“Where’s the other twin?” asked Paul, seeing William alone.
“Unavoidably detained, Captain. May be on deck later. Here comes another bunch,” and William stepped aside to allow the sentry to halt Andy Flinn, who had arrived in company with Jud Elderkin, the latter as tall and thin as the former was fat and pudgy.
“Pass along, gentlemen,” sang out William, after the pair had successfully stood the test; “the animals went in two by two; the elephant and the kangaroo!” and as usual there was a laugh at this sally, which applied so aptly to the couple just entering.
“All here now, Paul,” announced Jack Stormways, counting noses in the light of half a dozen lanterns provided by Mr. Shipley, the owner of the barn.
For an hour routine business was transacted.
There were just twenty-one names on the roll now, and all present saving two, Wallace Carberry and another. It was decided to organize two patrols at once, the first to be under the charge of Paul as scout leader, while Jud Elderkin took the Gray Fox crowd.
The more the assembled lads learned concerning the duties and sports of the Boy Scouts, the greater became their enthusiasm. As the evening progressed they were fairly bubbling over with excitement, and it began to look as though the success of the new movement were already assured.
But Paul knew that it must be a constant fight between the natural rough-and-ready, give-and-take spirit which almost every boy inherits from his ancestors, and the new idea that would have him a hero without being a bully or a brawler.
And he was not surprised when, later on, just before they thought of breaking up the meeting, William got the floor on the question of a personal privilege, and threw a bombshell into the camp.
“I’m going to ask a favor of you fellows,” he said; “and you can help me break even with that old rooster as well as have some fun. D’ye think you can stand the racket?”
The others crowded around, for they knew very well that when William had anything to propose it usually meant some frolic. But Paul noticed to his surprise that the joker seemed worked up far more than he could ever remember seeing him before, and he scented trouble ahead.
“Who is it this time, William? Tell us about it, old fellow! Of course we’re bound to stand by you through thick and thin. That’s one of the first duties of a scout, you know. Speak up, and give us a tip!”
It was Jud Elderkin who said this; but that he voiced the sentiments of pretty much the entire group could be judged from the chorus of exclamations that greeted his aggressive speech.
“It’s that old grumpy miser, Peleg Growdy,” said the orator, waving his hands to emphasize his words. “He never had any use for boys, you know, and often says he wonders why the pests were ever born. I don’t remember doing him any mean thing in my life, but he’s got it in for the whole creation of boys, I expect.”