Magnificent Combination of Clever Animals and Human Skill and Daring," etc., which was booked to show in St. Cloud City a few days hence.
For a week the temptation to spend the troop's thirty dollars had haunted the lads day and night, until finally with a great effort they had laid the ghost by a unanimous vote that the money must not be spent on the profitless amusement. It really was a sacrifice, for every Scout had set his heart on a hike to St. Cloud and a day crowded full of gaiety and glitter, not to mention a stomach crowded fuller with peanuts, popcorn and lemonade.
"Fellows, I am just as much disappointed as the rest," said Bruce Clifford, leader of the Owl patrol, "but I think we decided wisely last night. We can all do without going to the circus, even if it is the biggest one that has visited this neck of the woods in years. The possibility of a new set of tents or the lumber for a motorboat appeals to me more than blowing the money in on a show; that is, it does when I stop and think soberly about it."
"Right-o!" said Romper.
"That's what I call common sense," asserted Nipper Knapp.
"Just the way we all should look at it," insisted Bud Weir, leader of the Blue Heron patrol. "And if we were to—sh! Listen, fellows! Some one's calling!" In an instant everybody was silent.
Bruce inclined his head toward the wire room at the other end of the building where the headquarters' telegraph key and the instruments connected with the wireless aerials on the roof were located. Out of the doorway seemed to tumble a confusion of dots and dashes quite unintelligible to any one not familiar with the Morse International Code.
"Headquarters, Ford calling," read Bruce. "Fellows, Mr. Ford is trying to raise us. Wonder what he wants!"
He hurried into the wire room with the rest at his heels, and taking the low operator's chair opened the key and answered the call. Then he closed it again and waited. The boys were all attention, for most of them were second-class scouts and could "read" Morse well.
"Mayor—Worthington—just—'phoned—me," clicked the instrument. "Wants—to—see—Scouts—at—Town—Hall—at—four—I—would—like—to— have—you—go. — Ford—Asst—S'ct—M's't'r—3:10—p—m."
"All—right—Shall—we—wear—uniforms—Bruce—L'd'r—Owl—P't'r'l— 3:12—p—m," Bruce flashed back over the wire.
"Yes—careful—don't—get—too—wet—G'd—by—Ford—3:14—p—m," came the answer.
"Cracky! Something interesting! Wonder what's up!" said Bruce excitedly, as he began calling on the loop telegraph wire that was connected to an instrument in every Scout's home.
The three patrols of Quarry Troop stood at attention in the broad corridor of the Woodbridge Town Hall, awaiting the coming of Mayor Worthington. Their campaign hats were water-soaked, and rain dripped from the edge of their slickers and gathered in little pools about their feet. They must have been uncomfortable. But if they were, they gave no signs of it. All their attention was riveted on the doors that led the way into the Mayor's private office.
Presently these doors swung open, and the tall, broad-shouldered figure of the town's chief executive strode forth, followed by his secretary and Timothy Cockran, the Commissioner of Streets and Highways. Every back stiffened and every hand went up in salute as these men advanced and took their position in front of Bruce, the recognized spokesman of the troop. The Mayor acknowledged the salute in quite the proper manner, as did the others; then, clearing his throat, he spoke.
"Scouts, I have asked you here because you can be of service to Woodbridge. The town needs you. Are you willing to do a good turn for the welfare of us all?"
"We're ready for anything, sir. We try to do a good turn daily, rain or shine," said Bruce, once more saluting.
And his answer was echoed by the score or more of brown-clad youths ranged in line beside him.
"Thank you, Scouts," said Mr. Worthington, crisply. "Now to business. The rains of the last few days have raised havoc in this end of Champlain Valley. So much water has fallen that the high roads leading north and south on either side of the valley have been made dangerous by wash outs and landslides. In several places the banks have slipped down from above, but the most dangerous sections are those where the roads have been washed away almost entirely. Vehicles traveling at night are very apt to have serious upsets and the life and limb of the occupants are endangered, in spite of the fact that we have marked the washouts with red lanterns hung on short posts.
"What I would like to have you boys do is to organize a road patrol to keep a careful watch over these red lamps and see that they are all lighted between the hours of nightfall and midnight at least. After twelve o'clock there is hardly enough traffic to make the patrolling worth while. The first patrol can light the lamps at a given hour and thereafter at certain intervals Scout patrols can visit each lamp and see that it is in good working order. How would you like the job, boys?"
"Fine!" shouted some.
"Just the kind of work we like," cried others.
"All right," said the Mayor, shortly. "Scouts, you are hereby appointed
Guardians of the High ways by order of the Mayor and the Commissioner of
Streets and Highways. Each morning at half past eight one of your number
will be expected to make a report at the Town Hall of the night's work."
"The Commissioner here has a map of these thoroughfares showing each washout and just where each lamp is located. You can organize your patrols this afternoon and start to-night. I think the storm will be somewhat abated by that time. It is letting up a little now. Good-day and good luck."
Though the rain had decreased considerably the Scouts lost little time in getting from the Town Hall to Scout headquarters, where the details of organizing the road patrols were worked out. It required the rest of the afternoon to do this, and the dinner hour arrived almost before the boys were aware of the time.
"Say, fellows, this is going to be fine," said Bud Weir. Then, glancing out of the window, he exclaimed: "By Jove, the storm's nearly over; the clouds are breaking out there beyond the mountains. This will be a fine night for—Cracky, fellows, I almost forgot; the circus comes through town to-night. It will come down the valley from Collinsville and take the north road to St. Cloud."
"By George, you're right," exclaimed Bruce. "Say, fellows, that makes our work doubly important. These heavy circus vans may get into trouble if all the lamps aren't in good order. You fellows be sure and report for duty, will you?"
"Don't worry; there'll be enough of us to patrol to-night. I guess we're all going to stay up and see the circus go through town, if it isn't raining, aren't we, fellows?" asked Bud. And from the chorus of affirmatives it was evident that few of the troop would be abed when the "World's Mightiest, Most Magnificent Combination of Clever Animals and Human Skill and Daring" rumbled through town.
By seven o'clock the rain had stopped entirely and, when the lamp-lighting patrols started out in the gloaming, the storm clouds were fast disappearing in the southwest, their edges splashed with the gold and vermilion fire of the setting sun.
Indeed, by the time the second patrol had reported back at headquarters and the third group of night watchers had started