“Hurrah! Three cheers for Mr. Peleg Growdy!” exclaimed one of those who felt relieved to think that his coming meant no trouble after all.
But the farmer raised his hand.
“Jest wait till I has my little say, boys. Now, at fust I was kinder riled that a passel o’ boys shud ‘a’ took me to task on account o’ my way o’ lettin’ things run loose like at my place. But I gotter thinkin’ her over, and by hokey if it didn’t jest come home to me. Times was when my dooryard was the puttiest around all Stanhope, with the flowers abloomin’, an’ every scrap tidied up; but in them happy days Mandy an’ the kids was there, ye see; an’ sense they was took it ’peared like I never cared what things looked like; an’ that’s a fact, boys.”
The old man seemed to swallow something that threatened to choke him; and then, while the boys hung on his every word, and wondered how they had ever come to misunderstand him as they had, he went on:
“But I kim to the conclusion, arter thet kind visit ye paid me, thet I owed a duty to the community, and it warn’t right for any citizen to let his place look disgraceful. So arter this nobody ain’t agoin’ to be ashamed to pass by the yard where Mandy ’tended the rose bushes, and her tots played from morn to night. I jest drapped in here to thank ye right hearty boys, for showin’ me wot was wantin’. Arter this there ain’t never agoin’ to be any trouble between me an’ the boys o’ Stanhope. They kin count on old Peleg Growdy to contribute to every sport that goes to cultivate the mind and body in the right direction!”
He seemed a vastly different man as he stood there and said this, for his head was thrown back, his eyes flashed, and his face was almost friendly in its expression, the old haggard look having for the time being disappeared.
“Again I say, three cheers for Mr. Growdy!” called Joe Clausin.
“Wait a bit, fellers. I got somethin’ more to say,” pleaded the old man, once again lifting his hand to still the rising tumult.
Paul smiled, for he could give a pretty shrewd guess as to what was coming; and it certainly did him good to realize how their odd little scheme was turning out to be such a glorious success.
Every voice was hushed, and once more the throng waited for the farmer to explain.
“I’ve been ahearin’ a good lot about wot ye’re all adoin’ with this Boy Scout business. Kinder got me interested, an’ I borried some books o’ the dominie jest so I could understand wot ‘twas all about. An’ I want to say I like the ijee fust rate. If I hed any boys o’ my own,” and his voice faltered right there, “I’d sure encourage ’em to jine in with ye. Seein’ as I ain’t, an’ on account o’ the good turn ye done me t’other night, boys, I’m goin’ to ask a favor o’ ye. I ain’t got nary a kid to leave my money to when I go; and so I hope ye’ll let me pay for fittin’ this here Fox Patrol out with uniforms! That’s my ijee, boys, an’ it’ll give me great joy if so be ye take me up!”