greatest friendliness toward their American brothers, standing with hats removed when the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and had become very popular in camp, and shown an almost uncanny proficiency in tracking and the faculty for deduction. One of their patrol leaders, indeed, was a veritable hand-writing expert, and knew besides dozens of scout signs used in the Canadian Rockies. But it fell out that he did Tom Slade a very bad turn.

The enthusiastic report of the boys had two very marked effects upon the party, one of which they would be de

stined to recall in strenuous days to come. These were their admiration for the fine organization and superb proficiency of the English scouts, and for the manner in which they were "doing their bit" for their country in these days of trial. It seemed to bring the Bridgeboro boys very near to the war.

Garry, who sat quietly upon the combing listening to Doc's account, with occasional spasmodic punctuations by Pee-wee, thought regretfully of his own efforts to form a little troop, and of how meagre and discouraging the results had been beside these splendidly organized scout units with which it seemed his fate to mingle.

"Well, how about the mystery?" Connie Bennet prompted.

"I thank you," said Roy. "The mystery is all right, all right, and it proves the good old rule that your sins are sure to find you out. I hold here an envelope to be delivered to Tomasso Slade-main geezer of the Elks. Stand, Tomasso, so I can get a good shot at you! Who sent the money for Raymond Hollister to stay at camp till September?" he shouted, suddenly. "And you thought you'd get away with it, didn't you-you big sneak! Deny it at your peril! Now I know where the profits from the Friday Evening Pest went! There's a fellow-Rolly Culver, from Montreal, Canada-who has your number, all right! Deny the allegation and denounce the alligator, if you dare!"

Everybody stared at Tom, who was blushing right up to the roots of his towsled shock of rebellious hair.

"What do you mean?" said he, sullenly.

"Ah, well may you ask what I mean, Sherlock Nobody Holmes!" triumphed Roy, shaking the envelope exasperatingly in Tom's face. "I mean that you tried to beat Mr. John Temple to it-that's what I mean! And Rolly Culver from Canada FOILED you! See?"

"No, I don't," said Tom, glancing shamefacedly across the deck at little Raymond and looking as if he had committed a crime.

"I mean it's good we hiked up there," said Roy, more seriously. "A check got there yesterday from Mr. Temple-a check for fifty bucks-mailed in the West Indies. It was for Raymond to stay at camp till fall."

"Go-o-odni-ght!" exclaimed Will Bronson.

Garry stared, intensely interested.

"You ought to have heard Jeb tell about it," said Roy. "'When I see es haow they follyed one anuther up,'" he went on, accurately mimicking Jeb. "'I sez thar' must be sump'n wrong somewhar.' And just by chance," Roy continued, "he hauled out of his old buckskin wallet the old crumpled piece of paper that had come with the other money-the fifty buckarinos in cash-and it's lucky he happened to show it to that Culver kid, believe me! That fellow said it was the same writing as the writing on the bulletin board at camp. Other fellows said, no; but he stuck to it and showed them how to compare curves and letters, and strokes and dots and things-even straight lines-and there you are," concluded Roy, delightedly. "We all know who had charge of the bulletin board-- And you thought you'd make Mr. Temple the goat, didn't you, with your two twenties and a ten! You thought he'd forgotten Raymond, didn't you. And you thought you'd get away with it! We've got your number, Tomasso, my boy, and we know why you've been wearing old gray flannel shirts and book straps, and things. Here you are-there's your fifty!" he concluded, throwing the envelope triumphantly in Tom's face. "It would have gone back to Mr. Temple if it hadn't been for Rolly Culver and me!"

There was no mistaking Roy's overwhelming delight, despite his denunciatory tone and he watched joyously as Tom, distressed and uncomfortable, in face of the whole troop's stare, tore open the envelope and took out two twenties and a ten. For Roy had asked the camp trustees who cashed the check to return Tom's money in just the form in which he had sent it, when, having seen the Temples start for South America, he had gone to the post-office at home in Bridgeboro, and with characteristic disregard of the risk, had sent his whole savings in cash to Temple Camp, that nature might complete the good work she had begun for little Raymond Hollister.

"I didn't think anybody'd find out," said Tom doggedly.

"No, I don't suppose you did," laughed Mr. Ellsworth.

"John Temple spoiled it for you," said Doc.

"You can't get the best of that man!" shouted Pee-wee. "There's no use trying!"

"Tom," said Garry, simply, "I was always glad I turned Stanton over to you, but now I'm gladder than ever. You can see yourself what you've done for Raymond."

"Yes, and we can all see what kind of a pal Raymond has, too," Roy shot back. "You'll be leader of a swell patrol some day, Garry, or I miss my guess."

Garry only smiled. "All things come round to him who waits," said he.

"Come here, Tom," said Mr. Ellsworth. "If there was a merit badge for this sort of thing you'd be a star scout tomorrow. Come over here, my boy."

There was the faintest reminder of the old hoodlum shuffle in Tom's clumsy gait as he went sheepishly across the deck and leaned against the boat's rail near his scoutmaster, speechless, almost expressionless. The book-strap was drawn absurdly tight around his waist. The old, worn, faded gray flannel shirt that he wore was a sight. But upon the back of it, such as it was, Mr. Ellsworth administered a resounding slap.

"That's what you meant by an invisible badge, hey?" said Westy, suddenly; "a good turn kept secret."

"I'm afraid none of us have quite understood Tom," said Mr. Ellsworth, simply. Then he turned and looked with the winningest smile at little Raymond. "None of us have understood him, have we, Ray?"

"No, sir," said Raymond, timidly.

"And it shows us that being a scout means more than just wearing the scout suit, eh?"

"Y-yes, sir."

"You see, one can be a very good scout in a very ragged shirt, and he can, if he wishes to, be a very punk scout in full khaki. You get me, Ray?"

"Ye-yes, sir."

"Well, then, what are we going to do about it?" Mr. Ellsworth asked pleasantly.

Garry understood, if Raymond did not, for he started the little fellow over toward Tom, and Tom took the timid hand and held it.

Then suddenly, in one of those freaks of impulse that Raymond sometimes showed, he reached with his other hand and grasped Tom's arm. With the arm that was free Tom encircled the small, agitated form.

Raymond was crying like a baby.

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