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   Chapter 17 LOST!

Tom Slade on the River By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 8267

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"Do you know what I've decided, do you know what I've decided?" demanded Pee-wee, uproariously.

"Break it to us gently and let us hear the worst," said Roy.

"I decided that we ought to stop in Albany and have Tom buy a suit. I didn't say anything before, but crinkums, he ought not to go to Plattsburg without a suit. You can see that yourself. And he can get one now, all right."

"Hear that, Tom?" said Mr. Ellsworth, quizzically.

They were running up the stretch of river above Castleton and would reach the capital that day, if their plans held good.

"I got no objections to getting a suit," said Tom. "I believe in suits. I never said I didn't."

The Good Turn had run up alongside the Honor Scout which had come to anchor for swimming and luncheon, and Tom and his patrol had gone aboard the larger boat for "eats," where an uproarious session of jollying usually awaited him.

"Hurrah for Sigmund Eisner!" shouted Roy. "He's the fellow that makes scouts, hey, Raymond?"

"No, he isn't," said Raymond, quite boldly. "He's the fellow that makes suits."

"Same thing, only different," said Roy.

"I guess we all believe in the khaki," said Mr. Ellsworth, "only we know it's not the khaki that makes the scout."

"Any more than it's the pants that make the panther, or the badge that makes the badger," said Roy. "I vote for Tom to buy a suit and we'll all go with him to help him choose it."

"No, you don't," said Tom, with an actual approach to animation. "I won't buy it if the whole troop goes along."

"We wouldn't kid you," said Connie. "Honest, we won't."

"Hear what Bennover Connet says? We'll promise to be good and--"

"I'll take no chances," said Tom. "I don't mind if two or three go, so's to help me get fitted right, but--"

"One representative from each patrol," suggested Roy.

"All right," said Tom, resignedly.

About the middle of the afternoon they reached Albany and tied up at a lumber wharf right under the shadow of the big night boat, the majestic bulk of which made the Good Turn and even the more imposing Honor Scout look very insignificant.

"Now for a fling on shore," shouted Roy. "Hand me something till I fling it on shore," he added, hitching his trousers in true mariner's fashion.

"Oh, the sailor's life is bold and free,

Yo hum, yo ho, yo ha, yo hee!

The briny foam he doesn't fear-

When the foam is on an ice cream soda.

Tom's going to treat."

Roy, being the leader of the Silver Foxes, represented that patrol in the suit-buying expedition; Tom represented his own patrol, and Artie Van Arlen, leader of the Ravens (of whom you shall know more in another volume) completed the trio.

"Correct imitation of a boy scout hunting for an ice cream soda," said Roy, climbing stealthily over the lumber pile and picking his way up to the street. "Gee, it seems funny to be in a city, doesn't it? What are all the flags for?"

"What flags?" said Tom.

"Flagstones-you're walking on 'em. No sooner said than stung!"

"Tom's easy," said Artie.

"He bites like a sunfish," said Roy.

It did not take them long to reach a thoroughfare where their tanned faces and jaunty, out-of-town air attracted no little attention.

"Maybe they know we're just fresh from a life on the ocean wave," suggested Artie.

"They can see we're fresh, all right," said Roy. "We should worry."

In the first confectionery store which they came to they lined up at the soda counter from behind which a white-jacketed man smiled at them.

"Give me a raspberry sundae," said Artie.

"V-vanilla," said Tom, hesitatingly.

"I'll take heliotripe-trope," said Roy.

The man waited, laughing good-naturedly.

"I can't seem to make up my mind," Roy went on, studying the tempting printed list. "Aren't mad, are you?"

"Me?" said the man. "No, indeed, I'm glad you're so happy."

"We're not happy," said Roy. "We laugh, ha-ha, and dance ha-ha, but we're not happy. I think I'll take-let's see-I'll take-I think I'll take-chocolate. Happy thought, that's my patrol color!"

Tom paid for the sodas and Roy bought some peanut brittle. The man

smiled after them as they went out.

"The natives on the island seem to be friendly," said Roy.

"That's a good idea," said Artie, "picking out your patrol color."

"Sure," said Roy. "I'm going to write to National Headquarters and tell them to print a rule in the Handbook-next edition."

"What?"

"Don't you know what an edition is? You know what a dish is? Well--"

"Rule," said Artie. "'Scouts buying sodas should always select their own patrol colors'?"

"Sure," said Roy. "Good idea. Tom would always take raspberry, I'd take chocolate, and you'd take-let's see--"

"Oh, there's a big dry goods store," said Artie.

They cut across the street and entering a large store, asked where scout supplies were sold.

"Two aisles to your right, then one to your left," was the answer.

"We get you," said Roy.

Reaching the point indicated, and seeing no scout supplies, they asked again.

"Two aisles down and take the elevator to the third floor; then two aisles forward," said a young lady.

"We thank you," said Roy, bowing elaborately.

Having followed these directions and seeing no scout supplies, they inquired of another clerk.

"In the basement," said the clerk.

The three tramped back and down the stairway.

"Keep your scout smile on," said Artie.

"Scouts, I think we're lost," said Roy, "and darkness is coming on."

In the basement they saw tents and canoes in the distance.

"Maybe it's a scout camp in the wilds of a department store," said Roy. "Are you getting tired, Tom?"

"I bet Jeb Rushmore could find it all right," said Artie.

"You said something; but I think we're hot on the trail now."

Arrived at the spot which looked like a camp, they asked for scout suits.

"You want supplies," said the young lady.

"Right the first time," said Roy.

"Those are on the fourth floor."

The three sank down in one of those swinging porch benches and breathed heavily, much to the girl's amusement.

"What do you say we blaze the trail," said Roy, "so other scouts will be able to follow it?"

"It seems there's a difference between camping goods and sporting articles," said Artie.

"I say, let's not give up," contributed Tom.

They rose and sallied laughingly forth, through aisles and around corners to the elevator. On the fourth floor they found themselves in a wilderness of carpets and rugs and bureaus, tables, chairs and curtains.

"This beats the hill where we found Stan," said Tom.

"Keep a good heart, scouts," said Roy. "We'll come out all right yet. This has got the Canadian Rockies beat twenty ways."

"Sporting supplies?" pleaded Roy of the first clerk they saw.

"Two aisles over."

"Scout suits?" he asked, reaching that point.

"One floor down, in the boy's clothing."

Near the stairway they encountered a friendly looking man in black, standing with his hands clasped behind him.

"Hey, mister," said Roy, "we are boy scouts and we're lost. It's getting late and we have to get back to our boat before dark. We can't seem to hit the right trail and we're afraid we'll starve if night comes on. We want to find the place where they sell scout suits."

The man laughed pleasantly and resting his arm over Roy's shoulder, went part way down the stairs with them and pointed to a scout suit on a wooden form at the other side of the store.

"There you are," he said, smiling.

"We thank you," said Roy.

"Don't lose sight of it," suggested Artie.

"We're all right now," said Tom.

Reaching the elusive spot, they found themselves at last at the haven of their desire, for there was the wooden boy scout facing them, his stiff arm raised and his painted fingers sticking upright in the scout salute, as if to greet the tired wayfarers, who sank down, panting ostentatiously, upon a bench close by.

"What do you say we agree not to tell the fellows that we were lost and-and-asked our way?" said Artie.

"All right," said Tom, "we're the three leaders and no one knows it but us. We'll keep quiet."

"If Pee-wee should ever hear of this," said Roy, "and find out that we asked our way-G-o-o-dni-ight!"

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