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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Rube made the tour of the forest veteran


Rube

made the tour of the forest veteran, estimating its circumference with outstretched arms.

"I reckon it's just over twenty-four feet," he announced, "allowing for the part that's missin' from th' open gap."

"Say eight feet in diameter," nodded Kiddie. "And it's one of the slowest growin' of all forest trees. I calculate that every inch of diameter represents at the very least ten years of growth. Eight feet equal ninety-six inches; an' that means nine hundred and sixty years. So you see the tree was quite a hundred years old at the time when William the Conqueror was King of England."

"Methuselah!" exclaimed Rube. "Then I ain't denyin' that it may have bin gettin' some ancient an' holler-hearted time of the Pilgrims. But even yet you ain't solved th' problem of just how long this yer trapper's bin dead."

"There's no way of tellin'," said Kiddie, "except by the condition of the bones. They crumble to dust at a touch, and as the protection of the tree was liable to preserve them rather than to hasten their decay, you wouldn't be a whole lot out if you argued, as I did at first, that he was dead before ever a white man set eyes on the Rocky Mountains."

"Guess thar's no occasion fer Sheriff Blagg ter hold an inquest, then," observed Rube, glancing round at the tin of honey. "Say, Kiddie, you gonner eat

any o' that stuff--after where it come from?"

"Why not?" questioned Kiddie. "It's good, wholesome honey. We'll store it away in the teepee, where the bees an' flies can't get foolin' around it. That rabbit stew goin' along all right, d'ye think? See if it's seasoned enough. Onions are beginnin' ter flavour the woodland air, eh? Good thing we ain't goin' t' a fashionable West-end party this evenin'. I'd a heap rather smell of onions right here. Prefer bein' here in any case. You've never bin to a party, Rube; never seen me togged out in evenin' dress, wearin' a swallow-tailed coat an' a white bow an' patent leather pumps. But thar's a heap o' things you've never seen. You've never seen a locomotive engine, or a steamship, or a Gothic cathedral, or a Japanese cherry orchard in blossom; don't know what it means ter walk along an English lane, past cottages covered with roses. Thar's London an' Paris, thar's th' Atlantic Ocean an' the lone coral islands of the Pacific. Thar's pictures an' books an' theatres. Oh, thar's a whole world of interestin' things you've never seen!"

"Makes me feel ter'ble ignorant," Rube regretted ruefully. "I dunno nothin' o' what's beyond th' mountains that I see ev'ry mornin' from Birkenshaw's Camp. Don't know nothin'; can't do nothin'. I'm just as useless as I'm ignorant."

Kiddie put his arm affectionately round the boy's shoulders as they moved together towards the campfire.

"Not useless, Rube; not ignorant," he said, speaking now in his character of Lord St. Olave. "You know things that thousands of well-educated English and American boys do not know; you can do things which millions of clever boys are incapable of doing. I won't make you blush by telling you just what I think of you. I'll only say you're learning more and more every day, and that every day you're proving yourself to be a better and a better scout."


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