Read CHAPTER VI - TAKING A RISK FOR THE SAKE OF LITTLE LINA. of The Boy Scouts in the Maine Woods / The New Test for the Silver Fox Patrol, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on ReadCentral.com.

Thad understood it all now, and the knowledge gave him a thrill. He thrust out his hand to the young guide, with boyish enthusiasm.

“Shake, Jim!” he exclaimed. “I just know you did what any decent man would have done. And so you managed to run away with the old man’s daughter, did you? Was she all he had?”

“On’y Little Lina; an’ he believed the sun rose an’ set in her, like. They cud all say as Cale Martin war a bad man, an’ he war rough as they make ’em, sumtimes; but he’d a laid down his life fur thet gal, any day. I was dead sorry tuh hev tuh do hit; but I knowed he’d never give in, an’ I jest cudn’t live without her. We gut outen this deestrict while Cale war off on a hunt, an’ I hain’t never seen hide nor hair o’ him sense. But he sent me word thet ef so be I ever kim back tuh the old stampin’ grounds, he hed it in fuh me, all right.”

“How long ago was that, Jim?”

“Nigh a yeah an’ er half now,” the other replied.

“And of course your wife has often wished she could see her father again, Jim?”

The guide groaned.

“Cried her putty eyes out, awantin’ tuh see her dad,” he admitted; “but what cud a man do ’bout hit, if Cale, he wudn’t forgive me? He sent word as haow Lina cud kim back, but me, never; an’ in course she wudn’t quit me.”

“But now, Jim; tell me about who gave you the orders you were saying something about a while ago?” pursued Thad.

“She done hit, in course,” answered the other, heaving a sigh. “I knowed the risk I war takin’, but I’d do a right smart more fur my Lina.”

“Then as I take it, Jim, you don’t really want to avoid Old Cale, this fiery father-in-law of yours; in fact, you mean to see him face to face?”

“Got ter,” replied the other, laconically; “’cause she sez so. Hit may be I kin do hit on the way up to the lakes; but if not then I’m acomin’ back with Eli an’ the canoes thisaways, arter yuh gits aboard ther train; an’ I’ll hang around this deestrict till we meets. Never’d dar’ show myself tuh her, ‘less I done everything agoin’ tuh kerry it out.”

“And don’t you feel a little uneasy about your ears, Jim?”

“Wall, it wudn’t be jest the nicest thing agoin’ tuh lose ’em; but she sez as haow Olé Cale, he’s bound tuh cave when he hears what I gotter tuh tell him.”

Evidently Jim had said all he meant to, and Thad took the hint.

“Well, all I want to say is that I admire your nerve, Jim; and the lot of us will stand back of you if you get in any trouble,” he remarked, earnestly.

“Hit’s right nice in yuh tuh say thet, sir, an’ sure I ’predate hit,” the guide went on to say, with a tremor in his voice; “but arter all, I guess thar hain’t goin’ tuh be any row, if me’n Cale, we kims tergether. I’m willin’ tuh resk it. But I must say as haow I don’t like the ijee o’ him asettin’ thar in them bushes, aimin’ his gun at me. But Cale Martin’s a squar man, as wudn’t shoot daown another without givin’ him a show. An’ I guess he jest done it fur fun.”

So Thad went back to the fire, and sat down. But he did not join in the merry talk that was going around. His thoughts were wholly given up to Jim and his story. He liked the short guide more than ever; and in the same proportion detested the big Maine backwoodsman whose daughter Jim had run away with.

Presently some of the boys complained of feeling sleepy, and arrangements were made for passing the night.

Both Jim and Eli declared that it would be only the part of wisdom to keep watch. There could be no telling what deviltry Cale Martin, assisted by his two congenial spirits, Si Kedge and Ed Harkness, might attempt to do. Perhaps, thinking that it would reflect on the guides if they annoyed the party whom Eli and Jim were convoying into the Maine woods, they might even try to set fire to the camp, and thus spoil the entire trip.

When morning came Thad and Allan had taken their turn at standing sentry; but none of the other scouts were called upon, because the leader did not have the greatest of confidence in their ability to remain awake, not to mention hearing, and comprehending, any sounds that might arise, and which spelled danger.

A consultation in the morning showed that only once had there been heard suspicious sounds. It was while Allan held the fort; and he declared that to the best of his knowledge they were far distant voices on the river. But although he listened carefully, and was prepared to give the alarm if necessary, nothing further developed that might be considered a peril to the camp.

The boys were feeling pretty good that morning. They had most of them enjoyed a fine sleep, and were as active as young colts.

Davy in particular seemed to be full of animal spirits; and when he felt like it, there was no end of the capers the athletic gymnast could do. One minute he was hanging from his toes from a high limb, looking like a monkey; and the next he had let go, whirled over three times in the air, and landed lightly on his feet on the soft ground; after which he would make his little bow, just like the celebrated performer in the great and only Barnum’s Circus, after he has thrilled the audience with one of his marvelous acts.

Bumpus sat and watched all these performances with open mouth. Secretly the fat boy aspired to imitate Davy in some of his antics; though Giraffe always scoffed loudly at the absurd idea of a heavy weight like Bumpus trying to play the part of a nimble ape.

Several times had the ambition of Bumpus got the better of his judgment, and he had endeavored to follow in the wake of the active member of the party; but always with disastrous results; so that for some time now he had taken it out in gaping, and wishing, and longing for the time to come when he could get rid of his surplus fat, so that he might be nimble like Davy.

Giraffe during breakfast was unusually silent and sober. Thad guessed where his thoughts were straying, and consequently it did not surprise him in the least to overhear the tall boy muttering to himself, while he shook his head stubbornly:

“I c’n do it all right; I just know I can!”

Step Hen amused himself watching a sharp-eyed little striped chipmunk stealing some bits thrown aside from the camp meal. Time was when Step Hen might have been guilty of trying to hit such a fair mark with a club or a stone; but that was in the past. He would not have lifted a finger now to injure that innocent little creature for worlds; but sat there, deeply interested in observing every movement it made, just as if it were a pet.

Jim seemed to be himself again; at least when Thad looked toward him inquiringly, the guide nodded his head, and smiled. Evidently Jim had slept over his trouble, and decided that he was doing the right thing. For the sake of Little Lina he was ready to go right along, taking big chances of losing his precious ears; for only too well did he know that Old Cale was a man of his word; and that he must have meant everything he said to the messenger who bore the threat to Jim.

Davy was wild to develop the film upon which he had taken that snapshot picture on the preceding night; but there were a number of obstacles in the way of doing that. First of all, there were five other exposures on that roll, as yet untouched; and as a clinching argument, Davy had not bothered bringing a developing tank, or printing outfit along with him, fearing that they would take up too much room.

And so he would have to be content to wait until they reached some place where a photographer held forth, who would undertake to do the job, for a consideration.

Of course the picture of that breakfast would hardly be complete without Step Hen suddenly breaking forth in his customary strain:

“Where’s my oh, here it is, on my head, of course! How queer that I should forget I put it there,” and he had to actually take his hat off, and look at it, as if hardly able to believe his eyes, and that for once his anticipated difficulty had been smoothed over so easily.

Davy joined in the general laugh that greeted this outbreak; then he walked gravely over, and insisted on feeling of Step Hen’s neck.

“Hey! what you up to, now, you Jones boy? Keep your paws off me!” exclaimed the object of this solicitude, suspiciously dodging.

“I only wanted to make sure that the connection was sound still,” retorted the other; “because some fine day, all of us expect you to lose your head.”

“Well, I’ve seen you lose yours more’n a few times, when you got flustrated and excited; and it didn’t seem to hurt much,” Step Hen retorted.

“There’s a big difference in heads,” remarked Davy.

“I should say there was,” replied the other, meaningly; “and the gray stuff that’s in ’em, too. Some are hollow, like a punkin; while others, mine for instance, are just crammed full of thinks.”

“Well, I’d advise you to use a few of the thinks trying to remember where you put your belongings; and quit accusing the rest of us of playing tricks on you; or a silly little jinx of stealing things.” Davy went on, shaking his finger at the careless scout.

“If all you fellows are done eating, perhaps we’d better get a move on us,” suggested the scoutmaster; of course Thad was really only the assistant, for according to the regulations governing all troops of Boy Scouts connected with the parent organization, there had to be a grown-up acting in the capacity of scoutmaster; though Thad had passed an examination that entitled him to receive his commission as assistant, from the headquarters in New York City.

As this gentleman, a Dr. Philander Hobbs, had been unable to get away with them on this trip to Maine, he had relegated his authority to the shoulders of Thad; a proceeding that was greatly relished by the other five scouts, because they liked to feel that they were depending on themselves, with no grown-up along.

Accordingly there was a movement among the campers. Tents had to come down, and be stowed away; and all the material connected with the cooking department made into as small a compass as possible.

All of them worked but Giraffe, who was on his knees near by, doing something that Thad could easily guess the nature of. Knowing the stubborn qualities in the angular scout Thad felt sure that none of them would know any peace until Giraffe had finally managed to strike a clue, and effect the end he had in view, of making an actual boni-fide fire after the way known to the South Sea Islanders, with his little bow, his sharp-pointed stick set in a hole made in a block of wood, and his inflammable tinder, backed by indomitable energy, and “get there” spirit.

And for the sake of harmony in the camp, Thad really wished Giraffe would hurry up, and solve the knotty problem.

Inside of half an hour they were all packed, and ready to make another start in the direction of the Eagle chain of lakes to the north.