" Walter, me bye, 'tis a great nut yez have on the two shoulders av yez I n exclaimed Pat admiringly. " We'll do ut"
He put his fingers to his mouth and whistled shrilly. At once there was an answering caw from the distant hemlocks, and Mike appeared winging his way toward them but, with the canny wisdom which had earned him his name, giving the cabin a wide berth. He dropped down to Pat's shoulder at once, where he jabbered in crow talk as if telling Pat all about his joke on the cook, all the time studying Walter with eyes so bright and sharp as to make the boy almost uncomfortable.
Without further delay they started for Woodcraft, the crow riding on Pat's shoulder or occasionally flying a short distance ahead. At the edge of the woods Pat sat down to wait while Walter hurried ahead. Hunting through his ditty bag he found a bright brass button and hurried over to the office. Fortunately no one was about Putting the button on the sill where the pin had been left the morning of its disappearance he slipped around in front and gave Pat the signal.
Pat came at once, but Mike, distrustful of the camp or perhaps plotting mischief, lingered behind. Pat passed the window and joined Waiter in front of the office. Then they cautiously peeped around the corner to watch Mike. As soon as he discovered that Pat was out of sight he quickened his flight and winged his way directly toward the rear of the office. The two boys watching could see him turn his head from side to side as he flew, his bright eyes scanning everything in sight. When he reached a point abreast of and above the window he made an abrupt half circle, dropped down to the sill as silently as a shadow, seized the button and then, mounting high, winged his way in strong swift flight "as straight as the crow flies" for Durant camp.
M The black scoundrel!" murmured Pat. " The black-hearted thafe ! "
It was too late for Walter to think of returning to the lumber camp that afternoon, and he had an encasement the next morning at nine.
" Lave it to me," said Pat. u Oi know iverv hidin' place av th' ould thafe. an' if he shtole the pin 'tis in wan av thim this very minnut. If thot robber took th' pin, an' Oi misthrust he did, 'tis Pat Malone that will have it back here by half afther eight to-morrow marnin'."
After evening mess Walter called Tug and Chip to one side.
" I've got a clue," he announced with pardonable excitement.
" What is it ? Who is it ? " they demanded as one.
" I'll tell you to-morrow morning at half-past eight," replied Walter, and that was all they could get out of him that night.
Walter slept but poorly. He was burning with curiosity to know the result of Pat's search, and he was alternately filled with joy at the thought of being able to return the precious pin to Mother Merriam, and torn with the fear that Crafty Mike might have lived up to his name and hidden his prize beyond Pat's reach.
By eight o'clock the next morning he could wait no longer and started up the Durant trail. It was just before he reached Speckled Brook that he heard Pat's shrill whistle, and by the sound of it he knew that there was good news. A few minutes later Pat swung into view.
Crafty Mike, looking abject and bedraggled, was tucked securely under one arm, while the free hand was jammed in a trousers pocket. Pat's freckled face stretched into a broad smile as he caught sight of Walter. He drew his hand from his pocket and spread it wide open. There in the palm, side by side, lay Mother Merriam's pin and the brass button which had proved Mike's undoing. Walter sent forth a joyous whoop, and did a war dance that was expressive if not dignified.
Before going to the big chief Tug and Chip were taken into confidence and shown the pin and the thief under pledge of secrecy. Then Pat and Walter started for the office. In response to Dr. Merriam's cheery " Come in," the two boys entered, Walter elated and Pat diffident. Walter had carefully prepared a little speech, but in the excitement of the moment it went completely out of his head. He did remember to salute his chief, and then he blurted out the news so fast that the words fairly tripped over each other: " We've found Mother Merriam's pin, and we've found who the thief is, and-"
" Wait a minute," interrupted the doctor, smiling. " What is this about Mother Merriam's pin ? "
For answer Pat extended his hand with the pin on the broad palm. The doctor's face lighted with pleasure as he reached out to take it.
" But the thief? " he said. " I don't quite understand."
" Here he is, sor," said Pat, thrusting forward the protesting Mike. The doctor's face was a study as he bade the boys sit down and tell him the whole story. When they had finished he quietly questioned them until he had drawn from Walter all that he had hitherto kept from Pat, how the latter had been suspected, how he had been sure that Pat was innocent, how he had found the crow's feather caught in the screen, and how this fact had come to his mind as soon as Pat had mentioned Mike's thieving propensities.
" Upton, I want you and Malone, and Mike, too," he added with a whimsical smile, " to remain here until I return."
He left the room, and a few minutes later Walter was startled to hear the " recall" sounded. Many of the boys had not yet left camp, and the others within hearing came hastening in. When they had all gathered the doctor stepped out in front.
" Some time ago," he began, " the * recall' was sounded to tell you that a thief had been in our midst, and to ask you to give of your services in an effort to regain the pin which had been stolen. It seemed to me that it was quite as important to again sound the ' recall' to tell you that the pin has been recovered."
He paused as a stir ran through the group of boys, and they broke out in a hearty cheer. "And," he continued when quiet had been restored, "the thief taken, and that this happy result has been accomplished by one of your own members. Who that member is I am not going to tell you, but I want you to know that I consider that in his whole course of action he has displayed the very highest form of scoutcraft, for he has not only apprehended the thief and recovered the plunder, but what is of vastly more importance, he has removed unjust suspicion from one whose good name not one of you has had real cause to doubt."
He then briefly sketched the story of the search for and the finding of the pin, no names being mentioned, and concluded by bringing forth the pin and Crafty Mike for all to see.
Sitting in the office Walter and Pat had heard every word, and Walter's face glowed with pleasure at the doctor's praise. He felt that his reward had been great indeed, and when the doctor concluded by saying that fifty points would be credited to the Delawares in recognition of his work, his joy was complete.
An hour later Pat Malone paused on the trail to Durant camp to look with shining eyes at a gold piece in his hand. " Caw," said Crafty Mike, looking down from his shoulder with greedy eyes.
"Shut up fer a black-hearted thafe!" growled Pat. " Sure, 'tis me ruin an' me fortune that yez are loike ter be."