Paul made no reply to this remark of his chum.
Having studied the charms of outdoor life always, he knew that he would be placing his friends under a heavy handicap if he ever attempted to compete with them in woodlore.
True, just as he said, Wallace was somewhat of an unknown quantity; for he, too, seemed to have a deep love for everything connected with life in the forest, and never tired of reading books that told of pioneers and their ways.
The scout leader immediately started some of the boys along another tack. They were given a chance to find a lost trail, to detect all manner of signs such as would be apt to tell how long previously some one had passed that way; and to discover where the tracks came out of the creek, upon the bed of which the unknown had walked quite some distance.
Of course, Paul had made the trail himself in the morning, running out here on his wheel so as to prepare the ground. And when they all failed to find out just how the party had left the creek, since the marked tracks did not seem to appear anywhere along the banks, he pointed to where the limb of a tree hung down over the water.
“That’s the ticket!” cried Bobolink, excitedly. “See, fellows, how it’s skinned where his shoes scraped along it.”
“As sure as shooting he climbed up into that tree!” declared one, excitedly.
“Then scatter, and examine the ground around the trunk!” said Paul.
A minute or so later a happy whoop announced that one of the searchers had discovered the wished-for signs; and away the whole troop went on a trot, following the leader.
Meanwhile the photographers managed to get in some of their efforts, possibly unbeknown to the rest. Exposures where the subjects are unconscious of their posing always turn out best; since they avoid stiffness, such as ruins so many otherwise interesting pictures.
Here, with the woods for a background, Paul, acting by agreement as temporary scout master, drilled his followers in scout law, sign, salute, and the significance of the badges which they wore, all of them, of course, of the tenderfoot type, since few had as yet started to qualify for any higher plane.
Signal flags had been brought along; and a class in semaphore work proved that some of the members of the troop were making rapid progress along that line. They had mastered the Morse code, too; and had the occasion arisen might have sent messages over the wire, although probably none save Paul could have received the same, unless the words came painfully slow.
The afternoon passed almost before they realized it; and more than a few declared that the sun must have dropped like a plummet, when they found twilight creeping upon the forest.
Both Ted and Ward had long since gone away, as though disgusted. They had tried to sneer at the work of Stanhope Troop No. 1; but every one knew this humor was assumed; and that secretly they were eating their very hearts out for envy.