That afternoon about four o’clock, as Paul and two of his chums were passing along one of the side streets of the town they came upon a scene that caused a sudden halt.
The blustering voice of Ted Slavin was what first drew their attention; and it seemed to come from around the next corner. Then followed a quavering voice, pleading in its tone.
Paul looked at his friends, and his brow darkened.
“It’s old Mother Martha, the market woman who sells things in her little stall around here. And some of those mean skunks are plaguing her, like they often do, she tells me, stealing her apples, and laughing at her, because she’s lame with the rheumatism, and can’t chase after ’em!” said William, who happened to be one of the trio brought to a halt so suddenly.
“Come on, then; we can’t stand that!” exclaimed Paul.
The boys hurriedly turned the corner, to find that what William had suggested seemed to be the actual truth.
Ted and a follower were hovering near the poor old woman. The fact that Ted was contentedly munching a red apple told that he had already made his hawk-like descent on the stand of the market woman, and was now seeking to distract her attention so that his companion might also swoop down to seize a prize, when they would go off, laughing uproarously, as though they considered it a huge joke.
Paul was on the bully in a flash, and almost before Ted knew of his presence he had torn the apple from his grasp and hurled it far away.
“Get out of this, you coward!” exclaimed the scout leader of the new patrol, as he gave Ted Slavin a push; “I’m going to speak to the chief of police about the way you rob this good woman, and see if he won’t stop it. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, both of you!”
William and Bluff were for jumping at the two offenders, and giving them a lesson then and there; but with both arms Paul held his fire-eaters back.
“Let ’em come on, if they want to mix up with us. We can take care of two, and think it a picnic. P’raps even three wouldn’t be too much, if so be you want to try it on, Paul Morrison. Huh! there comes another bunch of your sissies. Seven against two might make it too interestin’, so we’d better skip out, Scissors. But you just wait, that’s all. I don’t forget you laid a hand on me; and some time I’m going to take it out.”
“Oh! suit yourself, Ted,” answered the other, promptly. “I’m ready to have a go at you when you’re ready, if you force me to the wall. I’m not a fighter, but when I see a couple of rowdies treating a poor old woman like you did, it makes me see red.”
With derisive jeers the pair faded away as several boys came running to the spot, having seen the group, and guessing from the presence of the two rival leaders that there must be something doing.
Their indignation was boundless when they learned what new meanness the coming of Paul and his two chums had interrupted.