Other boys there were who stood on the corners and mocked. Of course these were the followers of Ted Slavin, envious of the popularity already attained by Paul’s patrol. Some of them had been at the fire, and witnessed the deed of daring carried out by Jack Stormways. Jealous of the other troop they tried to taunt them by various cries; but without success.
However, most of them did not venture to tag after the marching corps. They knew that even the wonderful patience of these fellows would have its limit, and that a sudden turn might be made upon the tormentors that could hardly prove pleasant for the minority.
Out of the town limits they went, still keeping step. Ted and Ward trailed behind, but there was no more taunting done.
“They mean to follow, and see what we are up to,” said Jack, when he came alongside the leader again.
“Well, we can’t stop them from doing that, I suppose. The woods are free to all. Let them look. If they can pick up a few pointers, well and good. When we lead, you know we can afford to laugh at those who follow,” returned the other.
“Sure, because they’ll never catch up with us in a year,” laughed Jack.
For a full mile they continued, never once breaking ranks.
“We’re nearly there, fellows. You’re doing fine, I tell you. Keep it up through to the end. Why, you march like veterans already!”
In this fashion did the scout leader warm every heart, and cause those who were beginning to tire of the jaunt to grit their teeth, and resolve that nothing must be allowed to interfere with the completion of the march.
“Left wheel!” came the command, as the van drew abreast of an opening where a wagon road entered the woods.
Still those two curious ones trailed in the rear, determined to ascertain what it was that took the Fox Patrols out of town this day.
Presently, surrounded by the giant trees, still green with their summer foliage, Paul gave the command to halt and break ranks.
Immediately the twenty-six lads began fraternizing. Those owning cameras started to look around for openings where some promising view offered. But most of the scouts clustered around the leader, eager to hear what the programme of the day would embrace.
“First comes the fire test. There are a dozen fellows who have come prepared to qualify for that. And I think we shall have an interesting competition. Here, all who have hatchets get busy, and cut wood.”
Paul himself led the way, for he delighted in using the little camp axe which he often “toted” into the woods, when hunting or camping.
The sound of chopping soon resounded through the timber, and by degrees quite a pile of wood had been accumulated. But all this was simply to loosen up the muscles of the competitors; for they were not to be allowed to use any of this fuel, which was for the main campfire.