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Feeling dizzy and numbed Atherton stepped ashore.

"Can I help, sir?" he asked.

"You'd better run off home and get out of those wet clothes," replied
the coxswain, a sergeant of police. "Do you feel equal to it, or
shall we get you a cab?"

"I'm all right, I think," replied Atherton.

"Let's have your name and address," continued the sergeant, pulling
out his notebook. "You're a plucky youngster, that you are."

Atherton was not at all keen on giving the particulars. Publicity was
the thing he wished to avoid. He had done a good turn, and,
Scout-like, he wanted, now that he could render no further
assistance, to modestly retire from the scene.

His desire was gratified, for at that moment a doctor, two reporters
and an ambulance man came hurrying down the incline leading to the
pier. The doctor turned his attention to the still unconscious man,
while the Pressmen tackled the sergeant in a most business-like
manner.

Atherton seized the opportunity and slipped off.

The water was still dripping steadily from his things. He started
into a run, partly to restore his numbed circulation and partly to
get back to the spot where he had taken his venturesome dive, for he
remembered that he had left his boots and coat on the bridge. By the
time he reached the top of the three flights of stairs leading from
the Embankment to the bridge his watery tracks were quite
insignificant, and of the few people hurrying on their way home none
noticed the hatless, coatless and bootless youth.

The crowd of curious spectators had dispersed. A rumour that the
water police had picked up the body of the victim had resulted in a
wild stampede along the Embankment. Atherton made his way to the
place where he had dropped into the river. His coat and boots had
vanished.

"I'm in a pretty fine mess!" he exclaimed, ruefully. "Dirty trick,
sneaking a fellow's clothes, though. I wonder what the Head will say
when I turn up late."

Atherton knew that if he journeyed to King's Cross otherwise than on
foot he would be exposing himself to a great risk by taking cold, so
adopting the "Scout's pace" - alternately walking and running twenty
paces - he found himself at the Great Northern metropolitan station
in very quick time.

Upon arriving at Collingwood College a slice of good luck awaited
him. Jellyboy, the porter, was standing on the kerb beckoning
frantically to a newsboy. The outer door was open, and the Scout
slipped in unobserved.

Under ordinary circumstances he would have gone straight to his house
master, but the desire to keep his good turn a secret caused him to
make straight for the dormitory. Here he changed, placing his still
damp clothes under his bed till he could find an opportunity of
drying them.

"Prep." was over. Harrison, the junior science master had been in
charge, and had not noticed Atherton's absence. The Scouts were
assembling for the evening's instruction, and, not without curious
glances from his chums, the Leader of the "Otters" joined them.

Somehow Atherton did not feel quite satisfied with himself. He began
to realise that by avoiding publicity he had placed himself in a
false position. By promptly giving the police a detailed description
of the two assailants, the arrest of the culprits might have been
speedily effected. Besides, he did not relish the stealthy tactics he
had to adopt in returning to the College without being detected.

"I'll see Mr Trematon and tell him all about it," he declared. "It
seems to me that I've made a pretty mess of things, so here goes."

"Well, Atherton, what do you want?" basked the Scoutmaster, as the
Leader went up to him and saluted. "A suggestion for the camp, eh?"

"No, sir," replied Atherton. "I'm in a difficulty and want advice.
Can I speak to you in the store-room, sir?"

"Certainly," assented Mr Trematon kindly. "Now, Atherton, what is it
that's worrying you?"

The Scout told the story of his adventure, omitting nothing, although
he put the account of his part of the rescue in as brief a form as
possible.

"You had better come with me to the Head," said Mr Trematon, when
Atherton had finished. "I think I can account for your reticence, and
no doubt Mr Kane will see things in a similar light."

"Whatever possessed you to go without giving your name and address,
Atherton?" asked the Rev. Septimus. "Don't you see you are putting
obstacles in the way of the police?"

"I have thought of that since, sir," replied Atherton; "but at the
time all I wanted was to make myself scarce."

"Make yourself scarce!" repeated the Head, reprovingly. "That is
hardly the right way to express yourself:"

"Well, sir, you see I did not want any reward for my good turn."

"What a strange idea," remarked the Rev. Septimus Kane to his
assistant.

"One of the principles of Scout law, sir; to do a brave action with
the prime motive of self-advertisement is deprecated by all true
Scouts."

"Yet I notice names of Scout heroes frequently figure in the Press,"
added the Head, musingly.

"Possibly not with their consent, sir."

"There are volumes in the meaning of the word 'possibly,' Mr
Trematon. However, the best thing you can do is to take Atherton over
to the police-station. Ask that his identity may be concealed if
practicable. They will telephone the description of the two
assailants to the other stations, and in that way a tardy assistance
may be rendered to the Force. Don't wait, it is late already."

"Very good sir. Do you want me - - "

Mr Trematon's words were interrupted by a sharp knock at the study
door, and in response to the Head's invitation Jellyboy, the porter,
entered, followed by a stalwart constable.

"Good evening, sir," exclaimed the policeman, saluting. "I've been
sent to make a few enquiries, sir; can I speak to you in private?"

"I do not think privacy is desirable, constable," replied the Rev.
Septimus, who at times possessed a keen intuition. "You have called
with reference to that case of attempted murder on Hungerford
Bridge."

"You're right, sir," said the astonished policeman. "You'll excuse
me, sir, but might I ask how you know?"

"Easily explained, constable. You have a parcel under your arm. It
has been crushed. The brown paper covering has burst. I can see a
portion of the contents: a boy's cap with the badge of Collingwood
College. Since one of my pupils - this lad, as a matter of fact - has
arrived without a cap, coat or boots, and has reported to me that he
jumped into the Thames after a gentleman who was thrown over the
bridge by a couple of roughs, it naturally follows that I can guess
the nature of your errand."

"You are quite right, sir," said the constable, admiringly.

"I frequently am," rejoined the Head, complacently. "But to return to
the point: has the identity of the victim been established?"

"Yes, sir, the gentleman is Sir Silas Gwinnear. You might have heard
of him, sir."

Leslie Trematon gave an exclamation of surprise. Atherton, equally
astonished, could hardly realise the news. It seemed like a dream.
Only a few days previously Sir Silas had written expressing his
opinion of the Scout movement in emphatic terms of disapproval, and
now, by the irony of fate, he owed his life to a Scout's promptitude
and bravery.

"What is the matter, Mr Trematon?" asked the Head, who could not fail
to notice the Scoutmaster's ejaculation of astonishment.

"I happen to know Sir Silas, sir," he replied. "He was a friend of my
father's. Only the day before yesterday he wrote to me."

"And how is Sir Silas?" asked the Rev. Septimus, addressing the
policeman.

"Getting along finely, sir, considering he's not a young man by any
means."

"And his assailants?"

"No trace of them, sir. One of our men found these articles of
clothing and took them to the station. A letter addressed to Master
Atherton was in one of the pockets, so the Inspector sent me here to
make enquiries. Is this the lad, sir?"

"That is Atherton, constable."

"Look here, young gentleman, can you give us any information as to
what occurred?"

The Scout accurately described the appearance of the two men whom he
saw commit the assault. The policeman, hardly able to conceal his
surprise at the detailed description, laboriously wrote the
particulars in his notebook; the Head was also surprised at his
pupil's sense of perception. Only Mr Trematon maintained a composed
bearing. Inwardly he was proud that his instruction in scoutcraft had
borne such good fruit.

"Let me see," remarked the Rev. Septimus. "Atherton is, I believe,
a - er - Scout?"

"Yes, sir," assented the Scoutmaster.

"He ought to be a detective, sir," observed the constable. "Only it's
a great pity he didn't inform us at once. We might have nabbed those
rascals."

"He quite realises that," said the Head. "One thing, he has been the
means of saving life under very trying circumstances. The capture of
the assailants is, after all, a secondary matter. Trematon, you ought
to be proud of your Scouts if they are all like this one."

"I trust they will prove themselves equal to the occasion should
necessity arise, sir," replied the Scoutmaster.


[Illustration: "'Look here, young gentleman, can you give me any
information as to what occurred?'" - _Page_ 27.]




CHAPTER, IV

OFF TO SEAL ISLAND


"YOU'LL be sure to get the Bronze Cross, Dick," exclaimed his chum,
Phil Green, as he paused in his work of varnishing a tail-board to
critically admire his handiwork.

"Don't talk rot," replied Atherton, for the congratulations of his
fellow-scouts were beginning to be embarrassing. "Don't talk rot, and
get on with your work. We've only four clear days, and this trek-cart
is nothing like finished."

The lads were hard at work in the old gym. The place reeked of elm
sawdust and varnish, for sixteen Scouts were all busily engaged in
constructing a cart.

"What did it feel like when you jumped of the bridge?" asked Fred
Simpson, the Leader of the "Wolves."

"I cannot explain; I simply dropped," replied Atherton. "Perhaps if I
had hesitated, I might have funked it. But dry up, you fellows, I've
had enough. Come on, Baker, are those linchpins finished yet?"

"The papers made a pretty fine story about you, Dick," said Green,
returning to the charge. "'The Scout and the Baronet,' the report was
headed. Funny that it was Sir Silas Gwinnear you rescued, wasn't it?"

"You'll be funnier still if you don't hurry up with that coat of
varnish," exclaimed the Leader, with mock severity. "Stick to it,
man; we want to be able to show Mr Trematon something by the time he
returns."

Just then Jellyboy stalked in.

"Mr Atherton, you're wanted at once in the Head's study."

Atherton hurriedly washed his hands, smoothed his hair and donned his
blazer over his Scout's uniform. It was the custom for the lads to
wear their uniform during their work in the gym., after "prep." was
over; but for the first time on record was a Scout in full war-paint
summoned to see the Head. The Rev. Septimus took particular pains to
avoid sending for any of his pupils except when in their ordinary
clothes; but on this occasion the warning was evidently urgent.

"Come in," said the Head, briskly. "Atherton, this is Sir Silas
Gwinnear."

The Scout could hardly recognise the stranger as the same person he
had rescued. Sir Silas under ordinary everyday conditions was a tall,
thin-featured man with grey hair and beard. He bore the stamp of a
self-made merchant, for he was somewhat showily dressed, an obtrusive
gold watch-chain of old-fashioned make with a heavy seal, a massive
signet ring and a thick scarf-pin being the outward signs of his
opulence. His manner was pompous; but in his deep-set grey eyes there
lurked the suspicion of a kindly nature.

"Ah, good evening, Atherton," exclaimed the Baronet, rising and
shaking the Scout's hand. "I am out and about, you see, thanks to
your bravery, my dear young sir. I took the first opportunity of
calling and thanking you personally for what you have done for me."

"I only did my duty, sir."

"And did it well, too, I declare. To get to the point, Atherton: I am
a man of few words, but you will not find me ungrateful. If at any
future time I can be of assistance to you don't hesitate to ask. I
flatter myself that I have a fair share of influence. Meanwhile I
don't suppose you will object to having a little pocket-money.
School-boys, I believe, are always fond of tuck."

So saying, Sir Silas thrust his hand deep into his trousers' pocket
and fished out a fistful of gold and silver coins. From these he
selected five sovereigns and offered them to his youthful rescuer.

Atherton drew himself erect.

"No, thank you, sir," he said firmly but politely. "I cannot take the
money."

"Cannot take the money!" repeated Sir Silas, hardly able to credit
his sense of hearing. "Why not?"

"I am a Scout, sir, and a Scout is not allowed to receive any reward
for doing a good turn."

"A Scout! Bless my soul, so you are!" exclaimed the Baronet, as his
eyes noticed for the first time the lad's knotted handkerchief
showing above his buttoned-up blazer, and his bare knees. "I am
afraid I am not in sympathy with the Scout movement," he added
bluntly.

"We have recently formed a troop as a kind of experiment," explained
the Rev. Septimus, apologetically. "But I must admit, Sir Silas, that
I have had no reason up to the present to regret my decision in
granting Scouts to be enrolled from my pupils."

"Atherton's refusal to take a small present surprises me," said the
Baronet. "Is that rule strictly adhered to?"

"I know very little about the rules and regulations of Scoutcraft,"
replied the Head. "Perhaps Atherton can answer your question."

"Well, is it?" asked Sir Silas abruptly. "Yes, sir," replied the
Scout, rather relieved to find that the conversation had turned into a
channel that was more to his liking than being the object of
embarrassing congratulations.

"H'm. The upkeep of the movement costs money, I suppose. How do you
manage? I always thought Scouts cadged to meet their expenses."

"No, sir, we are not allowed to cadge. That is also against
regulations. We are self-supporting."

"How?"

"To take our own case, sir, all our pocket-money is paid into the
troop funds at the beginning of the term. We have to be thrifty, that
is also an obligation. We all do something to add to the funds."

"I gave the permission, Sir Silas," remarked the Head. "In a
commercial training school like Collingwood College I think that
judiciously supervised earnings tend to develop commercial instincts
and teach lads the value of money at an age when they are apt to
disregard it."

"That is so," agreed the baronet. "'Take care of the pence,' you know.
But suppose, Atherton, a sum of money was presented to the troop
funds, what would you do then?"

"Our Scoutmaster, Mr Trematon, could answer the question better than
I, sir," replied the Scout.

"Trematon? Is he here? That's strange. He wrote to me the other day.
I thought the name Collingwood College seemed familiar, but until
this moment I failed to connect the two circumstances. He asked me to
allow him to take a party of Scouts to my place in Cornwall - to Seal
Island."

"Yes, sir."

"And I refused. I gave my reasons. I suppose you fellows called me all
sorts of uncomplimentary names, eh?"

"Oh, no, sir. We were disappointed, of course. Mr Trematon was too, for he
loves Cornwall, so he tells us. Now we are going to Southend
instead."

"I suppose you wouldn't mind if I altered my decision?"

"Indeed, sir, it would be ripping," replied Atherton, enthusiastically.

"Well, I will write to Mr Trematon on the matter to-morrow," declared
Sir Silas. "If you won't accept a pecuniary reward perhaps I can pay
off a portion of my debt of gratitude to you in another way. All the
same," he added, with a touch of pomposity, "I wish it to be clearly
understood that the objections I have expressed to Mr Trematon I
still believe in: but since you refuse any pecuniary reward I think I
am justified in making this offer. I suppose there is no reason why
you should decline this slight concession?"

"Thank you very much, sir," replied Atherton warmly. "In the name of
the troop I thank you."

"No need for that," said Sir Silas grimly. "The troop, whatever that
is - I suppose it has something to do with Scouts - has to thank you,
not me. I will write to Mr Trematon this evening on the matter."

As soon as Leader Atherton was dismissed he ran as hard as he could
out of the schoolhouse, and crossed the playground and burst
excitedly into the old gym.

"I say, you chaps," he exclaimed, "it's all right after all. Sir
Silas Gwinnear has reconsidered his decision and we have permission
to camp out on Seal Island."

The roof echoed and re-echoed to the hearty cheer the Scouts raised,
while little Reggie Scott, the Tenderfoot of the "Otters," showed his
enthusiasm by attempting to dance a hornpipe on the back of the
vaulting horse. His efforts came to an abrupt conclusion, and he rose
from the floor dolefully rubbing the back of his head, while his
comrades were unable to restrain their mirth.

In the midst of the uproar the Scoutmaster entered.

"What's all this, boys?" he inquired. "More play than work it looks
like; and only a few days more before we go to Southend, and our
preparations are not half made."

"No need to trouble about Southend, sir," said Fred Simpson, in an
excited tone. "Atherton has seen Sir Silas, and we can go to Seal
Island."

"Atherton has seen Sir Silas?" repeated Mr Trematon. "Come, Atherton,
let me hear all about it."

"It is rather a pity that Sir Silas gives his consent under these
conditions," he continued when the Scout had related what had
occurred in the Head's study. "A gift grudgingly bestowed is but half
a gift. No matter, lads; Atherton has made a good impression as a
Scout, and I feel certain that the rest of us will leave no stone
unturned to convince the baronet that Scouts are not what he imagines
them to be. So it is to be Seal Island after all. I am glad, and I
think you will agree with me that the possibilities of a thoroughly
enjoyable fortnight under canvas are far greater there than at
Southend. It was lucky I called in to see how you were getting on,
for I meant to buy the tickets to-night. But now, lads, stick to your
work, for I see there is still much to be done. Work first and play
afterwards - and talk if you can without hindering each other."

For the next two days preparations were hurriedly yet methodically
pushed forward. On the Friday the school broke up, the day boys and
most of the boarders bidding goodbye to their studies for seven long
weeks. Of the boarders who remained all belonged to the Scouts, and
formed two patrols.

The "Otters," with Dick Atherton as Leader, were composed of Jack
Phillips, Second; Phil Green and Tom Mayne, 1st class Scouts; Will
Everest and George Baker, 2nd class Scouts; and Jim Sayers and Reggie
Scott, the Tenderfoots.

The "Wolves" were made up of Fred Simpson, Leader; Harry Neale,
Second; Jock Fraser, Arnold Hayes and Vernon Coventry, 1st class
Scouts; Pat Coventry, 2nd class Scout; and Basil Armstrong,
Tenderfoot. Little Dick Frost, the other Tenderfoot of the "Wolves,"
and one of the keenest of the troop, was the only one who was unable
to go camping. His mother had written to the Head saying that as she
considered her son a delicate lad, she did not wish him to run
unnecessary risks by sleeping in the open. Even the Rev. Septimus
smiled when he read the epistle, for Dick was really one of the
toughest of a hardy set of lads.

Sir Silas kept his promise by writing to Mr Trematon, confirming the
permission he had given to Atherton. In the letter he enclosed a
railway pass to Wadebridge for seventeen persons, available for
fifteen days.

"No doubt the laws of your organisation will permit you to accept the
enclosed," he wrote. "Don't thank me, thank young Atherton. As
regards Seal Island, I have written to my bailiff informing him that
you are to have uninterrupted possession of the place for a
fortnight. There are springs of fresh water, but fuel you will have
to obtain from the mainland. Dairy produce is to be had of
Trebarwith, the farmer who lives just outside Polkerwyck. You can
shoot as many rabbits as you like, on the estate, but remember that
the sea-birds are not to be killed or molested. Not only is it an
offence against the law to kill birds, being close season, but I am
strongly adverse from seeing these creatures harmed, so I sincerely
trust that you will take strong measures to carry out my wishes in
this respect. Should my keepers report any violation of this
condition I will immediately give orders for your lads to quit the
island."

Sir Silas' gift had relieved the Scouts of any possible pecuniary
difficulty. For months they had put aside their pocket-money, paying
into the troop funds for the purpose of defraying the cost of the
camp training. For example, Tom Mayne and Coventry major earned
sixpence a week for weeding the Head's garden. This sum was promptly
paid in. Simpson and Everest had each won prizes in competitions
organised by a leading boys' journal. In each case the articles were
sold and the sums received added to the general fund. Every lad had
done his utmost, and enough had been raised to pay for the railway
fares. But there would be very little left when the expenses were
met, and now the baronet's generous gift had made it possible for the
Scouts to have a splendid holiday and still keep a balance in hand.

On the eve of the momentous journey to the west country, Leaders
Atherton and Simpson, on behalf of the two patrols, sprang a little
surprise upon their Scoutmaster. Unknown to Mr Trematon the Scouts
had purchased a quantity of second-hand, yet serviceable, canvas, and
from this they constructed a really smart and well-made ridge-tent
suitable for one person. This they presented to the Scoutmaster as a
token of appreciation from the "Otters" and the "Wolves."

For their camp equipment the Scouts had to exercise their wits. Their
trek-cart was completed; their kit bags packed and stowed; their
cooking utensils, truly Spartan in simplicity, were ready; but so far
as sleeping accommodation was concerned the lads fully expected to
have to construct rough shelters of brushwood and heather. Almost at
the last moment the Scoutmaster of another North London Troop came to
the rescue. The Collingwood College lads had more than once done his
Scouts a good turn, and the opportunity arrived for their services to
be reciprocated. The troop in question had just returned from a
fortnight under canvas at Shoreham, and acting on their Scoutmaster's
suggestion the Scouts lent three large bell-tents to the "Otters" and
the "Wolves."

At length the eventful day arrived. The Scouts, all in full marching
kit, fell in to be finally inspected by the Head. The trek-cart,
filled to its utmost capacity, was placed in charge of Sayers and
Armstrong - to be duly noticed and admired by the Rev. Septimus, who,
a skilful amateur carpenter himself, always encouraged his pupils to
take up carpentering for a hobby.

"Now, boys, I wish you all a very pleasant holiday," exclaimed the
Head. "I have every reason to believe that you will do your best to
enjoy yourselves and at the same time to keep up the credit of
Collingwood College - and of the Scouts. I trust that you will have
good weather, and that you will return safe and sound and ready to
resume your studies with renewed keenness when the time comes. I will
say no more, except perhaps that I wish I were coming with you."

The Scouts cheered at the last remark. They appreciated the Head's
envy, but at the same time they were secretly glad that he was _not_
accompanying them. There was a certain austerity about the Rev.
Septimus that acted as a barrier betwixt master and scholar, a
barrier that, out of school hours, did not exist between Mr Trematon
and the lads.

The Head stepped up to Mr Trematon and shook hands.

"Scouts!" exclaimed the Scoutmaster. "Patrols right - quick march!"

The first stage of the long journey to Seal Island had begun.



CHAPTER V

THE ARRIVAL


IT was four o'clock in the afternoon when the Scouts detrained at
Wadebridge, the termination of their railway journey. Seven miles of
hilly country separated them from the village of Polkerwyck. The
afternoon was hot and sultry, there was no wind to cool the heated
atmosphere; but braced up by the attractiveness of their novel
surroundings the lads thought lightly of their march.


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