Patiently and carefully he worked his way through the tangle, once having to get out and lift the canoe over a jam of a dozen stranded logs. Beyond this the channel was comparatively clear. Unexpectedly it abruptly opened into a broad body of water perhaps half a mile long, deep in the middle, and with the upper end covered with an acre or more of lily-pads.
Walter's eyes sparkled. " Gee, I bet there's pickerel in here!" he exclaimed, unconsciously speaking aloud.
" Bet yer life thar is," said a voice with a chuckle.
Walter turned to find a rude raft anchored behind the half submerged top of a fallen hemlock, and on it sat Pat Malone, catching young striped perch for bait.
"Hello!" exclaimed Walter. "What are you doing here ? "
" Seem ter be fishin'," replied Pat, a broad grin spreading across his freckled face.
Walter grinned in return. " Well, what are you catching?" he asked.
" Mostly fish—some skeeters," was the prompt retort.
Pat lifted a wriggling three-inch perch from the water. " Do you call that a fish ? " asked Walter.
" Mebbe it is an' mebbe it isn't," said the lumber boy as he dropped the victim into a battered old pail half filled with water. " How about this?" He reached behind him and held up at arm's length a huge pickerel.
Walter allowed a long low whistle of admiration escape him. " Are there any more like that in here ? " he asked eagerly.
"Shure," replied Pat. "That's nothin' but a minnie 'longside some old whopperlulus in here."
" What'd you catch him with?"
" Bait an' a hook an' line."
Walter laughed. " Pat, you win," said he. " I don't want any of your secrets, but I should like to catch just one fish like that one."
A crafty look swept over the freckled face grinning across at him. " Yez licked me once." Walter nodded.
" An' yez said that if iver yez had the chance yez'd show me some o' thim thricks what done it."
Again Walter nodded.
" Will yez do it now if Oi'll show yez where thim big fish is an' how ter ketch 'em?" asked Pat eagerly.
" I'll do it anyway, and you don't need to show me anything about the fish," replied Walter heartily, driving the canoe ashore as he spoke.
Together they forced their way through the underbrush until they found a cleared place. "This isn't to be another fight?" asked Walter, a sudden suspicion flashing into his mind.
" Course it ain't! What kind av a low-down hedgehog do ye take me fer, anyway?" retorted his companion indignantly.
Walter put out his hand and apologized promptly, ashamed to think that he should have been guilty of entertaining such a thought. Then he began by briefly explaining the rules governing boxing, pointing out that a blow below the waist line constitutes a foul, that a man knocked down is allowed ten seconds in which to get on his feet again, and during that time must not be touched by his opponent; that wrestling is not allowed, and that matches usually are conducted by rounds of three minutes each, with a minute for rest in between.
" No true sportsman will ever hit a man when he's down," concluded Walter.
This was difficult for the backwoods boy to grasp, and it was equally hard for him to understand why in a fight he should not scratch, kick and gouge, even use his teeth opportunity offered, for in his hard life in the lumber camps he had witnessed many a rough and tumble fight where ethics are unknown, and where fighting men sink to the level of fighting beasts, employing every weapon with which nature has endowed them, and giving no mercy to a fallen foe.
But Pat was blessed with a strong sense of fair play, and when he had fully grasped the meaning of the rules they appealed to him instantly. " 'Tis jist a square deal both byes gits in a foight! " he exclaimed, alight breaking over his puzzled face.
Then Walter showed him a few of the simplest guards, how to parry an opponent's blow with one arm while countering with the other, how to protect the body with elbows and forearms while the hands shield the face, how to step inside, and how to duck under a swing, how, by watching his opponent, to anticipate the coming blow and be prepared to avoid it. Lastly he showed him the art of side-stepping, the little shift of the feet which while keeping the body perfectly poised allows the blow to pass harmlessly to one side or the other, at the same time opening an opportunity to counter on the opponent.
Naturally quick, and with an Irishman's inborn love of battle, Pat picked up the points readily and when at the end of an hour Walter flung himself on the ground for a breathing spell Pat executed a double shuffle.
" Shure it be the greatest dancin' lesson av me loife ! " he whooped joyously, side-stepping, ducking and lunging into empty space. " Come on, bye, come on ! Oi can lick yez now ! Come on, ye spalpeen ! 'Tis Pat Malone will give yez the greatest lickin' av yer life!"
Walter declined with thanks, lying back weak from laughter, while the young giant continued to dance around sparring, ducking and countering on an imaginary foe. " 'Tis meself will clane out the Durant camp before anither sun is up as shure as Oi be the eldest son av me mither," he chuckled, flinging himself beside Walter from sheer exhaustion.
When they had rested a bit Walter proposed that they go try the fish, and that Pat come in his canoe. In an instant the young woodsman had forgotten his newly acquired accomplishments, for a new idea had suddenly possessed him.
"Tell me, bye, what's this about catchin' the biggest fish at Woodcraft Camp ? " he asked eagerly.
Walter explained the contest fully, and told how eager he was to score over the Senecas.
11 'Tis aisy," broke in Pat.
" What do you mean? " asked Walter, a bit puzzled.
Pat struck one side of his nose with a dirty forefinger and winked solemnly. " Oi wonder now, have yez forgot the big pickerel yez have lyin' down on the raft ? 'Twill weigh ten pounds if it weighs an ounce."
" But that isn't mine ! " exclaimed Walter. " It's yours."
" Is ut now ? " said Pat, scratching his head. "Shure Oi disremimber ketchin' ut. Oi'm thinkin' yez must hev caught ut in yer shlape an' didn't know ut."
Walter laughed and thanked his companion heartily, while he refused the gift. Then seeing the look of hurt disappointment on Pat's face he hastened to make clear why he could not accept the fish. " You see," he concluded, " a Scout's honor is always to be trusted, and it would not be honorable to try to win with a fish I did not catch myself. A man's honor is the greatest thing he possesses."
The other pondered this in silence for a few minutes trying to adjust his mind to a new idea. When he spoke it was slowty, as one feeling his way.
" Yez mane that ter score wid thot fish would be loike hittin' a man when he's down, or shtalin' from a blind pup."
" Exactly," replied Walter.
"An' do all the other byes feel the same way ? "
" Of course they do."
" No they don't! Anyway, there's wan that doesn't."
" What do you mean ? " cried Walter startled.
" Oi mane thot there's wan dirty blackguard has been winnin' points roight along wid Pat Malone's fish. Oi mane thot thot spalpeen thot yez call Harrison, the wan with his pockets lined with money, has been buyin' me big fish fer the last mont' an' payin' me good money fer 'em. Oi mane thot if yez hadn't happened in here this marnin' yez moight hev seen him luggin' in thot big pickerel this very noight. 'Tis his last fish he's had from me, the low-down blackguard." Then he added ruefully : " Sure 'tis a glad day fer Pat Malone an' a sorry wan fer his pockets ter hev found out what honor manes."