" Oh, you Delaware ! " " Come tell us that tale of the singing bird I" " Looks pale ; must have seen a haunt!" " Got your goat with you ? " " Come join the young men at their council fire I"
Walter grinned at the good-natured chaff of a group of boys squatting in front of a shelter tent pitched on the shore of the lake.
" Where's the fire ? " he asked.
" What I " cried Tug Benson. " Is he coming among us with the eyes of a paleface?" He spread his hands above the ashes of a long dead fire as if warming them. " And here," he added in an injured tone, " we've been sitting for an hour roasting that loon he heard last night, that he might feast with us. Now he doesn't even see the fire ! " He gave an exaggerated sniff. " He's done to a turn."
" Which?" asked Billy Buxby innocently. " Walt or the loon ? "
" Both," said Spud Ely with conviction. " Say, Upton, tell us about that scrap."
" Nothing to tell," replied Walter.
" Modest, though mighty, as becomes a son of the Tortoise," commented Tug. " Say, Walt, did he have light curly hair and a front tooth missing ? "
" Now you mention it, I believe he did," replied Walter.
"Pat Malone!" exclaimed Tug triumphantly. " Sure thing. Say, fellows, Pat's been hanging 'round camp for the last three or four days ; what do you suppose he's after?"
" Looking for a chance to swipe something," said Billy.
" Aw stow it, Billy ! Pat's tough all right, but that doesn't make him a thief," said Chip Harley.
" I saw Pat talking with Hal Harrison up on the Old Scraggy trail just at dusk the other night," broke in Ned Peasely. " They seemed mighty 'fraid of being seen. Wonder what's up?"
" Oh, probably Hal's trying to impress on the natives a sense of his own importance and the power of the almighty dollar," said Spud.
"Cut it out, Spud," advised Tug. " Hal's all right. Some day he'll forget he's the son of a millionaire. He's got good stuff in him."
" Sure thing," said Chip. " Say, did you know that he brought in another record fish this morning ? Six-pound small-mouth bass That's what gets my goat. Here he is, a tenderfoot, and yet he's putting it all over the fellows that have been here two or three years. He's rolling up points for the Senecas to beat the band. Say, I'll bet that Pat Malone has put him next to some secret fishing ground or new bait or something."
" Speaking of angels-" said Billy.
Walter looked up with the others to see a boy of perhaps fifteen passing on the trail up from the lake. He wore the regulation camp dress, but there was something in his bearing, a suggestion of superiority, a hint of condescension in his curt nod to the group around the tent, that gave Walter the feeling that he considered himself a little above his companions. Yet, withal, there was something likable in his face, despite a rather weak mouth and the shifty glance of his eyes. Instinctively Walter felt that Tug was right, and that beneath the supercilious veneer there was the stuff of which men are made, submerged now by self-indulgence and the misfortune of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as Tug expressed it.
" Hear you've put another over on us. Say, Hal, put us wise to that private preserve of yours, will you?" called the irrepressible Billy.
" Do a little scouting and find one for yourself," retorted Hal, passing on up the trail.
" I have it! We will do a little scouting. We'll trail him 'til we find out where he gets those big fish. What do you say, fellows?"
" That we'll do nothing of the kind."
The words were spoken quietly, but with a note of authority and finality that admitted of no contradiction. The boys turned to find Woodhull in their midst. Unseen he had come up just in time to hear Billy's last words. They all saluted the chief, and then Billy, who never was known to let the chance for an argument pass, took up the subject again.
" Why not, Louis ? " he demanded. " I thought it was a Scout's duty to always keep on the trail of an enemy."
" Meaning whom ? " asked Woodhull.
" Why, Harrison, of course. Isn't he a Seneca, and aren't the Senecas the enemies of the Delawares ? "
" Wrong again, Billy," responded the chief. " The Senecas are rivals, not enemies of the Delawares, and we are going to beat 'em to it in fair and open contest—if we can. But they are brother Scouts, members of Woodcraft Camp as we are. Just pin that in your hat. Of all contemptible beings the most contemptible is a spy, save in actual warfare. No, my son, if Hal has been smart enough to beat us all at locating the hiding-places of big fish he is entitled to the honors. Put your powers as a Scout to work and find the fish for yourself, my son ; but no spying on fellow Scouts.
" Tug, suppose you take Upton out to the swimming raft and try him out. You know the Hurons drew a prize in Hampton, who came in last week. Billy, I've got a bit of surveying to do on the Little Knob trail, and I need a rodman. Are you on ? "
" You bet! you know I'd follow you to the North Pole, Louis," replied Billy, rising with alacrity.
Tug and Walter started for their tights, while the others continued to sprawl lazily around the tent.
" The chiefs right," said Spud meditatively. " It wouldn't be a square deal to spy on Hal. Just the same I'd like to know where he gets those fish. You don't suppose -" He broke off abruptly.
" You don't suppose what? " asked Chip.
" Oh, nothin ' I "
" Come, Spud, out with it! What don't you suppose? "
Spud clasped his hands about his knees and gazed thoughtfully into the fireplace.
"What does Hal do with all his spending money ? " he demanded abruptly.
Chip looked up, startled. " You don't mean, Spud, that you think for a minute he-"
"No, I don't," Spud broke in. "I don't believe there's a fellow in camp low down mean enough to try to win points with things he'd bought. But why couldn't he have hired some one to put him next— guide for him ? "