Alan Douglas.

Boy Scouts: Tenderfoot Squad: or, Camping at Raccoon Lodge



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CHAPTER XVI
"ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL!"

It was a moment of considerable suspense to the boys when Mr. Snodgrass, bustling forward, looked down at the injured man. Jem with clinched teeth glared up at him, but said nothing, waiting for the other to speak.

"I'm sorry to see you hurt in this way, Jem," said the magnate. "Just as soon as I received your letter I went to the city, and had a little heart-to-heart talk with Messrs. Bolten and Hall, my former partners in that real-estate deal of some years ago. I threatened them with immediate prosecution if they did not own up to deceiving both of us; and Jem, here they are ready to eat humble pie, and make good that property they defrauded you out of some years ago. Fool that I was never to have suspected the truth; but thank Heaven, it isn't too late yet. We'll soon fix this thing; and after they've made good, Jem Shock, I'm going to offer you my check for fifty thousand dollars for that land of yours; because it's doubled in value since you let it pass from your hands."

Rufus fairly beamed with happiness.

"What did I tell you, Jem Shock?" he burst out with. "I knew my father wouldn't stand for a crooked real estate deal. He's proud of the record he's made, and lots of people think he's the only honest land speculator there is. And now perhaps you will shake hands with him, Jem; yes, and with me, too. The Snodgrasses aren't so very bad a tribe, once you get to know them."

Jem had some difficulty in grasping the wonderful change that had come about in his financial condition, when later on the two real estate men admitted that they had played a sharp trick upon him, for which they were genuinely sorry – Lil Artha winked several times very hard when he heard them say this, and thought of "alligator's tears."

Jem even offered his hand to the man he had for years been condemning as an unworthy friend, and a treacherous dealer in land.

Conrad was the happiest little fellow imaginable. He would run from his father to Elmer and pat their hands; then back again to kiss his mother, and possibly shake hands with Lil Artha, Alec and Rufus.

"It's all happened because of the scouts coming up here to camp," he said in the midst of his great joy. "Oh! what don't we owe to you, Elmer?"

"He fixed my broken leg as fine as any army surgeon could have done, for one thing," admitted Jem Shock, now looking as though a great load had been taken off his shoulders; "and for that alone I could always remember the boy. Yes, it's been a great day for all of us. I'm glad now that tree caught me, and all the time I lie around waiting for the bone to knit, I'll be saying that I got just what I deserved for thinking evil of any man."

"None of that, Jem," said Mr. Snodgrass, with more or less asperity. "You were justified in holding hard feelings toward me, and thinking me a scoundrel. For once in my life I allowed a pair of precious knaves to dupe me, and never suspected how matters stood until I had your letter.

But I forced them to make restitution. I stood ready to land them both behind the bars if they refused."

Messrs. Bolten and Hall had departed before this was said, pleading an important engagement, and promising to do anything else Mr. Snodgrass demanded, so long as he kept his word not to make the affair public, as it would ruin their legitimate business to have it known that they had been concerned in one big shady deal. Doubtless their ears must have burned as they retraced their way in the direction of the car that had brought them from the distant station; but then, since all was now well, even Jem Shock could forgive them.

While Mr. Snodgrass spent two days in camp with the boys, he had plenty of chances of hearing Conrad play, for the boy kept his promise to come over with his wonderful Stradivarius violin, and charm them with his magical music. The gentleman agreed with Elmer that the child was very precocious, and had the "touch" that had made his grandfather illustrious.

"It would be a great crime," he said, "if such wonderful genius failed to find expression. If his father was unable to send him to the right master I'd certainly insist on it myself. And between us, boys, I'm determined on forcing Jem Shock to allow me to advance all the funds needed to put Conrad where he belongs. It's the only way I can make up in part for my unconscious share in his troubles."

Later on this same thing was arranged, and Conrad, it is needless to say, is at present studying hard under the best violin teacher in New York. Those who watch his career are loud in their praise, and say that when his time comes to appear in public, all such stars as Elman, Kreisler and Maud Powell will have to take a "back seat."

Of course since George had not been present when all these wonderful events came about, the others were forced to give him every possible opportunity to learn the exciting details. He asked a thousand questions, and heard the whole story told over and over again, from the time the expedition left camp up to the unexpected meeting between Jem and Mr. Snodgrass, and the humbling of the pair of precious real estate sharks.

Indeed, it usually did take several tellings to convince so skeptical a fellow as Doubting George, especially when there was something quite out of the common going on.

The balance of the scouts' stay in camp up at Raccoon Bluff was filled with all sorts of good times. Lil Artha went fishing over at the twin lakes, and came back with as heavy a load of fish as he could stagger under. He announced that never before in all his varied experience had he known such gallant fighters as those bronzed-backed warriors of Mirror Lake. His arms fairly ached from reeling them in; and he would never forget what a glorious morning he had had there. Of course this caused Elmer also to long to wet a line; and as Alec expressed a desire to see how the thing was done over in America – he had actually caught a big salmon once upon a time in a Scotch loch – he insisted on going along.

This was only a part of the glorious times they enjoyed. Rufus even got busy again with his surveyor's outfit, and did a little more work, just to "keep his hand in," he said; but as Alec had other things on the programme that he fancied much better than "running a line," or "slashing" through a thicket with an ax and bush hook, he absolutely balked on giving up much more time to that sort of thing.

They took pictures, and Elmer made sure to get one of the tree that in falling had arched the streamlet in such a remarkable way. Elmer also tried a few night exposures, catching some of the prowling 'coons in the act of stealing bait from a trap set so that when the trigger was sprung there would be a flashlight exposure, and the startled little animal would really take its own picture, being "caught in the act."

Besides they paid many visits to Jem's cabin, always carrying over heaps of good things to eat, despite the protests of Conrad's mother. Elmer explained that greedy George had deceived Rufus, who provided the provender for the week's campaign; and that consequently they had brought enough along to last a whole month; which they hated to "tote" back again, and so wished her to accept a few trifles, because Jem would not be able to be moved for some weeks, and hence no supplies could be laid in.

Conrad, of course, always played for them, and even George, whose ear for music was not of the best, for he rather preferred ragtime to "classical stuff," admitted that the little fellow did wield a magical bow, and could fairly make that "fiddle talk" when he got down to serious business.

They saw no more ferocious wildcats, though for several nights after the storm, Rufus complained that he was kept awake by some sort of plaintive mewing, though he was unable to exactly locate the sounds. Elmer feared that this might be caused by a kitten left behind by the cat Lil Artha had been compelled to slay in order to save Alec from rough clawing. He even hunted around during the daytime, hoping to find the small beast, but was unable to do so. Finally, the mewing was heard no more; from which they concluded that the kitten had either succumbed to hunger, or else, being fairly able to provide for itself, had departed for other fields.

The 'coons, however, afforded the campers no end of amusement by their curious antics. George gave it as his opinion that whoever named that particular section of country Raccoon Bluff knew his business, for never had he seen one half so many of the "bushy-tails" as during their stay there.

They proved to be great pests in the bargain, stealing whatever cooked food was left over; and becoming so tame, that it was a common occurrence to have several prowling around at any time of the day; while at night one of the campers found it necessary to rush out of the tent several times during the period of darkness in order to "shoo" the impudent rascals away.

Mr. Snodgrass had enjoyed himself heartily during the parts of two days he stayed with the boys. He expressed deep regret that pressing demands of business caused him to start back to town, Rufus seeing him safely to the nearest station, some six miles distant, as the crow flies.

And from what they all saw of Mr. Snodgrass during his stay, the others were inclined to believe Rufus knew what he was talking about when he so boldly told Jem Shock that his father was as "honest as the day was long," and "the best man that ever lived." Elmer concluded that any father who had so lived that his boy believes this of him has a right to be proud, and feel that "example is much better than precept." Too many fathers, Elmer realized, act upon the theory that a boy can maintain his respect for his parent who advises him to "do as I say, not as I do."

When finally the time came for breaking camp, the two tenderfeet felt sure they had made giant strides along the road that led to their goal – the distinction of becoming a first-class scout. They had learned innumerable things since leaving home; indeed, life looked altogether different nowadays, because they saw ten interesting things where before there had appeared but one. And the thirst for knowledge had gripped them so that never again would either Rufus or Alec be content to plod along as before, "seeing things as through a glass darkly," and not more than half comprehending what wonders surround boys of today on every side, if only they have the vision to notice and comprehend.

There is really no need for us to accompany Elmer, George, Lil Artha and the tenderfoot squad home again. But the story of their achievements while up there in camp at Raccoon Bluff will always make a bright page in the annals of the Hickory Ridge Boy Scouts. Of course we expect to meet these good friends again at no far distant day, in the pages of another volume, wherein may be detailed further of their interesting and often thrilling adventures. Until that time comes we must lower the curtain, and write the last words,

THE END

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