Chapter IX. Whyn
 

Next morning Parson Dan and Rod started for the Anchorage. Rod was more quiet than usual, and walked along the road without any of his ordinary capers. His cheeks were flushed, and his eyes shone with excitement. His steps, too, were quick, and his companion found it difficult to keep pace with him. It was quite evident that he was in a hurry to see the girl who had been rescued from the river the previous day.

Nearing the house, they heard some one hammering in the workshop. There they found the captain busily engaged upon something which looked like a chair.

"Good morning, captain," was the parson's cheery greeting. "You've turned carpenter, so I see."

"Poof!" and the captain, gave a vigorous rap upon a nail he was driving into place, "it's necessary to be every dang thing these days, with the world so full of idiots. It's good there's somebody who kin turn his hand to anything. It's the fools who make so much work fer honest folks."

"Why, what's up now?" the parson queried.

"Ye'd better ask 'what's down?' It's that little lass in yon, down in bed, because some numb-skulls thought they could sail a boat. I told 'em this mornin' what I thought of 'em fer takin' a gal like that out on the water, an' they went off in a huff."

"How is she this morning, captain? Rodney told me all about the accident, and so we have come to make inquiries."

"Oh, she's all right, considerin' what she went through. She's all clewed down now and ridin' easy. Guess she'll be there fer some time. Want to see her?"

"Yes, if she's able to be seen."

"Able! Why, she's the fittest one of the bunch as fer as her mind is concerned. I want to git this chair fixed up fer her as soon as possible. Go right in. I guess ye'll find Betsey in the kitchen."

Mrs. Britt pleasantly received her visitors, and introduced the clergyman to Mrs. Sinclair. The latter was a woman of striking appearance. Her face, of considerable strength and refinement, was marked by lines of care. But it was her eyes which attracted Parson Dan's special attention as he shook hands with her, and inquired after her daughter.

"Oh, Whyn came out of the affair the best of all," and a smile illumined Mrs. Sinclair's face. "I was greatly worried about her last night, but she seems none the worse for her experience. Would you like to see her? I am afraid you will find her a regular little chatter-box."

Mrs. Sinclair said not a word to Rod, in fact she had hardly noticed him. He remained standing in the middle of the room after the others had left, twirling his cap in his nervous hands. He wanted to see the girl, too, but he had not been invited, and he felt indignant. He had the first right to go, so he told himself, for he had helped to rescue her. He thought of going out to the workshop and talking it all over with the captain. He dismissed the idea, however, and perching himself upon a chair, waited to see what would happen.

It seemed a long time to him before the others came out of the girl's room, but in reality it was only a few minutes. There was a smile upon the clergyman's face as he turned to the boy.

"You're the favoured one this morning, Rodney," he said. "The princess wants to see you. She hasn't much use for us older people."

This was astonishing news to Rod, and his knees felt weak as he walked across the floor, and entered the room. He paused when just inside, and stared in amazement at the vision before him. There, lying upon a little cot, was the most wonderful person he had ever beheld. Could it be possible that this was the same girl he had seen all drenched with water the day before? Her hair was flowing over the white pillow like a shining stream of gold. At this moment it was touched by the sun from the southeast window, which added much to the entrancing effect. And then those eyes! They seemed to read him through and through. But they were laughing eyes now, sparkling with interest and amusement.

Rod stood very still, uncertain what to do. So this wonderful girl was a princess, he said to himself. He never dreamed of such a thing when he first saw her the day before. He knew something about princes and princesses, for Mrs. Royal had often read to him stories about such people. So this girl was one of them. He had no doubt about it, for Parson Dan had called her a princess. What should he do? The books told how people got down on their knees to princesses, and kissed their hands. Ah, that was the right thing for him to do now.

Stepping quickly forward, he knelt by the side of the bed, and seizing the girl's right hand which was lying upon the counterpane, he pressed it to his lips. A merry ringing laugh followed this action, which caused Rod to start and lift his head. Was the princess laughing at him? Perhaps he had made some foolish blunder, and she was making fun of him.

"Oh, you queer boy, what did you do that for?" and again the girl laughed.

"Didn't I do it right?" Rod asked, as he sprang to his feet and stood straight before her.

"Do what right?" and the girl looked her surprise.

"Kneel, and kiss your hand. They all do that."

"All who?"

"The people in the stories. They always kiss the hand of a princess when they meet her."

"But I'm not a princess."

"You're not! Grandad said you are, and I guess he knows."

"Ho, ho, isn't that funny?" and the girl's hearty laugh again rang out. "I'm no princess; I'm just plain Whyn Sinclair. Your grandfather must have been joking. It must be nice to have a grandfather like that. His eyes are just full of fun. Sit down, and tell me about him."

"He isn't my grandfather," Rod replied, as he took his position upon the edge of a chair close to the bed. He was feeling more at home now in the presence of this beautiful girl, since she was not a princess.

"He isn't your grandfather!"

"No. I haven't any real grandfather, and I never saw my father or mother."

"You didn't! Oh, you poor boy."

"No. I'm only a waif, that's what they call me. I was left at the door of the rectory one night a long time ago when I was a little baby, and Mr. and Mrs. Royal have taken care of me ever since."

"How lovely!" and Whyn clasped her thin white hands together.

"Lovely! What do you mean?"

"Oh, it's so romantic."

"What's that?"

"Just like you read about in stories. Maybe your father and mother are a real prince and princess, or some other great persons, and you were stolen away from them when you were a baby by cruel people. What a story that will make. I shall write about it at once."

"A story!" and Rod's eyes opened wide in surprise. "What are you going to write?"

"You see, I'm an authoress, or rather, I'm going to be one some day. I lie in bed and think out such lovely stories. But this is something real, not a bit like the others. I am going to make so much money, that I shall be able to help mamma, and she won't have to worry as she does."

"What makes her worry?" Rod queried.

"She worries about me. I can't walk, and have to lie in bed all the time. It costs so much for doctors' bills, and though mamma never says a word to me, I can tell what's troubling her. Now, I have a secret, and I am going to tell it to you, if you promise that you won't say a word to any one about it."

"What is it?"

"You won't tell?"

"Don't know until I hear what it is."

"Oh, well, I'll have to keep it to myself, then," and the girl gave a sigh of disappointment. "I was hoping that you would promise, for it would be so nice to relieve my mind by telling some one."

"Maybe I'll promise afterwards," Rod replied.

"That might do," Whyn mused, as she lay very still and looked far off through the window. "Yes, I guess that will do. You see, I once heard the doctor in the city say that I must go to a specialist, and maybe he could cure me."

"What's a specialist?" Rod questioned. "I never heard of it before."

"It's a doctor in some big city like New York, who knows so much. He might be able to make me better, if I could only go to see him."

"Why don't you go, then?"

"I can't," and a slight shade passed over the girl's sunny face. "It takes a lot of money, and we are poor. Mamma plays the organ in St. Barnabas Church on Sundays, and gives music lessons through the week. But it takes so much to pay doctor bills."

"Where's your father?" Rod asked.

"He's dead. He died when I was a little baby."

"Oh!" Rod was all sympathy now. So this girl was an orphan, something like himself, with a mother but no father.

"I have one brother," Whyn explained. "He is older than I am. He is at Ottawa now, working for the Government. He helps us all he can, but he has been there such a short time that he can't do much yet. He will after awhile, though, for Douglas is so good."

"Is that your brother's name?"

"Yes. I miss him so much, for we always played together, and he used to read to me, and wheel me about the house."

"Have you told him your secret?" Rod inquired.

"Not yet. I want to surprise him. You see," here she lowered her voice, and glanced toward the door, "I am going to write a story."

"Oh!" Rod's eyes grew suddenly big.

"Yes, a real story, which has been in my mind for some time. I am going to change it now and bring you into it. There were some parts I could not work out, but now I know. I shall make you a boy scout, a patrol leader, who rescues a cripple girl from the river."

"What's a boy scout?" Rod queried.

"Didn't you ever hear of the scouts?" and Whyn looked her surprise.

"No. Never heard of them before."

"Well, isn't that funny, and you a boy, too."

"Guess they can't be much," Rod replied, somewhat nettled. "Grandad and Captain Josh know about most everything, and if they haven't heard of them they can't be of much account."

"But they are," Whyn insisted. "Douglas was a patrol leader, and he told me what they did. They met in the school-room of our church, and had such a great time. They had a supper, too; every month, and when that was over they sang songs and played games."

"Is that all they did?"

"Oh, no. They had to work hard, for they had to learn so many things. To get the tenderfoot badge, they had to know the scout law, how to tie knots, and a whole lot about the flag."

"H'm, I guess I know about knots," and Rod gave his head a superior toss. "Captain Josh taught me about them."

"But did he teach you how to help people who cut themselves, or break their arms, or if some one falls into the water, how to bring him back to life?"

"Why, no! Can the scouts do that?"

"Sure they can. I know of a scout who jumped off a wharf, and rescued a little girl. When he had her out of the water he brought her back to life, when everybody else thought that she was dead."

"Gee!" It was all that Rod could say, for he was becoming deeply interested now.

"And they learn more than that," Whyn continued. "They talk with flags."

"Talk with flags! I never heard of flags talking, and I don't believe it."

"Oh, I don't mean that flags talk," and Whyn laughed outright. "The scouts use flags for talking to one another when they are some distance apart; it is called 'signalling.'"

"How do they do it?"

"Well, one boy will stand, say on a hill, while another is somewhere else, and each has two little flags. They wave these and whichever way a flag is waved it means a letter. I did know all the letters myself once, for Douglas taught me. In that way the scouts can talk with one another as far as they can see. Soldiers send messages that way, so I understand, and they can warn one another when an enemy is near."

"My, I would like to know that," and Rod gave a deep sigh. "I wonder if Captain Josh knows anything about it. I am going to ask him, anyway."

"There are many other things the scouts have to learn," Whyn explained, "and they are very important."

"What are they?"

"I don't exactly know. But there is a book which tells all about them. Douglas told me that a scout must do a good turn every day."

"What's that?"

"It is to do a kind act of some kind. I know of one boy who looked after the baby so that his mother could go out for awhile. Another rescued a poor little kitten from some cruel boys who were teasing it. When I write my story with you in it, your good turn will be the rescuing a girl from the water just like you did yesterday. I hope to sell the story and make so much money that I shall be able to go to the specialist in New York."

"What are you going to call the boy?" Rod asked.

"I haven't decided yet. Maybe I shall call him Rod; wouldn't that be nice?"

"How did you know that was my name?"

"Mrs. Britt told me this morning before you came."

"Did you ask her?"

"Yes."

Rod's heart gave a little flutter of pleasure. So this beautiful girl had been thinking of him, and had even asked about his name. It made him feel happy all over.

Just then Parson Dan appeared in the doorway.

"My, what a great talking time you young people have had," he exclaimed. "Here I have been waiting for you, sir, ever so long," and he laid his hand affectionately upon the boy's shoulder. "I hope he hasn't tired you, dear," he continued, turning toward Whyn.

"Oh, no," was the eager reply. "We have had such a lovely time. May be come again soon?"

"Certainly. I know it will give him great pleasure."

As they were leaving, Rod went close to Whyn and whispered:

"I'm going to be a scout, and get Captain Josh to help."

"How nice," and the girl's smile of encouragement followed him as he left the room.