Rod of the Lone Patrol by H. A. Cody
Chapter X. His First "Good Turn"
Rod was greatly excited over what Whyn had told him about the boy scouts, and on the way home he plied Parson Dan with numerous questions.
"Didn't you ever hear of them before, grandad?" he asked.
"Yes, Rodney, I did," was the reply. "But there are so many things taking place in the cities these days that it is hard for an old man like me to keep run of them all. If I were younger I might be able to do something. But in the country where the boys are so scattered, I am afraid that it would be a difficult undertaking to form a band of scouts."
"Well, I am going to be a scout, anyway," Rod declared. "I want to learn how to bring a drowned man back to life, and to talk with flags. Oh, it must be great to do that! How can I learn, grandad?"
"There must be books which explain such things," the clergyman replied. "Shall I write to the city to find out?"
"Oh, will you, grandad?" and Rod fairly danced with joy, and his eyes sparkled with excitement. "Will you write at once?"
"Yes, dear. I shall write the letter this evening, and it will go down on Monday."
"When will the book come?"
"It should be here by Wednesday."
"But, remember, Rodney, you must not let this scout idea interfere with your school lessons."
"No, grandad, I won't. I will study hard and fast so that I can read my scout book."
Parson Dan smiled as he watched the lad's enthusiasm. He thought, too, of another boy, who also had been full of life and fun, but who had been unnaturally checked when he should have been directed and led aright. He now realised only too well what a mistake had been made with Alec, and he was determined that the same should not be the case with Rodney.
The following days were very long ones to Rod. It seemed as if Wednesday would never come. He thought over everything Whyn had told him about the scouts, and wearied Mrs. Royal by telling her over and over again what he intended to do when the book arrived. He had not seen Whyn since Saturday, but was looking eagerly forward to seeing her as soon as he had his precious book.
Rod hurried home from school on Wednesday, certain that his treasure would be awaiting him. He did not dally along the road looking for birds' nests as was his usual custom. Neither did the butterflies interest him. He had something more important on hand, which absorbed all of his attention.
He had almost reached the rectory gate, when an automobile whizzed past, half-smothering him in a cloud of dust. This was a common occurrence during the summer months, and he paid little attention to the annoyance. The car had gone but a short distance, however, when a horse, driven by Miss Arabella Simpkins, took fright, reared, wheeled, upset the carriage, and threw the driver into the ditch. The terrified animal then bolted down the road dragging the overturned carriage after it.
The men in the car were greatly concerned over the accident. They picked up the apparently unconscious woman, and found that blood was streaming from her nose. Seeing Rod standing near, they asked him who the woman was, and where she lived.
"She's Miss Arabella," was the reply. "Guess her nose is hurt. Captain Josh said if ever she got into an accident it would be the first thing that would get smashed, 'cos it's so long, and is always poking into other people's affairs."
The three men looked keenly at the boy, and then at one another, while the faint semblance of a smile lurked about the corners of their mouths.
"We must get her home at once," one of them remarked. "Is there a doctor anywhere near, boy?"
"The doctor lives five miles down the road," Rod replied. "But I guess we don't need him. Just wait a minute. I know what will stop that bleeding."
With that, he sprang across the ditch, hurried through the garden, and entered the rectory. Presently he reappeared, carrying something in his hand, which proved to be a key. Going at once to the prostrate woman, who was lying upon the grass, he told the men to lift her up. When this was done, he quickly slipped the key down the back of her neck.
"There, I guess that'll stop the bleeding," he panted.
Hardly were the words out of his mouth, when Miss Arabella leaped to her feet.
"A snake! A snake!" she yelled. "It's gone down my neck!"
With much difficulty the men soothed her excitement, telling her that there was nothing the matter. At last they induced her to enter the auto, and soon she was being borne rapidly to her home.
Rod remained for a few seconds staring after them, while an amused twinkle shone in his eyes.
"She thought it was a snake, ho, ho. Won't Captain Josh laugh when I tell him that? I didn't mean any harm, though. I just wanted to do a good turn. Guess that was something that a scout would do."
About half an hour after this incident, Parson Dan arrived home, stabled his horse, and went into the rectory. He found Mrs. Royal in her little sewing-room on the north side of the house, busily engaged upon some of the Ladies' Aid work. She smiled as her husband entered.
"I was afraid you would be late, Daniel," she remarked.
"I drove hard," was the reply, "for I never like to keep a wedding waiting. I believe that I have ten minutes to spare, so I shall take a glance at the Marriage Service. It is so seldom we have a wedding that I am a little rusty."
"Won't you have a cup of tea, Daniel?" his wife asked. "It might freshen you up a bit."
"No, dear, not now. Just as soon as I look over the Service, I shall go into the church to have everything ready."
He was gone but a few minutes when he returned, with an anxious expression upon his face.
"Have you seen the key of the church, Martha?" he asked. "I cannot find it anywhere."
"It must be in its usual place, Daniel. It always hangs there, and no one ever thinks of touching it but yourself."
"Well, it's not there now, and I have hunted all through the study."
Mrs. Royal at once arose, and began to assist her husband in his search for the missing key. All their efforts were in vain, however, and before they were through the wedding party arrived. This was most embarrassing, for the ones who had come to be married were very particular, and would resent any delay. If they could not get into the church they were sure to be angry, for it would make them the laughing-stock of the entire parish.
"What shall we do!" Mrs. Royal gasped, as she glanced out of the window at the teams drawn up before the church. "Can't you force the door, Daniel?"
"No. It would take a blacksmith to do that. And, besides, I wouldn't allow it for any consideration. It would be terrible."
"Why not hold the wedding in the rectory, then?" Mrs. Royal suggested. "Perhaps they wouldn't mind under the circumstances."
"Wouldn't mind! Don't you know the Sanders well enough to realise what they would do and say? Haven't they been planning for a 'church wedding' for months? Here come more teams. What in the world shall we do!" and the parson drew forth his handkerchief, and mopped his perspiring brow.
"There must be only one person who knows where that key is," Mrs. Royal thoughtfully remarked.
"And who is that?"
"Rodney. If you didn't remove it, he must have done so."
"Where is he?" and the clergyman looked around as if expecting to see him appear.
"I do not know, Daniel. He always comes to see me when he returns from school, but I have not seen him this afternoon. That scout book came this morning, and he may be lost in that."
"But he is not in the house, Martha. I have boon all over the place and have not seen him."
"Is the book there?" his wife asked. "I left it on the dining-room table."
"I didn't see any book. But, hark, there is some one at the door. They're after me to attend the wedding, and what shall I say! How can I explain!" and the parson started to go to the door.
"Wait, Daniel," his wife called. "If the book is gone, Rodney must have taken it over to show it to Captain Josh, for he said he was going to do that just as soon as it came."
"But why should he take the key, Martha?" and the parson turned his despairing face upon hers.
"I do not know, Daniel. But you had better send some one after him at once. He may know something about it."
In the meantime the doorbell had been ringing furiously, and when Parson Dan at last opened it, he was confronted by several excited men, among whom was the bridegroom.
"What's wrong, parson?" Ned Percher cried. "We've been waitin' out here fer some time. The church is locked, and the people are gettin' impatient."
"I can't find the key, Ned, that's what's the trouble," the parson explained.
"Can't find the key!" came in a chorus from all.
"No. It's gone, and the only person who must know about it is Rodney, and I believe he's over at Captain Josh's."
The groom, a thick-set, red-faced man, now stepped forward.
"D'ye think this is the right way to treat me, parson?" he demanded. "Haven't I been always one of your best church members, and now when I'm to be married, ye lock the church against me, and say that the key is lost. What will Susie think? I'd like to know. She'll never get over the disgrace."
"You are not half as sorry as I am," Parson Dan replied as calmly as possible. "I am deeply mortified that such a thing should have happened. But talking will not mend matters now. The key must be found, so if one of you will hurry over to the Anchorage, and bring Rodney back, I shall be greatly obliged."
Ned Percher at once volunteered to go, and soon he was speeding for the captain's house by a short-cut through the field. There was nothing else for the rest to do but to wait in front of the rectory until the messenger should return with the boy.
The bride was greatly disturbed over the delay. So overcome was she with the excitement that she had to be carried into the house, where she lay upon the sitting-room sofa, quite hysterical. The women who gathered around her by no means restrained their tongues, thus making the young bride feel as badly as possible. Several expressed their opinion of the clergyman for allowing such a thing to happen. It was another example, so they said, of the mistake he had made in bringing up a child of whose parents he knew nothing. They had said so before, and were now more firmly convinced than ever. Others told what it meant for a wedding to be delayed right at the church door, and related a number of cases where ill luck had followed such weddings. Thus, by the time Ned Percher arrived, with Rod close at his heels, the bride was almost in a state of nervous collapse.
During this time of waiting Parson Dan spoke to no one. He knew that the less he now said the better it would be. His face had lost its usual genial expression, and his eyes no longer twinkled with humour. He was feeling very keenly the whole unfortunate affair. Never before during the whole course of his entire ministry had such a thing occurred. He had often boasted that he had never once been late for a service, nor had he kept people waiting at either a funeral or a wedding. He stood with his face turned up the road, and a sigh of relief at last escaped his lips when he saw Rod coming toward him.
The boy was greatly surprised to see so many teams and people in front of the rectory, for Ned would tell him nothing of what was taking place. He was astonished, as well, when he observed the worried look upon the parson's face. But he had no time for questions just then, for the clergyman laid a heavy hand upon the lad's shoulder, and demanded if he knew what had become of the key of the church.
Instantly the cause of the excitement flashed upon Rod's mind. His face became pale, and he glanced nervously around upon the men who had gathered near.
"Do you hear me?" the parson again demanded. "Do you know anything about that key?"
"Yes, grandad, I do," was the trembling reply.
"Where is it, then?"
"It's down Miss Arabella's neck."
"Down Miss Arabella's neck!" the clergyman repeated in profound astonishment. "What do you mean?"
"She got hurt, grandad, and her nose was bleeding, so I dropped the key down her neck. Captain Josh said that was the best thing to stop a bleeding nose."
For an instant Parson Dan glared at the little lad before him. Then his face softened, and as amused light shone in his eyes as the humorous side of the situation dawned upon him. He longed to laugh outright, and give the culprit before him a big hug. But he had to control his feelings in the presence of all the people, who saw nothing funny about the matter.
"Look here, Rodney," he said, "you go after that key as fast as your legs will carry you."
"Yes, grandad, I will," and Rod was off like a shot, glad to be free from the staring crowd.
So once more the wedding was delayed, and the murmurs of the waiting people increased.