The two boys returned to the canoe and spent the remainder of the morning in a vain attempt to land another big pickerel. When they parted it was with a mutual respect and liking and a promise on Walter's part to return the next day in quest of the big fellows. "Oi'm goin' ter hunt frogs fer bait this afternoon an' Oi'll be waitin' fer ye at sun up," were Pat's parting words.
It was a sober boy who paddled back to Woodcraft that afternoon. What he had learned that morning filled him with mingled feelings of contempt and gladnessócontempt, for the fellow Scout who had so perjured himself and violated his Scout's oath, and gladness that his faith in the unkempt boy of the woods had been so fully justified. Any lingering doubt of Pat Malone's innocence of the theft of Mother Merriam's pin which he might have entertained had been banished by what he had learned of the boy that morning.
And in his own mind the boy was fighting a battle. Where lay the path of duty ? What did his honor as a Scout demand of him ? To go report what he had learned? To become a bearer of tales? The very thought was abhorrent to him ! On the other hand had he any moral right to allow his fellow tribesmen to sutler through the dishonesty of which he held the proof? And Hal's own tribesmen, was it fair to them to allow them to profit by points to which, though no fault of theirs, they had no right ?
It was a relief to see Harrison's canoe approaching the landing as he pulled his own out He would put it up to Hal to do the square thingóredeem himself by playing the man for once,
" Hah" said Walter in a 1 w tone as the other landed, I know where you get your fish"
Hal turned and faced him. " What art you talking about?" he said roughly.
Walter flushed and instinctively bit finis doubted, bat bi kept ft check on his temper. " You have bought your record fish of Fat Malone," he Mid evenly.
It was the other's turn to flush, but he maintained his air of bravado.
" That's silly," he jeered.
* No it isn't, and you know it," replied Walter.
" Well, what are you going to do about it? " asked the other sulkily, seeing that denial was useless.
" I don't know," replied Walter sadly. " Bay, Hal, why don't you go own up to Dr. Merriarn and ask him to try and put you right with the fellows? "
"What do you take me for? I'm in bad enough now. If you don't blab who's going to know it? And if you turn telltale I guess my word's as good as yours," sneered Hal.
, " For two cents I'd punch-" began Walter hotly, then pity for the unfortunate boy before him calmed him. "Hal, Fro not going to 3ay anything to-night, anyway. Do the right thing. Remember your Scout's oath," he begged.
"Remember it yourself," growled Hal. u There's mighty little honor in telling tales." And with this parting shot he strode off to the wigwam.
Walter's preoccupation and sober face were bound to attract the attention of his mates, and he came in for a lot of guying.
" Who is she, Walt ? "
" Is her papa a big chief? "
" Take us round and give us a knock-down, Walt."
"Romance of the big woods! Walt, the tenderfoot, falls in love with an Indian princess!"
Walter's replies to all these sallies were only half-hearted, and seeing that something was really amiss with him the boys dropped their banter. He retired to his bunk early, only to twist and toss uneasily all night long. Over and over till his brain grew weary he kept repeating the perplexing question, " Ought I to tell ? Ought I to tell ? Ought I to tell ? "
The problem was no nearer a solution when in the gray of dawn he slipped a canoe into the water the next morning and turned her bow toward the setback. Pat was waiting for him on the old raft and, true to his word, he had a pocket full of lively little frogs, which were giving him no end of trouble in their efforts to escape. Walter took him aboard, and they were soon skirting the lily-pads at the upper end.
Here Pat bade Walter rig his rod and, producing a lively green frog from his pocket, he impaled it on the hook by thrusting the barb through its lips, explaining that in this way the frog's swimming was not seriously interfered with. He then took the paddle and handled the canoe while Walter cast. The frog had hardly struck the water before there was a swirl at the very edge of a patch of lily-pads followed by a strike that made the reel sing. A couple of good rushes and then, as is the way with pickerel, the fish was brought alongside with hardly a struggle. Pat deftly scooped it into the canoe and killed it with a blow that broke its spine. It was fair for a beginning, weighing perhaps four pounds, and Walter prepared to try again.
For half an hour they worked along the pads, taking several smaller fish.
At length they approached an outlying patch of pads where the water was deep and black. Two canoe lengths short of it Pat stopped the canoe. Then he sorted over his remaining supply of frogs till he found one that suited his critical fancy. With this he rebaited Walter's hook. " Now, ye throw roight over ter the very edge o' thim pads, and don't ye be in no hurry," he commanded.
The first cast was short, but at the second attempt the frog landed with a spat at the very edge of the pads and began to swim vigorously in an effort to reach and climb up on them. Suddenly the water fairly boiled, and Walter all but lost his balance and upset the canoe, so sudden and vicious was the strike.
" Ye have him ! Ye have him ! Shure 'tis the king av thim all, an' 'tis mesilf that knows ut, for 'tis tree times thot the ould feller has walked off wid me line and hooks ! " yelled Pat excitedly. " Don't let him get foul o' thim pads ! "
Walter soon found that he had the fight of his life on to keep the wary old warrior in clear water, but inch by inch he worked the fish away from the pads until finally he felt that the danger was past and that it was only a matter of time when the prize would be his. A few more heavy lunges, which threatened by the mere weight of the fish to break the slender rod, and the battle was over. Softly Pat slid his hand along till his stout fingers closed in the gills and the prize was in the canoe, where Pat speedily put an end to the snapping of its cruel looking jaws by severing the spinal cord with his knife.