some slightly rusty, but still quite usable after they had been cleaned up.
On the second floor of the building were two rooms, one of which was used for meetings, while the other was converted into a wire room for the loop telegraph line that the lads had built through the town. This loop was connected with an instrument in the bedrooms of every member of the troop and the boys could be routed out of bed at midnight, if need be, by some one calling on any of the keys. A wireless system had also been erected on the roof of the building by the wireless enthusiasts of the troop and the helix, spark-gap and various coils and keys were also set up in the wire room.
Headquarters immediately became popular with every member of the troop and always some one was to be found pottering about in the machine shop, building something that he was particularly interested in. Two of the boys, during the long Winter evenings, had made more or less serviceable motorcycles for themselves, and a half dozen of the young engineers had even essayed the construction of an automobile from old parts they were able to get for "a song" at various junk shops; indeed, some serviceable material was found in scrap heaps about town.
How well they succeeded, a wheezing two-cylinder motor car attested. This turn-out was dubbed "Old Nanc" by the troop, and though it went far better down grade than it did on the level, the boys managed to get a great deal of fun out of it. And it was not a bad looking machine either when it finally received several generous coats of red paint and enamel.
Luckily, Austin Ford, the engineer in charge of the hydro-electric plant of the Woodbridge Quarry Company, became interested in the "Scout Engineers," and through him the officials of the quarry company were persuaded to allow the lads to use as much electric current as they required without cost. The youngsters quickly built a transmission line to the electric station, which was located a few miles north of the town on a branch of Otter Creek.
Mr. Ford's interest in the lads increased to admiration when he saw the business-like way in which they went about building the line, and he even offered them some practical engineering advice when they found themselves up against knotty problems. This led to a more intimate relation with the young Cornell graduate, and in the end the boys suggested that he become the Assistant Scoutmaster. This office rather pleased him, for in reality Austin Ford was little more than a big boy in the matter of pleasure.
He quickly became a master of scout lore and at every opportunity he was afield with the lads or else in the shop at headquarters working out new engineering "stunts" (as he characterized them) for the Scouts to undertake. The boys never failed to talk over each new undertaking with him, as, for instance, the troop's latest scheme, the organization of a motorcycle fire department.
Indeed, on the very evening of the day Eli Osborn's barn was reduced to ashes, Bruce, Bud, Romper and several others visited Mr. Ford and outlined their plans. Of course the Assistant Scoutmaster approved of such a very laudable Idea, but he did admonish the boys against criticising the present fire fighting force of Wood bridge, stating that though the men had their peculiarities the lads should remember that they were volunteers, doing their work without receiving a cent of pay because they recognized their duty to others.
As to the equipment of the brigade, he left that all up to the boys, telling them, however, that whenever they had any difficulty they would find him ready to help them. He also suggested that they visit the hydro-electric plant and take a few tools and some old sand buckets which they could paint over and use as bucket brigade equipment.
THE FIREMEN'S TOURNAMENT
The two weeks following were mighty busy ones for Quarry Troop No. 1. First of all it was necessary for Bruce and his companions to find out exactly what in the matter of equipment they had at their disposal. This could only be determined by a visit to Mr. Clifford's mill and several other places where they could borrow fire fighting apparatus and still not let the news of their secret organization leak out.
Mr. Clifford, when he heard of the plan, was particularly delighted and he personally conducted the boys through the machine shop and mill, making numerous suggestions meanwhile. First of all he found that he could spare eleven small, two-and-one-half gallon chemical extinguishers and still leave enough equipment to comply with the fire underwriters' laws, which call for a certain number of extinguishers for each floor.
These eleven were enough to provide two for each motorcycle in the brigade and one for the automobile. It seemed rather unfortunate to Bruce that they could only get one for "Old Nanc," for he had had a mental picture of the red automobile with a shining extinguisher on either side of the driver's seat. Indeed, he was so keen on this artistic arrangement that he pleaded with his father to spare an additional tank.
"Why, I'll tell you what you can have to balance up 'Old Nanc,'" said his father laughingly, when he heard Bruce's reason for wanting another extinguisher, "here's a light oxygen-acetylene tank equipment with a blow torch I've been using around the mill. I'm going to get a new one of larger capacity, and if you polish this up it will look mighty business-like, I tell you.
"These torches are being adopted by the city fire departments too. You see they are composed of two tanks, one filled with oxygen and the other with acetylene gas. These gases both flow through the same opening in the torch and unite before they strike the air. If you touch a match to the end of the torch, presto, you have a thin blue flame, so hot that it will cut through the hardest steel. The flame gives off a heat as high as 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit; think of that! It literally burns its way through the toughest metal and does the job before you can say 'scat.' The city fire departments use them to burn the hinges off iron doors and window shutters in big warehouse fires. Do you boys want it? It may come in handy, you know."
"Want it! You bet we do," shouted Jiminy Gordon eagerly.
"Just the stuff," recommended Romper Ryan, who had been inspecting the apparatus, "handy and compact. Doesn't weigh more than a hundred pounds. Two of us could handle it in fine shape. We certainly would like to have it."
"All right," acquiesced Mr. Clifford, "it's yours."
The good-natured manufacturer also gave the boys a set of old fire pails that needed fresh coats of paint, and several lengths of old but serviceable fire hose, not to mention a number of rusty fire hatchets, crowbars and pike poles.
"How about ladders?" said Mr. Clifford as the boys were about to depart.
"Gee, we never thought of 'em," said Bruce, surprised at such an omission. Then as he considered the capacity of "Old Nanc," he continued: "But if we had them we wouldn't know how to carry them; we—you see, we can't afford to overload the auto or she will never be able to get started for a fire."
"Ho, ho, that's right. She'd be a regular tortoise," said Mr. Clifford. "But why don't you make a couple of scaling ladders? I'll have the top hooks forged for you if you'll build the ladders. They'll be light and serviceable and you can work up a mighty spectacular drill with them."
"Great, we'll do it," said Bruce. Then he added, "perhaps we will have a real fire department after all."
"Old Nanc" spent the busiest day of her career gathering