The flames kept on eating into the old building. It was now doomed, and the fire laddies confined their efforts to saving any furniture that could be carried out.
Paul called his scouts around him, at the request of the old minister. They were rather a sorry looking group, though just as full of a desire to assist as ever. The fine new uniforms were bedraggled with mud and water. Several had holes burned in their coats, and that of Jack was a sight to behold.
But who cared? After all, the uniforms were but an insignia of their connection with a great organization. New or old they stood for a principle; and gallantly had Stanhope Troop No. 1 responded when the need arose.
The old and highly respected minister, whose heart was filled with a great love for the rising generation, shook hands with each and every scout, declaring that he was proud of the privilege.
“Don’t mind the soiling of your new uniforms, lads. Every mark found upon them to-morrow must serve as a badge of honor to the wearer. After this it will be the tried and true scout who can point to a burnt hole in his smart coat, and say ’I got that the night of the great fire up at Bradley’s!’ And what shall I say of this fine member of your patrol who so bravely risked his own life to save that of a mother’s baby? Only that his own mother has reason to thank God to-night because of such a son. We all love him!” and a tear fell on Jack’s hand as the old man squeezed it.
THE FIRE TEST
“All here, Paul!”
Jack saluted as he said this, and smiled to see the look the scout leader gave his scorched and discolored uniform.
Although Jack had spent an hour and more that morning trying to clean up his suit and leggins, they showed many signs of the hard service to which they had been put on the previous night.
Several of the fellows carried cameras. They had signed for the photographic test, and hoped to get some fine views of the troop in action. These would possibly be entered for competition when the other commands in the county lined up to strive for leadership in the last great event—the winning of the banner.
Presently the town clock struck the hour.
Two by two they marched out of town. People came to the doors to watch them; and many a girl waved her handkerchief vigorously. But there was no response. Much as some of the lads might have liked to raise a hat, and send back an answering salute, they had already learned how to keep their eyes to the front, on penalty of being given bad marks that might tell against them later on.
More than one parent looked to see how the boy nearest their hearts bore himself. Proudly they watched the long double line swinging down the street, keeping excellent step, considering how little time they had had for drill.