Read CHAPTER XIX - GIRAFFE TRIES FOR THE FOURTEENTH TIME. 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.

“Whatever can we do, Giraffe?” asked Bumpus, presently, after he had sighed several times, in a most forlorn way.

“Oh!” remarked the other, making out to be little concerned about the matter, although his manner did not deceive the fat boy in the least, for he knew Giraffe was worried greatly; “there are lots of things we can do, all right; but you see the trouble is, Bumpus, they ain’t agoin’ to help out much.”

“We’re in a tough hole, all right,” grunted the other, disconsolately.

“Talk about Thad and Step Hen camping out;” Giraffe went on to say, “why their troubles couldn’t be mentioned in the same breath with ours, and you know it. They had aplenty of matches along, and could get all the blaze they wanted.”

“And say, think of having the best part of a fine young buck to cook!” burst out Bumpus, with another groan. “As for us, we’ve got the game all right; but however can we get down to eating partridges that ain’t ever even been near a fire.”

“Quit talkin’ of eating, Bumpus; you fairly set me wild,” declared the tall boy, rubbing his empty stomach, as though its calls were growing more insistent with a knowledge that they must pass unheeded now.

“Then you must be hungry?” suggested Bumpus.

“Hungry ain’t no name for it,” Giraffe replied. “That’s always the way, I’ve been told. When there ain’t no water, a feller feels as if his tongue was stickin’ to the roof of his mouth. And Bumpus, bein’ hungry ain’t the very worst of it, either!”

The fat boy sat up, and looked at his companion in misery as though startled.

“What you mean, Giraffe, by slingin’ that scare into me; I’d like to know what’s worse than starvin’ to death in a single night?” he demanded.

“Oh! shucks! don’t you worry about that,” the other went on, with a sneer. “Not so much chance of our comin’ to such an end in so short a time. But there is real danger around us, Bumpus.”

“Say, do you mean about them wolves?” exclaimed Bumpus, with a tremble in his voice.

“That’s just what I do mean,” came the reply “When they tackled our comrades, why they were bold as anything, even if the boys did have a fire burning all the time. Think of how we’re up against it, without a single match to start a blaze.”

“Then there’s only one thing for us to do, Giraffe.”

“Suppose you tell me what that is?” demanded the tall scout.

“Climb a tree,” replied Bumpus, promptly.

Giraffe made an impatient gesture.

“Of course we could do that, as a last resort, Bumpus; but the chances are, if we did, we’d freeze before morning!” he declared. “I’ve heard old hunters say that of all the agony they ever endured, being kept in a tree all night was the worst. Feel in your pockets again, Bumpus; try everywhere, and see if you can only scare up one single match. If you did, we’d be mighty careful not to waste it, I tell you. This is a case of ‘my kingdom for a match!’”

So the fat scout commenced a systematic search, Every single pocket did he feel in with trembling fingers, while his comrade watched his face anxiously, knowing that it was likely to indicate the success or failure of the search.

When he saw a sudden grin come upon that broad countenance Giraffe felt like bursting out into a yell of joy.

“Got one, haven’t you Bumpus?” he exclaimed, eagerly. “That was a bully good idea of mine after all, you see, having you look again. Say, won’t we be careful of that one precious match, though? And won’t we have the fine dry stuff all ready to kindle, as soon as I strike it. You must let me handle things, Bumpus, because, you know, I’m more used to what’s the matter with you? Don’t tell me it ain’t a match after all? Oh! thunder!”

Bumpus had slowly drawn his hand out of his pocket, and held some object up between his forefinger and his thumb. It was about the length of a match, but had a sharpened point, instead of a blunt head.

“A a miserable toothpick that I just dropped into my pocket when we ate that dinner at the restaurant!” groaned the wretched Bumpus, staring first at the offending object, and then turning a piteous face toward his comrade.

Giraffe managed to rise to the occasion. Perhaps he remembered that Thad had really committed the other into his charge; and that it was to him the scoutmaster would look to give a good account of the expedition. And then again, Bumpus was so shocked by the series of calamities which had befallen them that he looked almost ready to collapse.

So Giraffe drew himself up, and assumed a confidence that he was far from feeling.

“Don’t take on so, Bumpus,” he went on to say, almost cheerily. “It may not be so very bad, after all. Don’t let’s forget that we’re scouts; and must keep a stiff upper lip whenever things turn out wrong. We’ll just do the best we can; and I reckon it’ll all come out right in the end. It nearly always does, you know.”

At least his words and manner had some effect on the almost exhausted fat boy, who brightened up more or less.

“Now, that’s nice of you talking that way, Giraffe,” he said. “You’re the right kind of a chum to have in time of trouble. But say, ain’t it gettin’ cold though? Is that why you’re slapping your arms around so?”

“Try it, and see how quick you feel warmer, Bumpus,” replied the other, with the patronizing air of one who is superior in knowledge, and willing to impart all he knows; “you see, the violent action starts the heart to beating nearly twice as fast as it does ordinarily; and that pumps the blood harder, so it gets to the very end of your extremities. That’s what Thad says, anyhow; and it sure enough works.”

So, for a minute or two both lads kept up a strenuous exercise, though it was too much for poor Bumpus, who presently stopped.

“Feel better, don’t you?” demanded Giraffe imperiously.

“A whole lot; but doin’ that has one bad point, I find,” said Bumpus.

“As how?” asked his companion.

“Why, it keeps on making you all the hungrier; exercise always has that effect on me. Why, Giraffe, I feel like I could eat a whole ham right now.”

“Didn’t I tell you to let up on that style of talk; you’re just making me groan inside every time you speak of eatin’. We ought to be tryin’ our level best to better our condition.”

“But I don’t know anything that would help us, Giraffe; so it’s up to you to get us out of this ugly hole. Perhaps we might use a shell from my gun, and by taking out most of the powder, snap it off, and start a fire going.”

Strange to say, Giraffe did not seem to take to the idea, simple though it was; and later on commended by Thad and Allan, when they heard about the trouble. The fact was, Giraffe had suddenly remembered something.

“You leave it to me, and see if I don’t pull out a trick worth while,” he remarked mysteriously; and Bumpus saw him turn aside to get down on his knees.

For some time the fat boy sat there, apparently lost in bitter reflections. Now and then he would give a start, and look around him hastily, after which he would heave a great sigh, or else groan dismally. From this it might be assumed that Bumpus was allowing himself to dwell upon many a glorious supper he had devoured in the company of his Boy Scout chums; and just then he was enjoying things the best he knew how, he would remember the desolation that confronted himself and Giraffe.

Then he would pick up one of the two partridges that had fallen to his new Marlin ten bore, look critically at it, feel the meat on the plump breast; and then shake his head, as though the idea of having to turn cannibal, and devour the game raw did not appeal at all to him.

On one occasion, when he aroused himself from this abstraction he became conscious of a strange humming sound.

“What you doin’ there, Giraffe?” he demanded, as the noise certainly proceeded from the spot where his chum was down on his hands and knees.

“Why, you see,” replied the other, slowly, “I fetched my little bow and fire-makin’ outfit along with me, thinkin’ I might have a chance to try a scheme I got in my head. I’m gettin’ right into it now, because I want to start business before it’s real plumb dark!”

But far from reassuring the dejected Bumpus, these words only made him grunt. Had he not watched Giraffe working away for dear life with that miserable little outfit a dozen times, and always with the same result getting perilously near success, but always missing it by a hair’s breadth?

What chance did they have of securing the much desired fire, if all depended on Giraffe succeeding in inducing that twirling stick to generate enough heat to throw off a spark that would catch in the dry tinder? None at all. It was only a hollow mockery. Some smart scouts might be able to do the little trick; but up to now it had baffled the skill of Giraffe. Why, even Thad had lost pretty much all hope of his ever succeeding, Bumpus suspected; and believed that the only good thing about the tall scout’s labors was his persistence.

So, shaking his head again dolefully, Bumpus allowed himself to once more figure out a bill of fare that he would like to commence on, if he only had the good fortune to sit down at a table in a first-class restaurant. It seemed to give him untold satisfaction just to imagine the heaping platters that were being brought before him in rapid succession. Why, in his vivid imagination he could almost get the delicious odors of the various dishes that had long been favorites with him; particularly the liver and bacon and fried onions. Oh! how tantalizing to suddenly arouse himself with a start, to look around at the rapidly darkening scene of those lonely pine woods, and hear, instead of the waiter’s cheery voice, only that continual grinding sound, as the boy with the never-give-up nature kept sawing away with his miserable little bow; and the poor stick kept whirling back and forwards with a violent motion, in the socket that held one end.

In the estimation of Bumpus, that was coming down from the sublime to the ridiculous. He had little confidence in all this labor of Giraffe; though goodness knows, that if ever success would prove a boon to a couple of stranded hunters caught in the darkness of a wintry night, with not a match in their possession, it was then.