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   Chapter 4 THE CUP OF JOY

Tom Slade with the Colors By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 13839

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Tom was to have the next day off for his patriotic activities, but he went to the Temple Camp office early in the morning to get the mail opened and attend to one or two routine duties.

He found Miss Ellison already at her desk, and she greeted him with a mysterious smile.

"I hear you're going to be one of the celebrities," she said, busying herself with her typewriter machine.

"One of the what?" said Tom.

"One of the leading figures of the day. I don't suppose you'll even look at poor me to-morrow.-I was down in the bank and Mr. Temple said to send you down as soon as you came in."

"Me?" stammered Tom.

"Yes, you."

For a few seconds Tom waited, not knowing what to say or do-especially with his feet.

"You didn't notice if Roscoe was down there, did you?" he finally ventured.

"I most certainly did not," answered Miss Ellison, smiling with that same mysterious smile, as she tidied up her desk. "I have something else to think of besides Mr. Roscoe Bent."

Tom shifted from one foot to the other. "I thought you-maybe-kind of-I thought you liked him," said he.

"Oh, did you?"

He had never been quite so close to Miss Ellison before, nor engaged in such familiar discourse with her. He hesitated, moving uneasily, then made a bold plunge.

"I think you can-I think a person-I think a feller can tell if a girl kind of likes a certain feller-sort of--"

"Indeed!" she laughed. "Well, then, perhaps you can tell if I like you-sort of."

This was too much for Tom. He wrestled for a moment with his embarrassment, but he was in for it now, and he was not going to back out.

"I'm too clumsy for girls," said he; "they always notice that."

"You seem to know all about them," said the girl; "suppose I should tell you that I never noticed any such thing.-A girl usually notices if a fellow is strong, though," she added.

"It was being a scout that made me strong."

"There are different ways of being strong," observed Miss Ellison, busying herself the while.

"I know what you mean," said Tom. "I got a good muscle."

She leaned back in her chair and looked at him frankly. "I didn't mean exactly that," she said. "I meant if you make up your mind to do a thing, you'll do it."

Again Tom waited, not knowing what to say. He felt strangely happy, yet very uncomfortable. At length, for lack of anything better to say, he observed:

"I guess you kinder like Roscoe, all right."

For answer she bent over her typewriter and began to make an erasure.

"Don't you?" he persisted, gaining courage.

"Do I have to tell you?" she asked, laughing merrily.

Tom lingered for a few moments. He wanted to stay longer. This little familiar chat was a bigger innovation in his life than the long trousers had been. His heart was pounding just as it had pounded when he first took the scout oath. Evidently the girl meant to leave early herself, and see something of the day's festivities, for she was very prettily attired. Perhaps this, perhaps the balmy fragrance of that wonderful spring day which Providence had ordered for the registration of Uncle Sam's young manhood, perhaps the feeling that some good news awaited him down in Mr. Temple's office, or perhaps all three things contributed to give Tom a feeling of buoyancy.

"Are you going to see the parade?" he asked. "I got a badge here maybe you'd like to wear. I can get another for myself."

"I would like very much to wear it," she said, taking the little patriotic emblem which he removed from his khaki coat. "Thank you."

Tom almost hoped she would suggest that he pin it on for her. He stood for a few moments longer and then, as he could think of nothing more to say, moved rather awkwardly toward the door.

"You look splendid to-day, Tom," Miss Ellison said. "You look like a real soldier in your khaki."

"The woman where I board pressed it for me yesterday," he said, blushing.

"It looks very nice."

Tom went down in the elevator, and when it stopped rather suddenly at the ground floor it gave him exactly the same feeling that he had experienced while he talked to Miss Ellison....

Roscoe Bent was not at his desk as he passed the teller's window and glanced through it, but he did not think much of that, for it was early in the day and the sprightly Roscoe might be in any one of a dozen places thereabout. He might be up in the Temple Camp office, even.

John Temple, founder of Temple Camp and president of the bank, sat at his sumptuous desk in his sumptuous office and motioned Tom to one of the big leather chairs, the luxuriousness of which disconcerted him almost as much as had Miss Ellison's friendliness.

"I told Margaret to send you down as soon as you came in, Tom," said Mr. Temple, as he opened his mail. "I want to get this matter off my mind before I forget it. You know that General Merrill is going to be here to-night, I suppose?"

"I heard the committee was trying to get him."

"Well, they've got him, and the governor's going to be here, too; did you hear that?"

"No, sir, I didn't," said Tom, surprised.

"I've just got word from his secretary that he can spend an hour in our little berg and say a few words at the meeting to-night. Now listen carefully, my boy, for I've only a few minutes to talk to you. This thing necessitates some eleventh-hour preparation. The plan is to have a member from every local organization in town to form a committee to receive the governor and the general. That's about all there is to it.

"There's the Board of Trade, and the Community Council, and-let's see-the churches and the Home Defense and the Red Cross and the Daughters of Liberty and the Citizens' Club, and the Boy Scouts."

Already Tom felt flattered.

"Each of these organizations has designated one of its members to act on the committee. I had Mr. Ellsworth on the phone this morning and told him he'd have to represent the scouts. He said he'd do no such thing-that he wasn't a boy scout."

"He's the best scout of all of us," said Tom.

"He says you're the best," retorted Mr. Temple; "so there you are."

"Roy's got twice as many merit badges as I have," said Tom.

"Well, you've got long trousers, anyway," said Mr. Temple, "and Mr. Ellsworth says you're the representative scout, so I guess you're in for it."

"M-me?"

"Now, pay attention. You're to knock off work at the registration places at five o'clock and go up to the Community Council rooms, where you'll meet these ladies and gentlemen who are to form the reception committee. Reverend Doctor Wade will be looking for you, and he'll take you in hand and tell you just what to do. There won't be much. I think the idea is to meet the governor and the general with automobiles and escort them up to the Lyceum. The committee'll sit on the platform, I suppose. Doctor Wade will probably do all the talking.... You're not timid about it, are you?"

he added, looking up and smiling.

"Kind of, but--"

"Oh, nonsense; you just do what the others do. Here-here's a reception committee badge for you to wear. This is one of the burdens of being a public character, Tom," he added slyly. "Mr. Ellsworth's right, no doubt; if the scouts are to be represented at all they should be represented by a scout. Don't be nervous; just do as the others do, and you'll get away with it all right. Now run along. I suppose I'll be on the platform too, so I'll see you there.... You look pretty nifty," he added pleasantly, as Tom took the ribbon badge.

"Mrs. Culver pressed it for me," said Tom. "It had a stain, but she got it off with gasoline."

"Good for her."

"Would-do you think it would be all right to wear my Gold Cross?"

"You bet!" said Mr. Temple, busy with his mail. "If I had the scouts' Gold Cross for life-saving, I'd wear it, and I'd have an electric light next to it, like the tail light on an automobile to show the license number."

Tom laughed. He found it easy to laugh. He was nervous, almost to the point of panic, but his heart was dancing with joy.

"All right, my boy," laughed Mr. Temple. "Go along now, and good luck to you."

As Tom went out of Mr. Temple's office he seemed to move on wings. He was half frightened, but happy as he had never been in all his life. His cup of joy was overflowing. He had been through the ordeal of more than one generous ovation from his comrades in the troop; he had stood awkward and stolid with that characteristic frown of his while receiving the precious Gold Cross which this night he would wear.

But this was different-oh, so different! He, Tom Slade, was to help receive the governor of the state and one of Uncle Sam's famous generals. The Boy Scouts were to be represented because the Boy Scouts had to be reckoned with on these occasions, and he, Tom Slade, organizer of the Elk Patrol and now assistant to the scoutmaster, was chosen for this honor.

"I'm glad I had my suit pressed," he thought.

What a day it had been for him so far! He had had a little chat with Margaret Ellison, she had said she liked him-anyway, she had almost said it, and she had taken the little emblem from him and had said that if he made up his mind to do a thing he would do it. He remembered the very words. Then he had gone downstairs and received this overwhelming news from Mr. Temple. What if he had planted his seeds wrong and bored holes slantingways instead of straight? He was so proud and happy now that he added the official, patented scout smile to his sumptuous regalia and smiled all over his face.

He was usually rather timid about speaking to the men in the bank unless they spoke to him first, for the bank was an awesome place to him; but to-day he was not afraid, and his recollection of the pleasant little chat upstairs reminded him of a fine thing to do.

"Is Rossie Bent here?" he asked, stopping at the teller's cage.

"Bent!" called the teller.

Tom waited in suspense.

"Not here," called a voice from somewhere beyond.

"Not here," repeated the teller, and added: "Asleep at the switch, I dare say."

Evidently the people of the bank had Roscoe's number. A strange feeling came over Tom which chilled his elation and troubled him. Irresistibly there rose in his mind a picture of a waiting automobile, of a dark figure, and a silent departure late at night.

"I guess maybe he's just stopped to register, hey?" said Tom.

"Stopped for something or other, evidently," said the teller.

"Could I speak to Mr. Temple's secretary?" Tom asked.

Mr. Temple's secretary, a brisk little man, came out, greeting Tom pleasantly.

"Congratulations," said he.

"I meant to ask Mr. Temple if I could have a couple of reserved seat tickets for the patriotic meeting to-night," said Tom, "but I was kind of flustered and forgot about it. I could get them later, I guess, but if you have any here I'd like to get a couple now because I want to give them to some one."

"Yes, sir," said the secretary, in genial acquiescence; "just a minute."

Tom went up in the elevator holding the two tickets in his hand. If his joy was darkened by any growing shadow of apprehension, he put the unpleasant thought away from him. He was too generous to harbor it; yet a feeling of uneasiness beset him.

As he entered the office, Margaret Ellison, smiled broadly.

"You knew what it was?" he said boldly.

"Certainly I knew, and isn't it splendid!"

"I got two tickets," said Tom, "for reserved seats down front. They're in the third row. I was going to give them to Roscoe and tell him to take-to ask you to go. But he's-he's late-I guess he stopped to register. So I'll give them to you, and when he comes up you can tell him about it."

"I'll give them to him and say you asked me to."

"All right," Tom said hesitatingly; "then he'll ask you."

"Perhaps."

She disappeared into the little inner office where Mr. Burton was waiting to dictate his mail, and Tom strolled over to the big window which overlooked Barrel Alley and gazed down upon that familiar, sordid place.

It was a long road from that squalid tenement down there to a place on the committee which was to receive the governor of the state. Over there to the left, next to Barrey's junk shop, was poor Ching Wo's laundry, into which Tom had hurled muddy barrel staves. And that brick house with the broken window was where "Slats" Corbett, former lieutenant of Tom's gang, had lived.

A big lump came up in his throat as he thought over the whole business now and of where the scout trail had brought him. Oh, he was happy!

The bright spring sunshine which poured in through the window on that wonderful morning, the flags which waved gayly here and there, seemed to reflect his own joy, and he was overwhelmed with the sense of triumph.

"That was a good trail I hit, all right," he said to himself. He could not have said it out loud without his voice breaking.

One thing he wished in those few minutes of exultation. He wished that his mother might be there to see him on the stage, a conspicuous part of that patriotic demonstration, with the Gold Cross of the scouts upon his left breast. That would make the cup of joy overflow.

But since that could not be, the next best thing would be the knowledge that Margaret Ellison would be sitting there in the third row, looking ever so pretty, and would see him, and notice the Gold Cross and wonder what it meant.

"I'm glad I never wore it to the office," he mused.

And Roscoe Bent, with all his sprightly manners and fine airs, would see where this good scout trail, which he had ridiculed, had brought Tom.

"It's a bully-old-trail-it is," he said to himself; "it's one good old trail, all right."

He took out his handkerchief and rubbed his eyes. Perhaps the bright sunlight was too strong for them.

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