Chapter XII. Scout Work
 

Two weeks after the scout book arrived the Hillcrest troop of boy scouts was formed, with Captain Josh as scoutmaster, and Rod as patrol leader. Whyn had much to do with this, and her enthusiasm inspired and encouraged the others. News soon spread among the rest of the boys in the parish of what was taking place, and it was not long before several more asked to become members. The Scout Commissioner and the Secretary of the Province visited Hillcrest, explained many things, and started the work along proper lines.

Deep in his heart Captain Josh was delighted with the boys. They no longer feared him, though he was as gruff as ever. But they soon found that this gruffness was only on the surface, and that in reality he was deeply interested in their welfare. He studied the scout book thoroughly until he knew it from cover to cover. He was determined that his troop, even though it was known as the "Lone Patrol," was to be well trained, and a credit to the parish. He did not wish to have too many boys at first, but to drill the ones he had chosen until they were proficient in every part of the scout work.

Whenever the captain was in doubt as to what he should do, he always consulted with Whyn, for he found that she had excellent ideas, and remembered so much of what her brother Douglas had told her. Her joy was even greater than the captain's when she learned that a troop was to be formed, and she planned all sorts of things for the boys to do.

Just as the work was well under way, Mrs. Sinclair informed the Britts that she and Whyn must leave for the city. She had her work to do there without which they could not live. Then it was that the captain showed his hand. He had been thinking over this very matter for some time, and had discussed it with his wife.

"Let Whyn stay with us, Mrs. Sinclair," he suggested. "I do not see how we can get along without her."

"But I cannot afford that, captain," the widow replied.

"Can't afford what?"

"To pay her board."

"Who said anything about paying?" the captain demanded. "She's worth more than her board any day. We don't want any money. If ye'll let her stay with us we'll be quite willin' to pay you something fer her. We need her, and so do the scouts. It'll be a shame to take her back to that stuffy city at this time of the year."

"But what shall I do without her?" Mrs. Sinclair asked. "She is all I have near me, and I shall miss her so much if she remains with you."

"You can come and see her as often as you like," Mrs. Britt replied. "We shall be so glad to have you."

And so it was arranged that Whyn was to stay for several weeks at least, and the girl was delighted when she heard the news.

"You are the dearest and best people in the world, excepting mamma," she told the captain and Mrs. Britt. "It is so nice to be here, and when I know that mamma can come to see me often I do not mind staying."

"But ye'll have to behave yerself, young woman," the captain replied. "No more lyin' awake at night, remember, worryin' about the scouts. And ye've got to eat more than ye have in the past."

"Oh, no fear of that," and Whyn laughed merrily. "I am going to eat so much that you will be glad to send me away."

It did not take the captain long to get the scouts down to steady work. As the holidays were now on they often met during the afternoons, when the captain drilled them in marching, instructed them about the flag, and taught them how to tie a number of knots. It was necessary for them to know such things before they could obtain the tenderfoot badges. They had to learn the Scout Law as well. It was not all work, however, for the captain often took the boys for delightful spins upon the river in the Roaring Bess, and soon all the scouts were able to handle the yacht in a creditable manner.

It soon became evident that they must have a building of their own where they could meet on wet days. The Commissioner had told them that there was nothing like a club-room for their meetings. The captain had been thinking this over for some time, and at last offered the use of an old rafting shanty near the shore, and which could be easily seen from Whyn's window. This building was fairly large, made of boards, and the roof covered with tarred paper. It was well lighted by four windows, which showed up the dirty condition of the room in an alarming manner when the captain and the boys first inspected the place. There were remnants of old bunks, tables and chairs, while broken boxes were scattered about. But after two days of steady work a great change took place. The boys were willing and eager, and inspired by the captain they toiled until their backs ached. Holes in the roof were patched, the broken door mended, several chairs were brought from the boys' homes, and when all was done they were delighted at what they had accomplished. They now no longer dreaded wet days, for they had a place to meet where they could carry on their work to their hearts' content. The captain had two good flags, which he placed upon the wall, and the boys brought magazine pictures, and tacked them around the room. In this way the place was made very cosy.

Whyn was delighted with the progress which the scouts made upon their club-room, which she called "Headquarters." She could see it from her window, and often she would sit and watch as the boys worked around the building, cutting down some of the underbrush, and cleaning up the ground. When their work was done they always came to her room, and talked over everything with her.

At first some of the boys had been quite shy and diffident in Whyn's presence. But this soon wore away, and they all became the firmest of friends. There was nothing the scouts would not do for the invalid girl, and when they were in doubt about anything it was always to her they turned to help them out of their difficulty. She knew more about the scout work than they did, and many were the helpful suggestions she made.

"You must have scout suits," she told them one day, "and each of you must earn the money to buy his own. All the scouts do it, and it is really expected of them. Douglas sold newspapers to buy his, and I remember the day he brought his suit home. He looked so fine when he wore it, and we were proud of him."

The scouts liked this idea, and they spent over an hour discussing it, and how they were to earn the money. Whyn was able to tell the price of the entire suit, and where it could be bought in the city.

Rod listened to this conversation, but said little. He walked home in a very thoughtful mood, and the Royals noticed that he was more silent than usual as he ate his supper. Generally he was bubbling over with news about the scouts. But now he had nothing to say of what had taken place that afternoon. Rod was worried over the suit question, as he had not the slightest idea how he was going to earn the money to buy his. He could not think of any way out of his difficulty. The other scouts had plans which would not do for him, as they were farmers' sons, and could earn money right at home. He thought of this the last thing before he went to sleep that night, and the moment he awoke it came into his mind.

"I want you to take something for me over for Miss Arabella this morning," Mrs. Royal told him after breakfast. "The poor soul has not been well for some time, and I heard last night that she is worse. I have made up a few dainties for her as her appetite is almost gone, so I understand."

Rod did not fancy this errand, for he remembered only too well the last time he had seen Miss Arabella lying so still upon the sofa after her affair of the heart. It was, therefore, with lagging steps that he made his way across the field, carrying in his hand the little basket filled with the good things Mrs. Royal had sent for the invalid.

Miss Arabella was in bed looking paler than ever, so Rod thought her nose seemed longer than he had ever seen it. She was propped up with several pillows, and her hair was done up in papers. She looked to the boy like pictures he had seen of natives with funny head-dresses out in the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

"So Mrs. Royal sent those things, did she!" she whined. "She might have come herself. She has been here only three times this week, while you haven't been near me for a long time. I might die here, and no one would care. This is what people call a Christian land, is it?"

"What's the matter with you, Miss Arabella?"' Rod asked in surprise. "I didn't know you were sick. I have been so busy with the scouts that I haven't had time for anything else."

"Who are the scouts?" the invalid questioned. There was evidently something taking place in the parish of which she had heard nothing, and her curiosity was aroused.

Then Rod told her about the troop which had been formed, the club-room, and the wonderful girl, to all of which Miss Arabella listened with much interest.

"And do you mean to tell me that cranky old Captain Josh is looking after the scouts?" she demanded.

"Sure. He's great," was the reply.

"Well, I declare!" and Miss Arabella leaned back against the pillow as if exhausted by the idea.

"I wish you could see Whyn," and Rod gave a little sigh. "She'd do you a whole lot of good."

"Do me good! In what way, I'd like to know? I guess it would take more than her to make me better."

"But she is so jolly," Rod explained. "Her eyes are laughing all the time, and she is never cross."

"Humph!" and the invalid gave her head a toss. "If she had to put up with what I have to she would not feel that way."

"Oh, but she does, Miss Arabella. She has pains all the time, and she can't walk a step. She hasn't walked for a long time."

"She hasn't! Well, how can she laugh and not be cross?"

"I don't know for sure. But I guess she is trying to be a scout."

"What has that to do with it?"

"Quite a bit. You see, a scout has to smile and whistle no matter what happens. If he jams his finger or stubs his toe, he must smile and go on whistling just as if nothing had happened. It's hard at first, but after you learn how to do it you feel good all the time."

"And so you think I should do the same, eh?" and the woman fixed her eyes upon the boy's face.

"Not exactly, Miss Arabella," and Rod gave a little chuckle. "You might smile more than you do, but I don't think you could whistle. But maybe you can. Did you ever try?"

"No, I never did," was the snapping reply, "and I detest girls and women who can."

"But Whyn whistles," Rod explained, "and I'm sure you'd like her if you saw her. You ought to see her, Miss Arabella. I believe she'd make you better. And, besides, you'd do a good turn if you went to the Anchorage. Whyn doesn't see many women and she'd be so pleased to see you."

"What do you mean by a 'good turn'?" the invalid asked. "Is it something else the scouts have to do?"

"Sure. You see, a scout is supposed to do a good turn each day. That is, he must try to help somebody or something. When I put that key down your neck, Miss Arabella, it was only my good turn which I was doing. Captain Josh said it was the best thing to do to stop nose bleeding. Now, if you'd go to see Whyn that would be your good turn, see?"

"H'm, I guess I've got all I can do to look after myself without trying to do good turns to others," the woman sniffed. Nevertheless, when Rod had gone she thought over everything he had said, and for once forgot all about her own troubles.