Peleg Growdy found himself strangely thrilled as he looked into that frank, smiling face of Paul Morrison.
For almost a full minute they stood thus.
Then Peleg spoke.
“Reckon as how them comrades o’ yers must ‘a’ gut a long start by now, Paul. S’pose ye see if ye kin ketch up with ’em, son.”
That was all, but as Paul hurried off he was conscious of a strange feeling deep down in his breast; and he felt sure that after all it had paid. Peleg Growdy at least had met with the surprise of his life. After this possibly his ideas of juvenile depravity might undergo a violent change; for such positive natures as his usually swing from one extreme to the other, just like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.
Paul did not catch up with his fleeing comrades, for they had secured too good a start. When he reached the rendezvous, however, he found them there, one and all, and wondering what could have happened to detain him.
Loud were the expressions of astonishment as he calmly announced that having been caught in a trap, he had held a face to face talk with Peleg Growdy himself; when he managed to relate the whole surprising adventure the boys were stunned at the possible consequences of their little prank.
Those who had considered it only in the light of a joke began to see that Paul had something deeper in mind when he proposed such a thing.
All the way home Paul was kept busy repeating some of the things he had said to the irate farmer. It gave those lads something to ponder over when by themselves. Possibly they had never before realized what a powerful lever for good such a method of returning a grudge may become.
Paul himself was delighted. Even if nothing more came of it he could look back to the little adventure with satisfaction such as Ted Slavin and his cronies might never feel with regard to their prank.
And the next morning Paul was not at all ashamed to relate the entire circumstance at the breakfast table. He felt amply repaid when he saw the look of pride upon his mother’s face, as she turned her eyes, filled with unshed tears, upon him and said gently:
“I am glad you did it, Paul. I know the history of poor Peleg Growdy; and surely he has had enough of trouble during his life to make him different from the rest of his kind. The milk of human kindness has perhaps been dried up in his breast; yet who knows, my boy, but that you may have set him to thinking by that one little act of yours. I shall never fear for you, Paul, whatever betides.”
His father, the doctor, was a man of few words; but that morning when he was going off on his round of visits he did an unusual thing—took Paul’s hand, and gave it an affectionate squeeze, while the look that accompanied the action needed no further explanation.
And Paul was many times satisfied.
That day and others saw a growing buzz of excitement in the town of Stanhope. It seemed as though nearly every boy over the age of twelve, yes and even under, might be filled with a burning zeal to join the new troops that were being started under two different scout leaders.