A chorus of shouts testified to the fact that Paul had hit upon a popular idea for turning the sudden generosity of the hitherto miserly old farmer to account.
“Who is the woman?” asked Peleg Growdy uneasily.
“Mrs. Jenks, who has three little children to support. Her husband was killed in that blast some years ago, and she never recovered a cent from the mining company, for they burst like a bubble,” returned Paul.
“By gum! wot d’ye know about that, now? I reckons as how she lives in one o’ my own cottages, which the real estate man, Stebbins, takes keer of fur me. He was tellin’ me about some tenant he’d have to put out; but I never noticed more’n that the name was Jenks.”
“But now?” ventured Paul.
“It won’t be did! No, sir, not by a jugful. I got my team outside, an’ I’m goin’ straight over to see the widder. I knowed her husband onct too, an’ I’m some ’shamed thet I didn’t look her up afore,” and Peleg started for the door.
“Hold on, Mr. Growdy!” called Paul.
“Hey! wot’s doin’ now, boys?” demanded the old man, turning to grin again at his new host of young friends.
“You oughtn’t to leave here, sir, without giving every boy scout the privilege of shaking hands with you. I’m sure I speak for each fellow when I ask that favor,” returned Paul, stepping forward.
Peleg was agreeable, though he blushed like a schoolboy as the scouts, forming in line, walked past him, each seizing his horny hand eagerly, and doing his best to make the old farmer wince with the warmth of his squeeze.
They gave him a parting cheer as he passed out, and the old fellow tried to return the military salute to the best of his ability.
“Well, what do you think of that?” asked Nuthin’, when they were once more gathered around their leader for the purpose of further discussion.
“The finest thing that could possibly have happened. We had our frolic; and see what it hatched. After this Peleg Growdy will never be the same grumpy man he was in the past. No boy need longer hesitate to call out to him on the street; for Peleg, I take it, has seen a great light, eh, Jack?” and Paul slapped his chum heartily on the shoulder as he spoke.
“My idea exactly,” replied his chum, quickly. “And do you know it made me feel bad the way he spoke of Mandy and the kids. Some of you fellows may not know that he lost his wife and children in a fire that burned his house down while he was away. I’m glad we did that job, and you deserve the praise, Paul, because it was your own scheme.”
“Humbug! every one of you chimed in as soon as it was mentioned, and so you’re entitled to as much praise as I am. But about those uniforms, boys—hadn’t the scout tailor better get to work, going over his measurements again? We want the suits to fit all right, you know.”
And in this way did Paul direct the attention of his comrades in another quarter, because it was really unpleasant for him to be placed on a pedestal, as though he were different from the rest of them.