Chapter XXVI. The Best "Good Turn"
 

There was great excitement throughout Hillcrest over the capture of the log-stealers. In a short time everybody knew how the scouts had kept watch during the night, and how the three tug-boatmen were forced to remain in their anchored boat, with the captain guarding them while the scouts went for the magistrate and constable. There was a feeling of satisfaction that this had been so successfully accomplished, as it would no doubt put an end to such contemptible business in the future.

It was only natural that the trial should arouse unusual interest. It was held in the large public hall, and the building was packed with eager and curious spectators. Nick Taftie, the unscrupulous business man, was present. He had tried to get away across the border into the United States, but had been caught and forced to attend the trial. Everything was against him. The three boatmen told of the many logs they had stolen for him during other years. Taftie's lawyer fought hard and long, but all in vain. The evidence was too strong against him, and he was convicted. He was condemned to a term in Dorchester Penitentiary, and in addition, he had to settle for all the logs he had stolen from people along the river. The three boatmen were let off with a fine and a warning.

The city papers made the most of this affair, and the day after the arrest they had long columns telling of what the Hillcrest troop had done. They mentioned, also, how these same scouts had captured the robbers on Kidd's Island, and how the famous singer, Anna Royanna, had visited the troop and had sung at their entertainment. Great credit was given to the scouts for having rounded up the gang of river-thieves. It was explained further that the boys had collected drift-logs for the purpose of earning money to win the Lieutenant-Governor's prize.

All this so impressed three lumber-merchants in the city that they united, and sent a cheque of one hundred and fifty dollars to the Hillcrest troop. This caused intense excitement among the scouts when they met at Headquarters, and the captain read to them the letter he had received. With whoops, worthy of a band of painted Indians on the warpath, the boys charged upon their scoutmaster in order to see the wonderful cheque. Then a babel of voices ensued as they discussed how much money they had, and what kind of a motor-boat they should buy. It was their opinion that they must get it at once. But the captain shook his head.

"Don't be in too big a hurry, lads," was his reminder. "That money must stay in the bank till the Governor gives his judgment. He'll want to see the bank-book, and he'll have to receive a full report as to how the money was raised. We must capture that prize, remember."

"How much money will we have when the logs are sold?" Rod enquired.

"Let me see," and the captain scratched his head. "We have two hundred in the bank. This cheque will make three hundred and fifty, and them logs should bring us twenty-five more. That's quite a sum, boys, and I think we're pretty lucky. I doubt if any other troop'll have that much."

In their excitement the scouts longed to rush into Whyn's room, and tell her the great news. But this they could not do, and the thought that she could not share their joy somewhat dampened their enthusiasm. The captain told them that two doctors were to hold a consultation over her that very day. His voice was lower and softer than the scouts had ever heard it as he mentioned this, and they knew that he was deeply grieved over the girl's condition. Their interest at winning so much money was now lessened. Their hearts were touched at the news about Whyn, and they left Headquarters in a quieter manner than they had done in many a day.

Rod was more deeply moved than the rest of the scouts. That Whyn could not get better had never before entered his mind. But for two doctors to hold a consultation over her brought a great sinking feeling to his heart. Would she never be able to see the scouts again? he asked himself, as he walked slowly homeward. He had no appetite for his supper, and went to bed earlier than usual. But he found it hard to get to sleep. Whyn was ever before him, and he thought of her lying there in her little room. Why should she die? he reasoned. The scouts wanted her, and so did her mother. He tossed for a long time upon his pillow, and when he did at last fall into a fitful slumber, he dreamed of Whyn, and the money the scouts had earned. They seemed to be mixed up in some funny way. He saw the girl holding out her hands to the scouts while they were counting over a large roll of crisp bills.

He could not get clear of this dream when he awoke in the morning, and he thought much of it during breakfast. Both Mr. and Mrs. Royal had noticed something unusual about Rod's manner. At first they thought that he was not well, and they watched him carefully as they now sat at the table. They were naturally proud of the part he had taken in the capturing of the river-thieves, as well as the way he was developing into such a strong manly boy.

"I saw Doctor Travis last night," the clergyman at length began. "He and Doctor Sturgis from the city held a consultation over Whyn yesterday afternoon. I am afraid that her case is very serious."

"I expected as much," Mrs. Royal replied, with a deep sigh. "The poor girl has been failing rapidly of late, so I understand."

Rod laid down the knife with which he was spreading his bread, and fixed his eyes full upon the clergyman's face. His heart beat fast, and he was very pale.

"She has one chance, however, so the doctor said," the parson continued, "but I fear that is almost out of the question."

"And what is that?" Mrs. Royal enquired, as her husband paused, and began to toy thoughtfully with his napkin-ring.

"To send her to some great specialist in New York. An operation of a most serious nature is necessary, but it will take so much money that it seems almost ridiculous even to think of such a thing. It is about all that Mrs. Sinclair can do to make a living as it is."

"But surely there is some one who would be willing to advance the money," Mrs. Royal replied. "Is it right that the girl should die without an effort being made to save her life?"

"It would take a large sum, Martha, and I am afraid that there is no one sufficiently interested in the girl who is able to do much. The specialist's fees alone would be great, to say nothing of other expenses. I know where some of the money could be obtained, but I should be most loath to use it."

As Rod sat and listened, with flushed face and sparkling eyes, the dream of the past night once more came into his mind. He saw Whyn holding out her hands to the scouts while they were busy counting over their money. Then an idea came to him which caused him to give vent to a slight expression of delight.

"What is it, dear?" Mrs. Royal enquired. "You seem to be amused over something."

"I was only thinking, grandma, and could not help it." He wished to unburden his mind, but thought it best to wait until he had seen either Captain Josh or the rest of the scouts.

Rod could hardly wait now until breakfast was over, so anxious was he to rush over before school to speak to the captain about his new plan. He finished the few chores he was in the habit of doing, and then sped across the field as fast as his legs would carry him.

The captain was in his shop near the house, but he was not working as Rod opened the door and entered. He was sitting on a bench, with his face buried in his hands. He looked quickly up as the boy walked in, as if ashamed to fee caught in such a manner.

"What's up now?" was his gruff greeting. "Ye needn't startle one out of his senses. Why can't ye knock in a proper manner?"

"Oh, captain," Rod panted, paying no attention to the rebuke, "I want to talk to you about something."

"Go ahead, then. It must be mighty important to bring ye here this mornin' in sich a hurry."

"It is, captain, and it's about Whyn."

"About Whyn, eh? What d'ye want to tell me about her?"

"That she can't get better, unless she goes to a specialist. Doctor Travis told grandad all about it last night."

For an instant the old man looked keenly into the clear eyes of the boy standing before him, and a deep love for this manly chap entered his heart.

"Sit down," he ordered, and his voice was husky. "So ye're interested in Whyn, eh?"

"Oh, yes. I don't want her to die."

"Neither do I, lad. Neither do I. But what are we goin' to do? Tell me that."

"Help her, captain. The scouts can do it. We've got money, and why shouldn't we give it for Whyn's sake?"

"What, take the money we've earned?"

"Yes. We've nearly four hundred dollars."

"But what about the prize, Rod?"

"Oh, we can get along without that, but we can't do without Whyn."

"Ye're right there, lad," and a mistiness came into the captain's eyes. "But it'll take a lot of money to send her to that specialist. Four hundred dollars won't go very far."

"But it will help," Rod urged. "It will be our good turn, anyway. And say, captain, wouldn't you do a great deal for Whyn?"

"Sure, lad, indeed I would. Do almost anything, in fact."

"Well, then, suppose you sell the Roaring Bess."

"Sell my boat!" This was almost too much for the captain.

"Yes, why not? You can get another, can't you?"

"I suppose so," was the slow response.

"And if that isn't enough, you can sell your place. You would do it for Whyn's sake, wouldn't you?"

This was more than the captain had expected. He crushed back a naughty exclamation, and rose slowly to his feet.

"Look here, Rod, what d'ye think I am? A saint? Git away to school now, or ye'll be late. I'll think over what ye've said, and discuss it with the troop this afternoon. Ye'll see the boys at school, so tell them to meet here as soon as they git out. Ye'd better not tell them anything about yer plan until I've had time to think it over fer awhile."

Rod found it very hard to keep his mind down to his lessons that day. He was too much excited over the idea of helping Whyn. He wanted to speak to the other scouts about it, and thus relieve his feelings. But he had received the captain's order, and so must obey.

The rest of the scouts were most anxious to know what the special summons meant, so it did not take them long to reach Headquarters as soon as school was out. Their scoutmaster was there before them, who explained in a few words why he had called them together.

"I want yez to decide this matter fer yerselves," he told them in closing, "and I'll tell yez what I think about it when yez have made up yer minds."

"Certainly we must give the money," Rod cried, as soon as the captain was through. "It's for Whyn, and who wouldn't do anything for her? He has no right to belong to this troop if he wouldn't."

"Let's give it," the rest shouted in unison; "every cent of it."

"But what about the prize?" the captain asked.

"Let it go," was the general response.

"And the motor-boat?"

"We can do without that, eh, boys?" This from Rod.

"Yes, yes. Hurrah for Whyn!" and the scouts in their loyal enthusiasm threw their caps into the air, and shouted at the top of their voices.

Into the captain's eyes gleamed a light of joy and triumph. He felt at that moment like a general whose men had consented to make a mighty sacrifice for a great cause. He tried to say something, but the words would not come. Instead, he stepped up to each scout, and reached out his big right hand. This action on the part of their leader had more effect in filling their hearts with pride than an outburst of eloquence. They understood something of what the captain felt, and how pleased he was at their decision.

"But remember, lads," he reminded them, "our money'll go only a little way, and we mustn't git too excited jist yit."

"How much will it take?" one of the boys asked.

"I can't say fer sure. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it should take two thousand dollars."

"Oh!" was the astonished exclamation from all. "Why will it take that much?" they enquired.

"Specialists are expensive people," the captain explained. "I knew a man years ago who went to one, and it cost him more'n that."

"But maybe he won't charge as much for a girl, especially when it's Whyn?" Rod suggested.

"H'm, I guess that won't make any difference. Anyway, we must be prepared, as our motto says. We've got to git more money, that's certain, and how are we to do it?"

There was silence for a few minutes, as the scouts well knew from past experience how hard it was to think of any plan to raise money quickly. They realised that they could not expect to have such good fortune as they had during the past year. It was Rod who broke the silence.

"I know what we can do," he began. "We can go through the parish, and ask every person to give something. That's what the Ladies' Aid did when they wanted to build that shed for the horses near the church."

"But how would Whyn like that?" the captain asked. "Wouldn't, it seem too, much like beggin'?"

"It would be better, though, than letting her die," Rod insisted.

"Sure, sure," the captain agreed. "But I don't like the idea, fer all that. Let's go home now and think of some other plan. If it comes to the worst, we might have to beg, but not if we kin help it."