Chapter XVI. Whyn Decides
 

There was considerable excitement among the Hillcrest troop when Captain Josh and Rod returned home. The rest of the scouts were at the wharf to meet them, and marched with them at once to Whyn's room. The new scout suit was greatly admired, and the jealous ones had enough sense to keep quiet. In fact, they were too much ashamed to say anything, so they sat and listened to what was going on. Whyn was delighted, and made Rod stand before her while she examined him with critical eyes.

"My, I wish you all had suits like that," she sighed, "then you would look something like a troop. Soldiers never seem of much account until they get their uniforms on."

Captain Josh then told of the trouble they had had with Peter McDuff, and how at last he had been compelled to pay what was right.

"Good for you!" Whyn exclaimed. "You're the right kind of a scoutmaster to have. I shall tell that to Douglas when I write again."

When the captain told about the parade of the six hundred scouts, and what the Lieutenant-Governor had said, the enthusiasm became very keen. The scouts' eyes sparkled with interest, and all began to talk at once. Yes, they would win the prize, they declared, and they would buy a motorboat with the money they earned. Though they had spoken about such a boat before, the captain had scoffed at the idea, saying that the Roaring Bess was good enough for him. But deep in his heart he longed for a motor-boat even more than the boys. The yacht was all right for pleasure, but it was hardly suited for business, such as fishing, and carrying passengers over the river. If the scouts could earn enough money to buy a motor-boat he could have the use of it.

How to earn the money was the important question, and many were the ideas suggested. One boy thought they might catch rabbits next winter; another wished to go over to the big island and dig for gold which Captain Kidd was supposed to have buried there. All expressed their views except Rod. He waited until the rest were through before speaking.

"Let us leave it to Whyn," he at last suggested. "She always has some plan, and will know what we might do first."

"That's good," the captain agreed. "We can't do better than that."

"Oh, I don't know," the girl laughingly replied. "You might make a mistake if you let me choose."

"No, no," came in chorus. "You'll do all right."

"Very well, then, I'll do the best I can, though you'll have to give until to-morrow to decide. I want to sleep on it to-night."

"But no lyin' awake, remember," the captain warned. "Ye're not to stay awake thinkin' it all over. If ye do, I'll wash my hands of the whole affair."

"No fear of that, captain," and Whyn smiled up into his face. Such a smile as that was worth a great deal to the old man, though he never spoke of it to any one. "There is one thing, however," the girl continued, "which must be done before we begin to earn that money."

"And what's that?" the captain inquired.

"All the scouts must have their suits. It will be necessary if the plan which has just come into my mind can be worked out."

"Hey, d'ye hear that?" the captain roared, as if he were giving orders to a rebellious crew. "Ye must have yer suits, and then we'll git down to work in dead earnest."

Rod was anxious to get home to show Mr. and Mrs. Royal his new suit. They had been waiting for him for some time, and were quite anxious, as the steamer had been up for over an hour. When he entered the dining-room they thought that they had never beheld such a fine-looking boy. Their hearts swelled with pride, and Mrs. Royal secretly brushed away a tear with the corner of her apron.

Rod told them all about what they had done in the city, about Peter McDuff, the parade, and how the Hillcrest troop was going to enter the contest for the prize. This was of much interest to the Royals, and they sat at the table later than usual discussing the whole matter.

"I have important news for you this evening, Rodney," Parson Dan after a while informed him. "I had a letter from your mother to-day, and she says that she hopes to pay us a visit sometime this summer."

"Oh!" It was all that the boy could say, but several anxious thoughts surged through his mind. Was his mother coming to take him away? he wondered. He did not wish to go, as all of his interests were centred in Hillcrest.

Mr. and Mrs. Royal, too, looked grave. They had thought of the same idea. Would Rod's mother ask them to give up the boy? How could they part with him? they asked themselves.

"When is she coming, grandad?" Rod at last asked.

"She doesn't say, so we may expect her at almost anytime."

"I don't want to see her," the boy cried, while tears started in his eyes.

"Don't want to see your mother, Rodney!" the clergyman exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes, in a way I want to see her," was the faltering reply. "But if she wants to take me away, I don't want her to come. Oh, don't let her take me, grandad," and Rod sprang to his feet, and stood beseechingly before the parson. "Why should she come for me now? If she wanted me very much, why didn't she come before?"

"There, there, dear, don't worry," Mrs. Royal soothed. "It is hardly likely that your mother will wish to take you away from us. It is only natural that she should long to see you. There must be some good reason why she could not come before. You had better go to bed now, for you must be tired after your busy day."

The scouts were anxious to know what plan Whyn would suggest for raising money, and so they were earlier than usual at her room on the following afternoon. It was a beautiful day, and through the open window drifted the scent of flowers, and new-mown hay. It was a cool refreshing spot, this little room, where the bright-faced girl received her visitors. Captain Josh was not present, as he had work to do in his garden.

Whyn greeted the boys with a smile, and after they had seated themselves upon chairs and the floor, she plunged at once into the subject of special interest.

"Let's give a concert," she abruptly began.

"A what?" the boys exclaimed.

"A concert and a tea. Don't you understand? I have been talking it over with the captain and Mrs. Britt, and they think it a good idea. The plan is this: We shall invite all the people in the place to come early before it gets dark. They can gather in front of the house so I can see what is going on. We will ask Parson Dan to give a speech, and then you scouts will show what you can do. You will give a talk on the flag, tie the knots, say the scout law, and do some signalling. After that the captain will march you up and down before the people, and you will do the staff-drill which he is going to teach you. Then you will sell ice-cream and candy. Each scout is to bring something, and Mrs. Britt will make the candy. Perhaps other people will assist, too. Oh, it will be grand!"

"How much do you think we will make, Whyn?" one of the boys asked. "Can't we have something bigger than that? It will take a long time to earn much money that way."

"It will be a beginning, though," was the quiet reply. "We must not expect to raise all the money at once. After we are through with this we can try something else. We might get fifty people to come, and if we sell tickets at ten cents each that will bring us in five dollars. I am sure the summer people will come, and we may have more than fifty. Then, we should make five dollars from the refreshments, and that will be ten dollars in all, which will not be too bad for a start."

The scouts finally agreed to what Whyn said, and they spent considerable time talking over the whole affair, and arranging their plans. The interest now became very keen, and when the tickets had been made each boy undertook to sell as many as he could. In a week's time all the tickets were sold, and more had to be made by Mrs. Britt and Whyn.

The scouts practised hard for the important event, and Captain Josh spared no pains in his efforts to drill them as thoroughly as possible. Each one had now passed the tenderfoot tests, and were ready for their badges. They had also earned the money for their suits, and it was a great day when all appeared before Whyn dressed in their complete uniforms. The girl was delighted, and her eyes sparkled with joy as the captain marched them up and down outside her window.

The big affair was to take place Thursday evening, and when the scouts visited Whyn on Monday afternoon they were in fine spirits. Everything had been arranged, many tickets had been sold, and it looked as if the concert would be a great success. They found the invalid girl quieter than they had ever seen her before, though she greeted them with her usual smile and listened to them for several minutes as they talked about scout matters.

"There is something which troubles me," Whyn at length remarked. "Every concert should have singing, or music of some kind. Now, we have not arranged for one song, and I am sure the people who come will be disappointed. I am so fond of singing myself that I know how much it will be missed. But I suppose it can't be helped. I wish you boys could sing."

"Maybe some of the choir members would come," Rod suggested.

"Oh, do you think they would?" Whyn eagerly asked.

"I am not quite sure that they will. But I will speak to grandad about it. I know he will do all he can to help."

"I hope they will come," and Whyn gave a tired sigh. "I haven't heard any singing for such a long time, that I am hungry for it. I had such a wonderful letter from Douglas to-day," she continued, after a slight pause. "He says that Anna Royanna, the great new American singer, has been in Ottawa, and he heard her one night. She is quite young, so he writes, very beautiful, and with such a sad sweet face. The people went fairly wild over her voice, and she had to sing one piece twice before they would let her stop. And do you know, she is coming to St. John, and will be at the Opera House on Wednesday night. Just think of it!" and Whyn's eyes glowed with enthusiasm, while she clasped her thin white hands together. "She will be there, so near, and yet I won't be able to hear her. But mamma will tell me about it, and that will be something."

The scouts did not remain long in Whyn's room that afternoon. They knew that she was tired, and so when they left her they made their way to the shore, and sat down upon the sand under the shade of a large willow tree. They were unusually silent now, for all were thinking of what Whyn had told them about the wonderful singer.

"Isn't it too bad," Rod suddenly began, "that Whyn can't hear her sing?"

"She can't go to the city, that's sure," Phil Dexter replied, giving the stick he was holding a savage thrust into the yielding sand.

"Maybe she'd come here," Billy Potter suggested.

This was a brilliant idea, and the scouts looked at one another, while the light of hope brightened their faces.

"Would she come?" that was the question each asked himself. These boys knew nothing about the ways of the great world beyond their own parish. If they did they would have known how utterly ridiculous was the thought of a famous singer coming all the way to such an unknown place as Hillcrest to sing to an invalid girl. But to them their little circle was everything, and the idea of such a noted person coming was nothing out of the ordinary.

"How much do you think she'd want?" Tommy Bunker queried.

"Let's give her half what we make," Rod suggested. "And look," he continued, "we mustn't say a word to Captain Josh or Whyn, or to anybody else. Let it be a big surprise to all. If she comes we can keep her hid until the very last, and then she can come out and sing just like people do in story-books. Wouldn't Whyn be surprised and delighted?"

"But who's going to ask her?" Phil enquired. "Father's going to the city on Wednesday, for I heard him say so this morning. Maybe he would see her."

"But we mustn't let him know anything about it," Rod warned. "Why couldn't you go with him, Phil?"

"I wouldn't like to go alone," was the reply. "She'd scare me, and I wouldn't know what to say. I'll go, for one, if dad'll let me, and I guess he will. Then, if you'll come, too, Rod, I'll go with you to see her. You can do the talking, and I'll back you up."

"Mighty poor backing, I should say," Joe Martin retorted, with a grin. "Better take some one with more spunk, Rod. I think you should go, though, as patrol-leader."

"I guess Phil will do all right," Rod replied. "We could go to hear her sing, that's if I can go. I will find out about it and let you know."