up the loads of extinguishers, hose and other equipment before she was laid up for alteration, and the Scouts for many days thereafter found that their spare time was well taken up with their work at headquarters.
From the hour that the Woodbridge Academy closed until ten o'clock in the evening they toiled like beavers. Bruce, always a capable manager, divided the patrols into working squads and assigned them to the various tasks to be accomplished. Those who were handy with carpentering tools he set to work making a new fire patrol body for the automobile. Those who excelled at the forges he assigned to the task of making brackets and metal clamps with which to fasten the extinguishers onto the motorcycles. Some were appointed ladder makers, others were painters, and still others were buffers and polishers, who shined up the tarnished sides of the tanks and took the rust off the axes and pike heads. And when they all became active the interior of headquarters was a veritable beehive for busyness.
The boys did not devote all their time to building work, however, for they realized that to win honors at the firemen's tournament, in which they meant to compete, they would have to be well drilled in every branch of fire fighting. Consequently every evening, just before dusk, the entire troop assembled in the field back of headquarters.
Scaling ladder drills, first aid work, rescue work, bucket brigade drills, and hose coupling contests were indulged in until the lads worked with the precision and accuracy of trained fire fighters. For the sake of unity Bruce had been appointed fire chief, having charge of all three patrols. The entire squad was under his command and in a very few days he had systematized their work to the point where there was scarcely a lost motion or a false move.
Indeed, the Scouts drilled with such vigor and enthusiasm that inside of an hour they would be completely tired out. Then, while they were resting, Bruce would put them through a sharp oral drill on the rudiments of firemanship as set forth in the September number of Boy's Life until, to quote Jiminy Gordon, "They could say it backwards, or upside down, and do it blindfolded."
Gradually after weeks of toil the fleet of fire fighting motorcycles assumed a business-like appearance. And as for "Old Nanc" she, redolent with the odors of fresh red paint, loomed above them all exactly like a mother hen keeping a watchful eye on her brood of chicks.
Each motorcycle was equipped with a fire extinguisher clamped on either side, just back of the seat. Directly in the rear of the seat was a small red tool box in which hose-coupling wrenches and two sets of harness were kept. This harness, devised by Mr. Ford, was made of canvas in the form of a sling to hold the extinguishers in position on a Scout's back. In that way a boy could enter a burning building and carry an extinguisher with him, still having both hands free to operate the extinguisher hose. On top of the tool box was strapped a short coil of hose with a small nozzle ready to be brought into action when coupled to the nearest street hydrant.
"Old Nanc," besides carrying an extinguisher and the oxygen-acetylene blow torch tank, also contained the remaining hose, an equipment of axes, pike poles and scaling ladders, and provided accommodations for three Scouts and the driver besides.
Until a few days before the tournament the Scouts were working on their equipment. Indeed, the very last coat of varnish was put onto "Old Nanc" the Saturday afternoon preceding the tournament day, which fell on Wednesday. All that remained to be done was to deck the machine with flags and bunting and she would be ready for the parade. In truth, that very morning Bruce had gone on a motorcycle trip to St. Cloud City, twelve miles south of Woodbridge, to buy the necessary decorations.
"By Jove, she looks like a real fire fighter, doesn't she?" said Romper Ryan, backing off, paint brush still in hand, to survey his own handiwork on the sides of "Old Nanc."
"For downright good looks I think our equipment has it on anything
Woodbridge ever experienced," said Jiminy Gordon enthusiastically.
"Well, we'll sure create some sensation," said Bud. "This is going to be a complete surprise to everybody. Has Bruce heard from Chief Blaney yet? He sent him our entry for the tournament events last week, you know. I wonder—Here he comes now! I heard his siren. That was a mighty quick trip to St. Cloud."
Bud and several others rushed to the door. Coming up the hill at top speed was Bruce, his motorcycle fairly flying. When he caught sight of the group in front of the machine shop he began to wave a blue paper above his head.
"Hi, fellows, here's our reply from Chief Blaney," he shouted as he jumped from his machine. "I just got it at the house. Haven't opened it yet. Come on, gather 'round and hear what he has to say."
With eager fingers he tore off the corner of the big envelope and ripped open the top. And as he unfolded the letter every scout pressed closer to get a glimpse of its contents. Bruce began to read aloud:
Mr. Bruce Clifford, Chief of the Scout Engineers' Fire Department.
Dear Sir: Your entry blank and fee for the tournament events reached me. I am returning your fee herewith for, unfortunately, your company cannot take part in the tournament. In the first place your organization is only a juvenile company, and in the second place it is not an accredited member of the Woodbridge Fire Department.
The fact that you have not a charter from the town authorities will also prevent your little department from taking an active part in fighting fires in this village, for the Champlain Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association has passed a ruling preventing any individual not wearing a badge of a recognized fire department from entering fire lines or participating in fire fighting work. These rules are rigidly enforced by my department. Very truly yours,
(signed) W.T. Blaney, Chief Woodbridge F.D.
"Well, what do you think of that!" exclaimed Romper disgustedly.
"And after all our working and planning," said Jiminy bitterly.
"Oh, we're only juveniles," said Bud sarcastically, turning away to hide his feelings.
And as for Bruce, he could hardly believe his eyes. He re-read the letter and when he finished he slowly tore it into little scraps and tossed them to the ground.
"Well, fellows," he said with a grim smile, "I fancy 'Old Nanc' won't need the flags and bunting I ordered to-day. And I guess our little fire department sort of busts up before it gets started. If old Blaney is such a stickler for regulations they'll never let us fight any fires in this town. Tough luck, isn't it?"
Tournament day had been declared a holiday in Woodbridge. Stores and factories were closed and the village decorated from stable to Town Hall with colored streamers, flags and bunting. Since early morning fire companies had been arriving in town headed by bands and drum corps until the place was crowded with uniformed figures from every section of Vermont.
But in spite of all this gaiety Bruce Clifford and the Boy Scout Engineers were dispirited. Indeed, for the past week they had been very unhappy over the turn of affairs. They tried their hardest to brace up and be good sports, but their disappointment was greater than they had expected. On tournament day they wandered about with a cheerless air, watching the various companies file into the side streets to await the formation of the parade that would be conducted up Webster Avenue to the tournament grounds.
They were not so