"That must have been where you were thrown, striking on your head, received the injury that caused your mind to become a blank," Elmer told him; while Doctor Ted nodded vigorously as though seconding the motion.
"But I'm in a terrible position, with only these thin clothes on, and no shoes or socks on my feet," remarked the man, who, now that he had returned to his senses, could apparently feel the sting of the cold air, something that doubtless he may not have been sensitive to before.
"Perhaps we can fix you up with something to tide over," Chatz told him.
"Here's Lil Artha, whose feet must be the same size as yours, and I happen to know he brought a pair of new extra moccasins along, which he hasn't worn yet."
First one, and then another proposed lending Ralph certain garments, until in the end he was well taken care of. He even sat with them, propped up in a comfortable seat, and ate the dinner the scouts prepared, asking dozens of eager questions, many of which they were not able to answer, because they concerned his people, and none of the scouts happened to know them.
"I'm going to make a proposition to you, fellows," said Elmer, when they had finished their meal; "and here it is. You know Stackhouse is about eleven miles away from here, though twice that far from Hickory Ridge.
My map shows a fairly decent road leading there. Suppose we pull up stakes and start for Mr. Oxley's home? We could make it before sunset, I should think. It's true that our camping trip would be cut short a day, but I'm sure I voice the sentiments of every fellow that we'll feel mighty well repaid for any little sacrifice like that when we turn in to the Oxley place and bring back their lost son, not what he was when he ran away, but clothed in his right mind. Everybody in favor of that move say aye!"
A chorus answered him in the affirmative; why, even that hardened objector, Doubting George, shouted with the rest; for once having apparently chosen to be what Toby called "civilized."
Ralph Oxley had tears in his eyes as he insisted on shaking hands with every one of the scouts.
"You're a fine lot of boys, let me tell you!" he declared, with deep feeling; "and I wouldn't accept your sacrifice only for my mother's sake. They ought to know the happy news as soon as possible. Every minute that I'm delayed is just so much more suffering for my dear parents; and a sweet girl too that I was going to marry when that accident came about. But I'll never forget it, fellows; and you'll hear from the Oxley family later on."
"Not a word about any money reward, suh!" cried Chatz, sternly; "we're scouts, and we'd scorn to accept anything in the way of pay for doing a thing like this. It's given us a heap more pleasure than anything that's happened for many moons, believe me, suh!"
"And to think," added Toby, with a beaming smile on his face, "my remarkable parachute came near holding up double weight. I really believe if only Mr. Oxley here hadn't managed to strike his head on that cornice when he fell, both of us would have landed without a scratch.
And let me tell you that I think it's already shown what a life-saver it's bound to be."
"Hurrah for Jones, the greatest after Edison this country has ever produced," cried Lil Artha, pretending to wave his hat furiously.
They were soon all at work, and the tents came down with a rush, for long experience along these lines had made Elmer and his scouts clever hands at anything pertaining to camp life. Nancy was hitched up, and the wagon loaded. They made a comfortable seat with the tents and the blankets for the injured young man; and before an hour had elapsed, after finishing that last meal, they had said good-bye to the haunted house, and were on their way.
It was a long though not uninteresting afternoon ride; because they were passing over a district that was practically new to them.
Presently they overtook a young woman who was tripping along ahead of them. Just as Elmer was about to ask her something about the Oxleys she gave a shriek, and rushing to the tail-end of the wagon commenced to reach out toward the wounded passenger, calling his name in great excitement.
It developed, of course, that this was the same girl Ralph had been about to marry at the time of his unfortunate accident; and her wild delight at finding that the missing one had not only been found, but was restored to his proper senses as by a miracle, can better be imagined than described.
Shortly afterwards they turned in at the fine Oxley farm, and it was not long before the greatest excitement came about that had been known in that region for many a month. The mother had her boy in her arms, and was trying to laugh and cry at the same time; the father came running madly to the spot; and what with dogs barking, and people shouting, persons passing must have thought a lunatic asylum had broken loose.
The boys did not linger long after they had seen the family reunited; though everybody wanted to shower them with thanks, and praise for their having brought such happiness to the bereft home of the Oxleys. And Ralph assured them that he and the young woman who was to be his wife would certainly drive over to see the Hickory Ridge folks just as soon as he was able to be about again.
Well, as they were a long distance from home, with darkness near at hand, the boys determined to go as far along the road toward Hickory Ridge as Nancy could draw the load, and then proceed to camp somewhere for one night.
It was all a part of the outing, and no one appeared to regret having followed the generous dictates of their warm young hearts.
While their camp that night may not have been as comfortable as before, because of the lack of time to do certain things, they managed to get a fair amount of sleep. No doubt the consciousness of having responded to the demands of scout duty afforded them more or less solid satisfaction; for even George was heard to say, as they drew near the familiar home scenes on that quiet Sunday afternoon, it had been one of the best little outings the Hickory Ridge Boy Scouts had ever enjoyed; and it must needs be something beyond the ordinary that could coax this kind of stuff from Doubting George.
But that year was fated not to die out without Elmer and his chums being given another splendid opportunity to show what their scout training was worth, as the reader will discover upon securing the volume that follows this, and which is to be had under the title of "The Hickory Ridge Boy Scouts Storm-Bound; or, A Vacation Among the Snow Drifts."