His chum was rather slight in build, but wiry, with light hair and a rather thin, clean, serious face which gave the impression of tremendous nervous energy habitually under control. He took but little part in the conversation, but his quiet smile at the sallies between Bob and the guide was of a peculiarly winsome sweetness. His slight reserve drew rather than repelled Walter, who instinctively felt that the friendship of Louis Woodhull was something well worth the winning.
They had now come some twelve miles down the lake, and presently Bob pointed out a long pier jutting out from the eastern shore, and beyond it, just to the left of a giant pine, a flagstaff from which Old Glory was fluttering limply in the light breeze just beginning to ripple the surface of the lake.
" There you are, Upton, your first glimpse of Woodcraft," he said. " I hope you'll-"
But what he hoped Walter never knew. A shrill " Hy-i-i-i-i! We want that tenderfoot!" cut him short, as a canoe manned by two youngsters of about Walter's own age shot out from an island the launch was just passing. Both boys were in trunks and jerseys and paddling like mad to intercept the launch. Suddenly the one in the stern caught sight of the guide. For an instant he stopped paddling, while a look of pleased surprise passed over his face, and then with a wild yell of " Jim, oh, you Jim I" he redoubled his efforts.
Seaforth put the wheel over to port a couple of spokes. " No you don't, Billy I " he called with a grin. " This boat carries Uncle Sam's mail, and it can't stop to pick up tows."
"Aw, Louis, slow her down, won't you?" begged Billy.
Louis smiled good-naturedly; but the engine slowed down not a bit.
" Ta-ta," called Bob. " The Indian attack is foiled, Billy. I'm ashamed of you ! Your paddling is abominable. Where's that new stroke that's going to win the championship? See you later."
And then it happened. One moment two boys were frantically digging up the water with their paddles and the next a canoe was floating bottom up, one boy white-faced and frightened, clinging to the bow, and the other, with a malicious grin on his freckled face, swimming at the stern.
The instant it happened Seaforth put the wheel hard over and, describing a short circle, headed for the canoe. Walter's heart had been in his mouth, but the others seemed not a bit disturbed. Louis stopped the launch, and while the guide righted and emptied the canoe, he and Seaforth hauled the victims aboard.
" You little beggar!" growled Bob as he grabbed Billy by the slack of his jersey, " I've a mind to duck you until you howl for mercy. You did that purposely."
Billy grinned. " You didn't suppose I was going to let you land Big Jim and I not be there, did you ? " he asked.
" That's all right, Billy, but this is going to. be reported," broke in Louis.
" Don't, please don't, Louis," begged the culprit.
" Sorry, son, but it's got to be. We love you, Billy, and because we love you we're going to report. You addle-pated little scamp, when will you ever learn that whatever risks a man may run himself he has no right to involve others in danger? How did you know that Allen there would be able to take care of himself, plunged unexpectedly into the water? He's been in camp only three days, so what did you know of his powers of resource ? No, my son, we hate to tell tales, but we've a duty to you to perform, so prepare to pay the penalty."
The launch was now once more under way with the canoe in tow. Walter was duly introduced to the penitent Billy and his victim, Harry Allen, like himself a new recruit and therefore a tenderfoot.
Several boys had gathered on the pier to size up any newcomers the launch might bring, and Walter felt himself the target for a battery ot eyes. The ordeal was light, however, compared with what it would have been at nightfall or earlier in the day, for it was now nine o'clock and the boys were largely scattered in the duties and pursuits of camp life.
As the launch was made fast Billy whispered, " Here comes Dr. Merriam ; isn't he a peach ? "
Walter looked up with just a little feeling of awe to see the man of whom he had heard so much—a scientist, explorer, author and lecturer, honored by many scientific societies and institutions of learning both at home and abroad, and now content to bury himself in the north woods as the founder and • head of the most unique school in the world— a school with a purpose which was, as he himself whimsically expressed it, " to make big men of little boys."
Woodcraft Camp was the outgrowth of years of study and observation of boy life and the needs of the tremendous army of youth annually turned loose upon the country for three months of idleness and mischief. It was, in effect, a vacation school, so cleverly masked in the guise of a camp that probably not one among the pupils, save a few of the older boys, recognized it as such. Its courses were manliness, self-reliance, physical and mental health, strength of character, simplicity of desire and love of nature. The curriculum embraced all forms of athletic sports, swimming, canoeing, fishing, shooting, forestry, the rudiments of civil engineering, woodcraft in all its branches from the pitching of a tent or building of a lean-to to the cooking of a good meal, the shooting of a rapid and the way to live off of the country in an unknown wilderness.
Botany, ornithology, the rudiments of physiology, as taught by a knowledge of first aid to the injured—all these things and more were taught, while the boys, all unconscious that they were being systematically trained and developed, thought only of the jolly gooc| times they were having. Timid, nervous, under-developed youngsters entering the camp at the beginning of the summer vacation went forth to their studies in the fall brown, hearty, well muscled and with a quiet confidence in themselves and their own abilities to do things which won immediate recognition among their fellows. And not one among them but held in the secret places of his heart as his ideal in life the man whom Walter now saw approaching with a quick, elastic step.
He was about fifty years of age, medium height, thin, but sinewy, a human dynamo of nervous energy. He was clean shaven, slightly gray at the temples, with firm, square jaw, rather large mouth, prominent nose and eyes which seemed to see all things at once yet from which a smile seemed ever ready to leap forth. It was far from a handsome face, save in the beauty of strength, but was a face to love, a face once seen never to forget.
It was now all alight with pleasure at the sight of Big Jim. The guide leaped forward to meet the doctor, and in the greeting there was plainly evident a mutual respect and liking between these men, so far apart in the social scale, yet beneath the veneer produced by circumstance, so closely bound in a common brotherhood.
Turning from the guide the doctor held out his hand to Walter. " Upton," he said with a kindly smile, " let me welcome you as a member of Woodcraft Camp. Buxby," turning to Billy, " you show Upton the way to Wigwam No. 1 and where to stow his duffle and wash up. By the way, Buxby, you and your canoe look pretty wet. Have an accident ? " Then without waiting for Billy's reply he added, " You may police camp for the remainder of the day, Buxby. Carelessness and recklessness are equally reprehensible, and neither should ever go unpunished. Upton, please report at my office in an hour. Buxby will show you where it is."
" And I never said a word ; you can't fool the doctor," whispered Woodhull to the discomfited Billy, as the latter stooped to lift a package from the launch.
Billy made a wry face and then, good-naturedly shouldering Walter's duffle bag, started up the trail toward a long log cabin.