Jack breathed easier, since he knew now that his brother had not been concerned in the adventure; still, there was that other thing—but he had promised Paul not to believe, or even suspect, anything so early in the game.
“I admit that it does seem ludicrous; and no doubt if I had been there I must have been strongly tempted to laugh at the comical spectacle those six pigs must have presented. But it is the spirit of the thing that looks so bad. Growdy never harmed a boy in his life, he says, and only wants to be let alone; but they went out of their way to play a malicious trick on the old man. It took him the whole of Sunday to scrape that paint off the hides of his pigs; which I consider a pretty hard proposition. And I repeat what I said before, that I’m pleased to know a son of mine would not be guilty of so mean a trick.”
Karl left the table just then, and his brother fancied that he looked a bit confused, as though his conscience were troubling him, but then Jack hoped he might be mistaken.
THE FIRST SCOUT LEADER
Paul had said that he would be away the greater part of the day, his father having asked him to go to the city on an important errand.
Consequently there was no opportunity for the two chums to confer upon any of the matters that were interesting then.
But all the boys had agreed to meet at the house of Nuthin’ that evening, to plunge deeper into the subject of organizing at least one scout patrol in Stanhope.
As usual Paul called for Jack, and as the latter’s parents knew what was on tap, there was no opposition shown to his going out.
“Has anything happened to-day?” whispered the visitor, as he was joined by Jack in the hall.
“Yes, I was out a lot with the fellows, and doing some chores around; but I mustered up enough courage just before supper to go upstairs,” replied the other, his voice giving plain warning as to what was to follow, for it showed the strain.
“And counted the coins again, perhaps to find them short, eh, Jack?”
“Well, you said there were eight, and now I can count only six. Why, it’s getting to be a regular clock-like piece of business. And after what father said this morning, too.”
“What did he say?” asked Paul.
“Come along. I’ll tell you while we’re on our way,” and Jack gave a nervous look over his shoulder, as though afraid lest his brother pop out on them unawares.
As they walked slowly along the road he spoke in the affectionate manner in which Mr. Stormways had declared his utmost faith in the honesty and integrity of his two boys.
“But you’re not sure that Karl has anything to do with the disappearing coins. Other boys may have been up there to-day?” suggested his friend, quickly.
“I asked mother, and she said she didn’t remember that any one had come to see me. No, the more I think about it the worse I feel. But I guess you didn’t have any time to see old Doc. Thomes before you went to the city, did you?”