Two very sober boys came forth from their interview with the big chief. It was not that their punishment for infraction of the two most rigidly enforced rules of the campó jumping bounds and building firesówas to be so severe. In fact they were getting off much lighter than they had dared to hope for, being ordered to police camp for one month and also being denied the privilege of joining any of the various special parties going out with the guides for two and three day trips. Dr. Merriam considered that their experience had been in the nature of punishment, severe enough to warrant him in being lenient in his dealings with the culprits.
He had simply talked to them, quietly, kindly, with no shadow of resentment, no suggestion of scolding. It was just a plain talk as man to man, in which the doctor made clear to them how the welfare of all is wholly dependent upon the individual, and that the breaking of laws made for the community in no way harms those in authority, but is an outrage upon the great body politic and in time is bound to react upon the lawbreaker.
" The honor of Woodcraft Camp as a whole is to be safeguarded only by keeping unsullied the honor of each individual member. By your acts of deliberate disobedience yesterday you not only besmirched your own honor as Scouts under oath, but you blotted the honor of the entire camp. Buxby, by your own confession you have sought to take upon your shoulders the entire blame for this unfortunate affair. The motive does you credit. But, my boy," he concluded, turning to Spud, " I want you to realize that weakness which allows one to follow another in wrongdoing is quite as blameworthy as the act of the leader, and that therefore I hold you equally culpable with Buxby in this affair."
His face lighted with one of his rare smiles. u I believe that from now on I can trust both of you implicitly," he said, giving each the Scout's grip.
" The thing that hurts me most is the fact that the big chief won't let the flndin' of that bee tree score tor the Delawares. There's fifty points thrown away just because 1 wouldn't take your advice, Spud, and wait till we got permission to go out of bounds," said Billy, as half an hour later the two boys sat at one end of the mess table making up for their prolonged fast.
Spud stopped a huge slice of bread and butler half-way to his mouth. " What about that second line we ain't run down yet?" he asked slowly.
Billy staled at him for a minute, then suddenly choked over the cup of hot cocoa he was drinking. When he had recovered his breath a, broad smile lighted his battered face.
" Spud, old Scout, we win 1 " bo exulted. " Here's where we heat the big chief after all I Why didn't I think of if before? It's as easy as picking up chips at a WOOd-pile. We haven't said a word about that second line. We won't, except to Woodhull. We'll take him along and run that line clear to bounds. Then we'll show Louis how to use that bee box, and let him go on and find the tree. You know there are no bounds for the tribe leaders. Fifty points for the Delawares- Oh, my lucky stars 1" Billy finished with a whoop that brought the cook running to see what the trouble was.
In the meantime Dr. Merriam was having a conference with Big Jim at the headquarters. " I tell yer, doctor, thet leetle scatter-brain hev got more woods sense than three-fourths o' th' rest o' these youngsters put together. Wish yer could see thet camp o1 theirn. Couldn't 'a' built it no better myself. An' then he had sense enough t' stick right thar and send up them smoke signals. If he only hed th' level top piece o' thet youngster thet went in t' Lonesome with me he'd hev th' makin' o' one o' th' best leaders in camp, even if he did hear a bar." The big guide chuckled.
" So you don't take any stock in the bear ? " asked the doctor.
" Not th' least leetle mite," replied Jim. "Folks thet's lost allers hears bars or wildcats. I been watchin' out some sharp an' I ain't see no sign o' bar nigher'n ten mile o' this camp in th' last three years."
" Where did those bees come from ? " asked the doctor.
" Feller thet lived in this camp th' summer 'fore yer bought it had a couple o' hives. Guess some o' 'em must hev got away from him. Thet youngster cert'nly did run 'em down slick. Hadn't never noticed th' leetle honey bugs myself."
The doctor smiled. " I had," said he, " and I had intended to line them out some day, but Billy got ahead of me, and as you say, he certainly did the trick very cleverly. The thing that pleases me, however, is the fact that he was observing enough to notice them. I don't believe that there is another soul in camp beside myself who had discovered them. Jim, that boy has got the right kind of stuff in him. We've got to take him in hand and develop his bump of caution and sense of responsibility."
" If he could run with young Upton fer a while-" began the guide.
" The very thing I had in mind," interrupted the doctor. " When Buxby's period of probation is over I think we'll have to plan a trip for you with those two youngsters, one that will put them on their mettle. It will be an interesting experiment. What do you think about opening that bee tree ? "
The guide grinned. " A leetle honey would kind o' sweeten things up some," he ventured.
" All right," replied the doctor. " Be prepared to take a small party in to get it day after to-morrow."
Big Jim's "honey party," as he called it, was drawn wholly from the Delawares, in honor of the tree having been discovered by members of that tribe. It included Wood-hull, Tug Benson, Upton and Chip Harley. Billy and Spud were denied the privilege of going out of bounds, so could go no farther than the edge of the old clearing. Spud announced that he had had enough of bees anyhow, and chose to stay in camp. But Billy was heart-broken. However, he was fair minded enough to admit to himself that he deserved all that was coming to him, and hiding his chagrin led the expedition to the old clearing and gave the guide the line from the stump on the upper edge. He watched the others disappear into the woods in single file and then sat down to possess himself in such patience as he could until they should return. He had no doubt of their success in locating the tree and as Big Jim was no novice at cutting bee trees, he anticipated no trouble on that score. All the party wore gloves and carried mosquito netting to protect faces and necks from the maddened bees. In fact both Tug and Chip had their veils on when they entered the woods. The guide carried an axe, as did Woodhull, while Walter and Tug each carried a galvanized iron water pail for the expected honey. Billy knew that the guide would run no risk of having his charges badly stung and would undoubtedly smoke the hive well before laying it open.