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- The Boy Scounts on a Submarine - 10/24 -
suppers durin' the coure of the year!"
"No Potter's ever been in the pulpit," said Mom dreamily.
"Yes, there was," corrected pop, "I was there myself oncet. I grained it golden oak; and if I do say it, 'twas a neat job."
"My land, you know what I mean!" said mom, quite testily for her. "It's worth tryin' for, anyhow."
"Well, we'll hope for the best," said Beany.
"Pirates?" asked pop.
"No, detectives" said Porky. "But often are not certain. We maybe all right yet."
"I suppose they, will get the spies to-night," said Beany, "and when they get them, I hope they get the formula too. Say, how is Lester anyway?"
"He's come to himself," said mom, "but dear me suz! He don't know no more what's gone by. He knows his father and sister and Wugs, because they told him who they was; but he just has clean forgot such a thing as acids or gases or any of that. He don't care about anything but the cat.
"The cat?" said the boys.
"Yes, a young cat that plays with a string most all day; and he seems to think it's a great joke."
"Gee that's awful! I think we better start early enough to go over there a minute," said Porky sadly.
"Don't go yet awhile, boys," said Mrs. Potter, bustling round to clear the table. The boys got up and helped her. "Pop and I have been reel lonesome without you."
"We will be home Saturday afternoon," said Beany. "And I do think we had better go pretty soon. I think we'd better take that paper over to Colonel Bright. Don't you think so, Porky?"
Porky put the paper in his breast pocket and buttoned the flap.
"We'll be home for good now, before you know it," said Beany. "Mr. Leffingwell says we are to return to his apartments to stay the rest of the nights. He has a swell place in town. So we are to go as far as Mr. Leffingwell's in the Colonel's car when he goes home. Some class to us, don't you say so, mom? Guess we'd better hike, folkses," he said. "Bye!"
The boys started for the door, then turned and gave Pop Potter another bear hug, and kissed their mother with a tenderness that seemed to deepen with every caress.
"Seems like it does 'em good to go off," said pop huskily.
"I won't say that," said mom loyally. "They was always the nicest boys I ever did see if they was mine; but they do seem sort of different. Sort of lovin'er, like they was when they was little. I can't say, Ben, that I ain't missed it. Seems real pleasant to have 'em let on how much they think. It makes me feel reel good. Dear me suz!" said Mrs. Potter simply. She took up her sewing and sat busily working. Once in awhile she hummed a little tune.
Pop Potter watched her slyly over his paper, but said nothing. The canary bird, however, hanging in Mrs. Potter's bedroom window where he was supposed to bask in the afternoon sun, could have told that Pop Potter awkwardly kissed Mom Potter good-night, something he had not done for years. And in the darkness Mom Potter was far too happy to sleep, and in the fullness of her joy lay there inventing cakes of such size and creaminess and lightness that the like was never seen.
Asa too had had his lesson. The barking collie had foretold his arrival, and when his mother and three sisters, each as pale and thin as himself, appeared in the door, he managed to kiss them all. It was such an amazing thing to have happen that a silence immediately fell, while two of the girls hastily wiped off their cheeks. A look of happiness dawned through the surprise on however, his mother's face, and she shyly kept her hand on Asa's knobby shoulder as he entered the house. Asa was the center of attraction at the supper table where he ran the Potter twins a close second in the amount he ate. The girls, perfectly silent, sat staring at him round-eyed; and his father, it larger edition of himself, listened or asked short questions.
When the Potter twins whistled outside, Asa shook hands solemnly with his father, and resolutely kissed the sisters and his mother good-night. When he was out of hearing, and the barking collie had returned to the doorstep, Mrs. Downe burst into sudden tears.
"What's up; what's up?" her husband demanded.
"Asy," she sobbed, "did you mind how he acted? It must be he's had a call. They's been a hoot owl outside three nights now. I do believe that's it! Asy's got a call from beyond!
The three sisters began to cry.
"Puffickly ridiklus!" said Asa's father. "Purfickly ridiklus. That hoot owl ain't got no grudge 'gainst Asa. He's got some new Scout bee in his bunnit, I'll bet. Don't know but I like to see a boy make of his wimmin folks, at that. It never looks soft to me. Don't hurt no man."
He lifted the smallest girl to his knee. She looked frightened but after a moment cuddled up to her father, and tucked a warm little hand around his neck.
"Don't hurt no man," repeated Asa's father and held the little girl so closely that she fell happily asleep; while Asa's mother, working like a whirlwind, thought the night's work strangely light, with the warmth of her only son's kiss on her check.
Asa went cantering down the hill to meet the Potters, and together they strolled over to Wugs' house, that house of unhappiness where the brightest, happiest member of the household lay gazing at the sky or for hours playing with the kitten. He did not know the boys, but when Wugs told him who they were, he greeted them pleasantly enough.
It was very painful, and the boys slipped away as soon as they could and, followed by Wugs, went down to the edge of the lawn, and talked things over. Wugs could scarcely leave home at all. He wanted to enlist; he was nearly old enough, and now that Lester was sick, why, some one ought to help the country--some Pomeroy. The boys agreed. But his dad and Elinor needed him, too; so he supposed he would have to wait yet.
Porky, rolling around on the grass, felt the paper rustle in his pocket.
"Here, Asy," he said. "You ought to be in on this. I'm going to let you carry this paper. It is very important indeed."
Asa beamed, but as usual said nothing. It was fine to be in on things. It made him feel important. He patted his pocket, and sat straighter. The paper rustled, just as any paper would rustle. Asa, listening, heard no warning in the sound.
Finishing their talk, Porky decided that it was getting very late, and they boarded the next car passing. It was nearly empty, and the boys dozed all the way to town. In fact, they were so sleepy that the car had reached New York Central Station before they roused themselves. They had been carried two blocks too far.
"Well, we are here, anyway," said Beany, "and I'm going inside to get a stick of gum."
"That's a good stunt," said Porky.
They ran up the steps and entered the great waiting-room. Asa did not like gum, and, besides, Asa never liked to spend a penny. He stood looking about him in the middle of the space in front of the ticket office, while the twins went over to the penny-in-the-slot machine.
And then it happened--
Asa, turning from his inspection of the ticket window, gazed at a space over which hung a large sign "INFORMATION." A man who had been talking turned and started toward Asa.
It was the Wolf.
Now when the Wolf, on his way to the station to enquire about trains, had reached a certain dark corner just outside the city, he had stopped long enough to do something by the aid of a flashlight and a little packet. So when he walked into the station his face was change. It was no longer long and lean and smooth. His cheeks stuck out, and a long, heavy mustache covered his mouth. But he could not hide his peculiar, slight limp, or the cruel yellow eyes; and when Asa saw those eyes he knew them. He tried to move; to slide out of the way. His one frantic desire was to escape unnoticed. But the wildness of the boy's stare caught the Wolf's eye. He looked at the boy carelessly, then attentively as he saw that the boy recognized him. He too recognized the boy as the one who had visited him in the hospital.
He acted instantly. He stepped forward, and dropped a steel-fingered hand on Asa's shoulder.
"One single word, and I'll kill you right here," muttered the Wolf, and Asa felt that it was no idle threat.
Asa did not need to be spoken to again. All the wickedness, all the blood-curdling threats that he had ever imagined, were in the Wolf's touch on his collar. He was like a rabbit that suddenly sees the white fangs of the hound close above him.
He was dumb with fright. He gave his captor one quaking look, and obedient to the guiding hand, passed out the door into the street. It was filled with people. The Wolf sought the most crowded side and mingled with the throngs.
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