Chapter XV. In the City

Rod was now very anxious to buy his scout suit. He thought of the money waiting for him in the city, and he spoke about it to Captain Josh.

"I want to examine all the boys in the tenderfoot tests," the captain replied. "The ones who are able to pass, and have earned the money for their suits will go with me to the city. The rest will have to stay at home."

The very next day the captain examined each scout separately. Rod was the only one who was able to pass all the tests, and had earned the money. The others felt somewhat sore because they could not ask their parents for the money, and thus go to the city with the captain. Several, in fact, were quite sulky.

"Yez needn't look like that," the captain told them. "Ye've got only yerselves to blame that ye're not ready. Ye're like too many people today who expect to get things without workin' for them. But this troop is not run on sich lines. Some day ye'll come bang up aginst another troop, and how'll ye feel if ye git licked. Why, when I asked some of you boys to tie a clove-hitch ye handed me out a reef-knot, which is nothin' more than a 'granny' knot, which any one could tie. I want yez to do more than other people kin, or what's the use of havin' a troop? So git away home now, fer we'll have no more fun until yez git through with yer work."

Rod was delighted at the idea of going to the city with the captain.

"I'll look after the boy," the latter told Mr. and Mrs. Royal, "and I'll see that he gits fair play, too. Ye'll certainly be proud of him when he comes back wearin' his scout suit."

The Royals were most thankful at the change which had come over the bluff old captain. It seemed almost incredible that such a transformation should take place in him in such a short time. It was the influence of their little boy, they were well aware, which had done it, and they often talked about the way they had been criticised for having taken the lad into their home and hearts. They thought, too, of his mother, and the mystery concerning her instead of lessening, deepened as the months rolled by. She never failed to send her weekly letter, and the money each month. Rod's bank account was steadily growing, for the Royals had not spent one cent of it, even though at times they felt the need of some of it when the money due from the parish was much in arrears.

They were greatly puzzled that Rod's mother did not come to see him. In every letter she wrote of her longing for her boy, and how she hoped to come some day. She had said the same thing for years until it had become an old story now. To Rod his real mother was a visionary person, who wrote to him every week and sent him money. But apart from these things she was of little interest to him. His world was in Hillcrest, and not far away in some big city.

The next day Captain Josh and his charge reached the city, when they went at once to Peter McDuff's store. They were kept waiting for some time, as the owner was not in. When he returned the captain stated the object of their visit, and how the boy wished to get his money in order to buy his scout suit.

Going into his little office, McDuff remained there for about ten minutes, which seemed much longer to those waiting outside. When he did come out he handed the captain the account he had made up, and then proceeded to thumb over several bills.

Captain Josh examined the paper carefully, and then handed it to Rod without a word of comment. The latter gave one quick glance, and his face became pale, while his eyes grew big with astonishment.

"What is it, lad?" the captain queried. "Find somethin' queer there, eh?"

"Yes, sir," was the reply; "I don't understand it at all. I sent down one hundred boxes, and this paper gives only eighty. And, oh, look, he pays only six cents a box," and Rod held up the account for the captain to see.

"What's the meaning of this?" and Captain Josh turned suddenly upon McDuff, who was keenly watching the two. "This boy sent you down one hundred boxes of strawberries. I was at the wharf myself when each crate was shipped, and I counted them, though Rod didn't know it. Then you give him here only six cents a box when they were bringing from seven to nine. Surely there has been some mistake."

"There has been no mistake," McDuff angrily returned. "I never make mistakes. Only eighty boxes were sent to me, and six cents is all they were worth. You can take that or nothing. I am too busy to waste all the morning talking. Here's your money," and he held out four dollars and eighty cents to Rod.

"Don't take it, lad," and the captain reached out a restraining hand. "The full amount or nothin'. Is that all ye'll give?" he asked, turning to McDuff.

"Not a cent more. It's all I got, and it's all they were worth."

For an instant the captain looked the storekeeper full in the face. Then glancing quickly around the store, and seeing a telephone, he moved toward it.

"You can't use my phone," McDuff cried, feeling sure that the captain had some special object in view.

"I can't, eh? Well, if you say so, that settles it. I kin git one next door. I only want to call up my lawyer, that's all. He knows me pretty well. I'd like to use other means to settle this matter, but I guess Lawyer Allen's advice might be the better way."

"What! you don't mean to go to law over this little matter, do you?" McDuff anxiously enquired.

"Certainly I do. It isn't the amount so much as the principle. Ye're tryin' to cheat a little boy, and I'm goin' to stand by him, I don't care how much it costs. I'm scoutmaster, and he's patrol leader of the Hillcrest troop, and if ye think ye kin do him a mean trick, then ye're mighty much mistaken."

"But look here," McDuff angrily replied. "You seem to be making a big fuss over nothing. And, besides, you've charged me with cheating that boy, and I'll make you take back your words. Two can play at this game."

"No doubt they kin," the captain reflectively answered as he moved toward the door. "But look, Peter McDuff, it makes a great difference who's in the right, and who kin back up his statements. It's no use fer us to argue any longer. Come on, Rod."

"Wait a minute," the storekeeper called out, when he saw that the captain meant business, "maybe we can arrange this affair without going to law. I'm willing to come to some reasonable terms. What will you take to settle? Split the difference, eh?"

"No. Not one cent less than what's comin' to the boy. That or nothin'. I'll give ye five minutes to think it over," and the captain, coming back into the store, seated himself upon a barrel of flour.

McDuff was angry, there was no doubt about that. Customers who came into the store, and were waited upon by the clerk, were astonished at the conversation which was going on between the two men. But McDuff paid no heed to them. He wanted to get clear of this troublesome countryman. He little realised that a few boxes of berries less would cause such a fuss. He had done the same thing before, and had bluffed out of paying. But now it was different. He stood in the centre of the floor for a few seconds, frowning, and longing to express himself in violent words. Presently he turned and went again into his office. When he came out he handed the captain a new account.

"There, will that suit you?" he demanded. "Rather than have you say that I cheated the boy, I am willing to pay him for more berries than he ever sent me, and to give a higher price than they were bringing at the time."

Captain Josh took the account and studied it carefully.

"That looks better," he remarked. "Eight dollars in all, and with the freight deducted leaves just seven dollars. Yes, that will do, I guess. Now fer the money."

When several crisp bills had been handed over, and the account receipted, Captain Josh turned to the storekeeper.

"Jist a word before we go, Peter McDuff," he began. "It is well fer you that ye've settled up this business at once. I advise ye not to try any more of yer tricks upon people after this, especially upon a boy scout. If ye'd held out, and had not paid that money, I'd a fixed ye so ye'd been no longer in a position to cheat any one. I have enough evidence to knock ye sky-high. Ye may thank yer stars that ye have a little sense left, even if ye haven't any honour."

The storekeeper made no reply, but turning on his heel, left them.

After Captain Josh and Rod had eaten their dinner at a restaurant, they started off to buy the scout suit. The boy was greatly excited over this, and his eyes bulged with astonishment when he saw so many suits and other supplies for the scouts.

"Ye must do a big business here," the captain remarked to the clerk.

"We certainly do," was the reply. "There are over six hundred scouts in the city, and most of them get their outfits here. I suppose you'll be at the big parade this evening?"

"What parade?"

"The scouts are to turn out in a body, when they will be inspected by the Lieutenant-Governor. He is to give them an address, so I understand, on the Y. M. C. A. grounds. It will be a big affair, and well worth attending."

This was too good an opportunity to miss, so the captain and Rod went early to the place of meeting. The former wished to see what other scouts did, and he had planned to come to the city on purpose to visit several of the troops in their own rooms. But now he could view them all together, which would be far better.

At half past seven the mayor, with several of the city officials, accompanied the Lieutenant-Governor as he rode up in a big auto. They all dismounted and took their seats upon the temporary grand-stand which had been erected. They had not long to wait ere the sound of music was heard, and presently down the street the head of the big procession appeared in view. As the scouts swung up, Rod's heart beat fast, and even the captain stood straighter than usual. There was something inspiring about the way those boys, six hundred strong, advanced, in full uniform, with sloping staves. They marched well, with bodies erect, and as they moved by the stand they gave the full salute. Then they swung around and lined up before the Lieutenant-Governor.

By this time a large crowd had gathered, and a cheer went up at the splendid conduct of the scouts. When this had died down, the mayor spoke a few words of encouragement, and then introduced the chief official of the province.

Captain Josh and Rod were quite near and could hear every word the Lieutenant-Governor uttered. He was proud of them, so he said, and his heart had been greatly stirred by what he had witnessed. He was glad to know that there were so many scouts in the city, and he wished that all the scouts in the province were present on this occasion.

After speaking for awhile, and giving them some words of advice, he outlined a plan over which he said he had given considerable thought. He wanted the scouts to be thrifty, and to open up bank accounts. He hoped to meet them again in a year's time, and that troop, whether in the city or any other part of the province, showing the biggest bank account in proportion to its size, would receive a prize. A friend of his, who wished to remain unknown, had made this suggestion, and offered to present a bugle-band to the winning troop. Each bank-book had to be handed in to the Provincial Secretary, together with a detailed account as to how the money had been raised, and signed by the scoutmaster. Further instructions would be given later. All other troops which had competed would each receive a troop-flag.

When he was through the scouts gave him three rousing cheers and a "tiger." After the National Anthem had been sung, the band once more struck up, the scouts formed into line, and were soon swinging on their way back to their various headquarters.

Captain Josh and Rod said very little as they walked along the street toward the hotel where they were to spend the night. But when once within the room which had been assigned to them, the captain laid his right hand upon his companion's shoulder.

"Hillcrest troop must win that prize, lad," he remarked.

"Can we do it, captain?" was the reply.

"Do it? Sure we kin. We may be the smallest troop in the province, but we'll show them a thing or two."

In his dreams that night Rod saw once again the six hundred scouts. But they seemed different now, for among them was the Hillcrest troop receiving from the Lieutenant-Governor the coveted bugle-band, amidst the wild cheers of the other troops.