Chapter XXIII. First Aid
 

By this time the rest of the scouts had scrambled down the bank, much ashamed of themselves for their recent fear. They were now most anxious to do all they could to assist the captain. They soon learned that he was unable to walk, for in addition to his injured knee he had sprained his ankle. He tried to take a few steps in order to show the boys that he was not much hurt. But this was more than he could endure, and he gave a deep groan of pain as he sank down upon the ground.

"It's nothin', lads," he growled, somewhat annoyed at the accident. "Yez better go home and git a team to take the bear out. I'll stay and keep him company till yez come back. He might be jist fooling and will sneak off into the woods. We can't afford to run any risk."

"We'll not leave you, captain," Rod stoutly protested. "You're soaked with water, and you'll get a bad cold if you stay here. We'll carry you home."

"Carry me!" the captain exclaimed in surprise. "Yez couldn't tote a heavy log like me all that distance."

"We're going to try, anyway. We're scouts, remember, and you have often told us what to do in a case like this. I guess the bear will be all right. He looks quiet enough now."

There was nothing for the captain to do but to submit, and though he growled somewhat at what he called their foolishness, yet he was pleased at their interest on his behalf.

The boys at once set to work to prepare a stretcher for their wounded scoutmaster. With a scout axe, Rod cut down several small maples, trimmed off the leaves, and cut them the necessary length. He then asked the captain for his coat, as it was the largest they could get. Through the sleeves of this they ran two of the poles, which thus formed one end of the stretcher. Then taking off their own coats they did the same to the other end. It took five of theirs to equal the captain's, and even then they were afraid that all combined would not bear the man's weight. In addition to the coats, the scouts fastened their leather belts together, and stretched these between the poles for greater support.

The captain was greatly pleased at the speedy way in which the boys did this work. But he had his doubts about their being able to carry him home. He weighed about one hundred and seventy pounds, which would mean over forty pounds to each of the four scouts who would take their turn at the stretcher. Rod thought of this and a new idea came suddenly into his mind. Picking up two of the other maple saplings he had cut, he placed them crosswise beneath the stretcher, and stationed a scout at each end. When all was ready, the captain rolled himself upon the rude contrivance which had been made, and told the boys to go ahead. At once the eight scouts stooped and without any difficulty lifted him from the ground. They were delighted to find that not a sleeve ripped, and not a belt gave way.

It was decided that they should follow the brook down-stream for a distance until they came to the old winter-road. By doing this they would escape the thick woods, as well as the climb up the steep bank. It was a rough trip, and the captain was jolted a great deal.

"Don't make me sea-sick," he warned, when he swayed more than usual. "Ugh!" he groaned, as one of the boys slipped upon a rock, and dropped the end of his pole. "I've been over many rough seas in my life, but nothin' to equal this. Steady, there," he cried, as the swaying motion increased. "Ah, that's better," he encouraged, when they at length reached the winter-road.

The scouts enjoyed the captain's remarks. He cheered them when they did well, and made them rest occasionally. But it was a heavy load they were bearing, and right glad were they when at last they reached the Anchorage, and handed over their charge to Mrs. Britt.

That afternoon Phil's father took his horses and went with the scouts to bring in the bear. Several able-bodied men accompanied them, for news had spread from house to house of what had taken place up the brook. It was almost sundown, when they returned, and quite a crowd of neighbours were gathered around the captain's house to see the bear which Rod had shot.

The scouts were delighted with their adventure, and each considered himself a hero when he met other boys in the parish. Whyn was greatly excited over the whole affair, and had to hear every detail from the captain himself. Her eyes sparkled with pleasure when she learned of the brave part Rod had taken. She was wise enough, however, not to praise Rod when the rest of the scouts were present, for she knew that they would be jealous. But when he was alone with her one afternoon, she told him just what she thought.

"I think you did great," she exclaimed, after they had talked for awhile about the bear.

"Oh, I didn't do much," was the reply.

"Yes, you did. If it hadn't been for you, the bear would have killed the captain. He told me so himself."

"Well, I'm glad I was there to save him. It was my good turn, that's all, and one must never expect praise for that. But, say, Whyn, have you seen the bear's skin? It's a beauty. The neighbours skinned it, and Phil's father is going to take it to the city. He thinks that he can sell the meat as well, for some people like it to eat."

"What a letter I shall write to Douglas," the girl replied, as she clasped her hands together. "Isn't it great, the many wonderful things I have to write about!"

"And I shall write to Miss Royanna," Rod declared. "I know she will like to hear about that bear, though she will be so sorry that the captain got hurt."

"And will you write to your mother?" Whyn asked.

"Yes, I suppose so. But I don't know whether she's interested in bears or not. But I know that Miss Royanna is, for she's interested in everything. Say, Whyn," and Rod lowered his voice, "I wish she was my mother; wouldn't it be great?"

"Oh, Rod!" and the girl looked her astonishment.

"There, I knew you'd say that. But I can't help it. I don't know my mother, and how can I love some one I have never seen? I suppose she'll land here some day and take me away. She said that she was coming last summer, but she put it off, lucky for me."

After the excitement over the bear had somewhat subsided, the scouts settled down to the work of making wreaths. For awhile this was carried on in the kitchen of the Anchorage, as the captain wished to be on hand, and to give what assistance he could. It was several weeks before he was able to bear his foot to the ground, and this was a most trying time to him. Such an active life had he always led that to be confined to the house was hard for him to endure. Whyn was also able to be present, and sat in the big chair the captain had made, and watched with interest all that took place. She made a few wreaths herself, though she was not able to do much, as she tired very quickly. The scouts liked to have her with them, and she was often able to instruct them, and to pass judgment upon their work.

Another valuable helper was Miss Arabella. It was quite remarkable the way she "happened along," as she expressed it, whenever the boys met for wreath-making. In fact, she and the captain became quite friendly, which was a great surprise to all.

"Guess ye'll have to be scoutmaster, Miss Bella," he told her one evening.

"Goodness me!" was the startled reply. "I couldn't handle a bunch of boys."

"And why not, Miss Bella?"

"They're too much like men; always wanting something, and never satisfied when they get it."

"So that's the reason ye never got a man, eh? Ho, ho!" and the captain gave a gruff laugh.

"Yes," Miss Arabella snapped. "I was afraid he might be just like you, Captain Josh," at which retort the boys shouted with delight, while the captain, too, was highly amused at the fun which had been caused at his own expense.

Thus on the nights when the work of making the wreaths was carried on an excellent spirit of friendship prevailed. Neighbours, hearing of the good times at the Anchorage, often dropped in to assist the scouts. On several occasions they brought refreshments, such as sandwiches, cakes, and doughnuts, which added very much to the enjoyment of the evenings.

The neighbours were so pleased with these social gatherings that they were very sorry when the wreaths were all made and sent to the city. They had experienced the pleasure of meeting together during the long winter evenings, and there was now a serious blank in their lives. They accordingly decided that something must be done, with the result that a small club was formed, which met once a week at the scouts' Headquarters. The women brought their knitting or sewing, while the men were allowed their pipes. There was a programme arranged for each night, consisting of songs, recitations, and at times a debate on some familiar subject.

The scouts were only too glad that their elders were so interested in thus gathering together, and they did all they could to keep the room clean, and make it as bright as possible. They themselves met twice a week, and when the captain was able to get around, the regular scout work was continued.

Captain Josh had studied hard to keep ahead of the boys, and in this he did remarkably well. But when it came to giving addresses on First Aid to the Injured, he candidly confessed his ignorance.

"Give me a broken rope," he said, "and I'll splice it in no time. But a broken bone is too much fer me. As fer veins, arteries, bandaging, and sich things, ye can't expect an old man like me to understand about them. No, we've got to leave that to some one else."

And that some one proved to be Doctor Travis, a young man who had recently settled in the parish. He was much interested in the scouts, and hearing of their need through Parson Dan, he offered his services free, which were gratefully accepted by the scouts.

It was a raw winter night when the doctor gave his first lecture to the boys. A stiff wind was swinging in from the northeast, plainly telling that a heavy storm was near at hand. But safe within their warm room, the scouts gave no heed to what was taking place outside. They listened with intense interest as the doctor explained to them what a wonderful machine the human body really is, the difference between veins and arteries, the various kinds of fractures, and other things necessary for a second-class scout to know.

The lecture was as interesting as a story, and the doctor was delighted at the attention of the scouts. The large chart made everything so clear, and impressed firmly upon the minds of the boys the things they had heard. It was half-past nine when they were through, and when the door was opened, all were surprised to find such a furious storm raging over the land. It had been snowing for some time, and drifts were already piling up around Headquarters.

"Ye must stay with me to-night," Captain Josh told the doctor. "We kin put ye up all right, and in the mornin' ye'll have a chance to see Whyn. I want ye to have a look at her, anyway, fer she's not been up to the mark of late."

Thus the doctor made up his mind to remain, and he bade good night to the boys as they left the room, and plunged out into the storm.

"Take care of yerselves, boys," the captain shouted, "and don't git lost."

Such a warning was needed, for no sooner had the scouts left the building than the storm struck them in all its fury. The night was so dark that they could not see a yard ahead of them. But the road to the main highway was fenced in, and so they were kept from going astray.

Rod led, and with bent heads the rest followed. Step by step they pressed onward, with the snow driving full into their faces. It was cold, too, and the wind, piercing their clothes, chilled them. It was fortunate that they had not far to go, else they would have found it almost impossible to reach their homes on such a night.

They had gained the highway, and Rod had just turned to leave his companions, who lived in the opposite direction, when he stumbled and fell over something lying in the snow. His cry of surprise soon brought the rest of the scouts to his side. Regaining his feet, Rod felt with his hands to see what the object was over which he had tumbled.

"It's a man!" he shouted, straightening himself suddenly up. "Maybe he's frozen. Come and let's carry him back to the house."