MoboReader > Literature > Tom Slade with the Colors

   Chapter 6 TOM AND THE GOLD CROSS

Tom Slade with the Colors By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 6695

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Mr. Ellsworth was right when he said that Tom had a way of doping things out for himself. He had picked up scouting without much help, and he seldom asked advice.

His duty was very clear to him now. As long as no one but himself and Roscoe knew about this miserable business, the mistake could be mended and no harm come of it.

The thing was so important that the smaller evil of neglecting his allotted task and foregoing the honors which awaited him did not press upon him at all. He was disappointed, of course, but he acknowledged no obligation to anybody now except to Roscoe Bent and those whom his disgrace would affect. Wrong or right, that is the way Tom's mind worked.

Quietly he took his hat and went out, softly closing the door behind him. For a second or two he waited in the hall. He could still hear the muffled sound of the typewriter machine in the office.

As he went down in the elevator he heard two gentlemen talking about the celebration that evening and about the governor's coming. Tom listened wistfully to their conversation.

He had already taken from his pocket (what he always carried as his heart's dearest treasure) a dilapidated bank book. He intended to draw ten dollars from his savings account, which would be enough to get him to Catskill Landing, the nearest railroad point to camp, and to pay the return fare for himself and Roscoe.

But the bank was closed and Tom was confronted by a large placard in the big glass doors:

CLOSED IN HONOR OF OUR BOYS.

DON'T FORGET THE PATRIOTIC RALLY TO-NIGHT. DO YOUR BIT!

YOU CAN CHEER IF YOU CAN'T REGISTER.

He had forgotten that the bank was to close early. Besides spoiling his plan, it reminded him that the town was turning out in gala fashion, and his thoughts turned again to the celebration in the evening.

"I gotta keep in the right trail," he said doggedly, as he turned toward home.

He did not know what to do now, for he had less than a dollar in his pocket, and he was stubbornly resolved to take no one into his confidence. If he had the money, he could catch a train before noontime and reach the mountain by the middle of the afternoon. He would make a short cut from the railroad and not go up through Leeds or to Temple Camp at all.

As he walked along he noticed that the street was gay with bunting. In almost every shop window was a placard similar to the one in the bank. A large banner suspended across the street read:

DON'T FORGET THE RALLY IN HONOR OF OUR BOYS TO-NIGHT!

"I ain't likely to forget it," he muttered.

He wondered how Roscoe's father felt when he saw that banner and this thought strengthened his determination so that he ignored the patriotic reminders all about him, and plodded stolidly along, his square face set in a kind of sullen frown.

"It's being-with the Colors, just the same," he said, "only in another kind of way-sort of."

As he turned into West Street he noticed on the big bulletin board outside the Methodist Church the words:

THE GOVERNOR WILL BE ON THE PLATFORM OUR BOYS WILL BE IN THE TRENCHES THE BOY SCOUTS ARE ON THE JOB AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT!

"They're a live bunch, that Methodist Troop, all right," commented Tom.

He raised his hand and gently lifted aside a great flag which hung so low over the sidewalk that he could not walk under it without s

tooping.

"Just the same, I can say I'm with the Colors," he repeated. "You can be with them even if-even if they ain't around--"

He had evidently hit on some plan, for he walked briskly now through Culver Street, his lips set tight, making his big mouth seem bigger still.

He entered the house quietly and went up to the little room which he occupied. It was very small, with a single iron bed, a chair, a walnut bureau, and a little table whereon lay his Scout Manual and the few books which he owned. Outside the window, on its pine stick, hung a stiff muslin flag which he had bought.

He unlocked the top bureau drawer and took out a tin lock-box. This box was his pride, and whenever he took it out he felt like a millionaire. He had gazed at it in the window of a stationery store for many weeks and then, one Saturday, he had gone in and bought it for a dollar and a half.

He sat on the edge of his bed now, with the box on his knees, and rummaged among its contents. There was the pocket flashlight his patrol had given him; there was the scout jack-knife which had been a present from Roy's sister; an Indian arrow-head that Jeb Rushmore had found; a memorandum of the birthday of his patrol, and the birthdays of its members, and a clipping from a local paper describing how Tom Slade had saved a scout's life at Temple Camp and won the Gold Cross.

From the bottom of this treasure chest he lifted out a plush box which he rubbed on his knee to get the dust off, and then opened it slowly, carefully. He never tired of doing this.

As he lifted the cover the sunlight poured down out of the blue, cloudless sky of that perfect day, streaming cheerily into the plain little room which was all the home Tom had, and fell upon the glittering medal, making it shine with a dazzling brightness.

Often when Tom read of the Iron Cross being awarded to a submarine commander, or a German spy, or a Zeppelin captain for some unspeakable deed, he would come home and look at his own precious Gold Cross of the Scouts and think what it meant-heroism, real heroism; bravery untainted; courage without any brutal motive; the courage that saves, not destroys.

He breathed upon the rich gold now (though it needed no polishing) and rubbed it with his handkerchief. Then he sat looking at it long and steadily. There, shining under his eyes, was the familiar design, the three-pointed sign of the scouts, with the American eagle superimposed upon it, as if Uncle Sam and the scouts were in close partnership.

Tom remembered that the Handbook, in describing the scout sign, referred to it as neither an arrow-head nor a fleur-de-lis, though resembling both, but as a modified form of the sign of the north on the mariner's compass.

"Maybe it's like a fleur-de-lis, so as to remind us of France, kind of," Tom said, as he rubbed the medal again, "and--"

Suddenly a thought flashed into his mind. "And it's pointing to the north, too! It's the compass sign of the north, and it tells me where to go, 'cause Temple Camp and that hill are north from here.... Gee, that's funny, when you come to think of it, how that Gold Cross can kind of remind you-of everything.... Now I know I got to do it.... Nobody could tell me what I ought to do, 'cause the Gold Cross has told me.... And it'll help me to ... it will...."

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares