Firelight splashed the eager faces of six Cub Scouts, who squatted Indian fashion around the glowing log.

Sam Hatfield, cubmaster of Den 2 at Webster City, raised his hand in cheery greeting.


“How!” responded the Cubs. Expectantly, they waited for their chief to speak.

On this particular night, the den meeting was being held on a river slope directly behind the home of Burton Holloway, one of the Den Dads.

As all the Cubs knew, the session was no ordinary week-end ceremonial. For Mr. Hatfield had promised that an important announcement would be forthcoming.

“Everyone here?” The cubmaster’s gaze roved from one Cub to another as he started to call the roll. “Brad Wilber!”

“Present,” drawled the Den Chief.

Brad was nearly 14, a Boy Scout and an acknowledged leader among the younger Cubs. Mr. Hatfield depended a great deal upon the dark-haired, serious youngster, having found him to be even-tempered and quick of wit.

“Dan Carter!” the cubmaster resumed the roll call.

“Here,” answered Dan with a friendly grin. He was a sandy-haired boy, clever in school and a fine athlete. All the Cubs liked him.

Next Mr. Hatfield called the name of his own son, Fred, who replied with a loud “How! Me heap big Injun!”

The roll call also included Mack Tibbets, Chips Davis and Midge Holloway, a son of the Den Dad. But when Red Suell’s name was spoken, he did not respond.

“Where’s Red?” Mr. Hatfield inquired. In the flickering firelight he could not see the boys’ faces distinctly. “Not here yet?”

“Late again,” drawled Chips. “You know Red. He never can make a meeting on time.”

“I thought he’d be here tonight,” said Brad. “He had something special on his mind. Fact is, I’m a little bothered about it—”

“Someone’s coming down the hill now,” cut in Dan. He directed attention toward a shadowy, hurrying figure.

A moment later, Red, who had acquired the nickname because of his fiery hair, breathlessly joined the group. He carried a bulky object concealed in a large paper bag.

“Time you’re getting here!” Chips scolded him. “What you got in that sack?”

“Oh, nothing.” Red grinned mysteriously.

Carefully holding together the top edges of the bag so that none of the Cubs could see what it held, he took his place in the circle.

Mr. Hatfield stirred the log with a stick, sending up a shower of sparks.

“I’m about to spin a few Indian stories,” he remarked. “But first, now that we’re all here, I’ll tell you about next month’s den project. Ever hear of the Navajos?”

“Sure!” chirped Chips, proud of his knowledge. “Blankets! We’ve got some at home.”

The other Cubs hooted in derision.

“The Navajos are Indians,” corrected Dan. “They live on a large New Mexico reservation.”

“That’s right,” agreed Mr. Hatfield. “The Navajos are very skillful at weaving blankets and making silver ornaments, so Chips wasn’t too far off.”

“What do the Navajos have to do with our project?” asked Mack Tibbets curiously.

“A lot, I hope. I thought we might adopt a Navajo Pack.”

“Do the Navajos have Cub Scout organizations?” demanded Red. In his surprise, he nearly dropped the paper bag which he had kept so carefully tucked under his arm.

“Why should we adopt an Indian Pack?” questioned Midge Holloway.

“Because the Navajo youngsters need our help,” Mr. Hatfield explained. “The government has aided the Indians by setting up schools and providing many necessities. But while some of the Navajos are well off, others are very poor, depending almost entirely upon sheep raising for a living. Their dwellings are hogans or houses built of sticks, rock and mud. Few have adequate clothing or shoes.”

“What do the Navajo Cubs need?” asked Brad.

“All sorts of things. Books, uniforms, craft articles and especially money.”

Mr. Hatfield went on to say that if the Cubs decided to adopt a Navajo Pack, cash might be raised by various projects, including an Indian pow-wow.

“Say, that sounds swell to me!” approved Dan instantly. “I’m for it!”

“Me too,” chimed in Midge Holloway.

All the other Cubs likewise voted in favor of the project.

The matter decided, Mr. Hatfield related several Indian stories. As the fire burned lower, the boys huddled close together, for a chill had come upon the summer night.

Unintentionally, Dan brushed against Red’s mysterious paper bag. He could tell by the feel that it held something soft and warm.

“What are you hiding, Red?” he demanded. “You keep clutching that sack as if you’re hanging onto a live rabbit. What’s in it?”

“A bear maybe,” grinned Red. “Wait and see!”

Remarking upon the darkness of the woods, he stared fixedly toward the tall pine trees. His intensity began to make the other Cubs feel a trifle uneasy.

“What’s wrong with you anyhow, Red?” Dan asked, losing impatience.

“Nothing,” Red returned innocently. “Gosh, but it’s getting dark! Do you ’spose any wild animals are out there in the woods watching our fire die down?”

“Probably a mountain lion, six wolves and a couple of bears,” Dan retorted. “All waiting to attack! Don’t try to stir our imaginations, Red.”

“Who me?” Red demanded indignantly.

He subsided into silence. However, a few minutes later, Dan heard him urge Mr. Hatfield to “tell a good scarey bear or wolf story.”

“It’s getting rather late,” the cubmaster rejoined. “Our wood is nearly gone.”

“I’ll get some more,” Red offered eagerly.

Before anyone could stop him, he darted off into the woods.

Instead of telling an animal story, Mr. Hatfield explained the origin of the Navajo fire dance, or mountain chant.

This spectacular Indian dance, he related, was performed by the braves four or five times a year, usually late in fall.

“The Navajos believe that bears and snakes are evil spirits,” the cubmaster remarked. “If a Navajo kills a bear, he fears that the animal’s spirit may enter his own body. So to free such an evil spirit from the body, the Indian braves take part in the fire dance ceremony which often lasts five days.”

Dan paid only scant attention as Mr. Hatfield described the colorful dance. He kept watching the fringe of woods for a glimpse of Red. Surely, the boy had been gone long enough to return with an armful of firewood!

“What’s become of him?” he whispered to Brad who sat on his left in the circle.

“Oh, he’ll be along soon enough,” Brad shrugged. “Relax.”

Mr. Hatfield finished his description of the fire dance. Mr. Holloway then told the Cubs of plans which included the building of a Navajo trading post, a hogan and perhaps the making of a sand painting.

“We’ll practice canoeing too,” he added. “Fact is, we’re hoping to schedule a canoe race with Den 1 at the end of the season.”

“We’ll beat ’em too!” Midge announced proudly. “Dan and Brad are handy with a paddle.”

“So is Ross Langdon of Den 1,” Dan reminded him. “Don’t count our trophies until we win ’em.”

“Also, keep in mind that winning isn’t nearly as important as good, friendly competition and fun,” Mr. Hatfield added. “Now, shall we close the meeting by the Cub Promise?”

Quickly the boys formed in a circle about the dying embers of the fire. In unison they recited:

“I promise

To do my best

To do my duty to

God and my country,

To be square, and to obey the law of the Pack.”

As the meeting broke up, Mr. Hatfield doused water on the live coals.

“What became of Red?” he asked. “He left camp twenty minutes ago for more wood. He must have gone to the house.”

“Probably to get a head start at the refreshments,” chimed in Chips. “That’s Red!”

“I’ll see if he’s there,” Dan offered quickly. “I saw him disappear into the trees, but he may have circled around.”

A light glowed from the kitchen windows of the Holloway house on the hill.

The dwelling stood at the extreme edge of the metropolitan park area in the section which included many acres of wild, almost virgin timber. On many occasions the Cubs had been allowed to use the Holloway cabin which fronted the river. Often too, they explored the marked trails, usually accompanied by either Mr. Holloway or the cubmaster.

Climbing the gravel path, Dan peered in at the open kitchen door. In the glare of the electric light he could see Mrs. Holloway setting a long table with paper plates and napkins. Fragrant chocolate simmered on the stove.

“Oh, hello, Dan,” Mrs. Holloway greeted him cordially. “You’re the first Cub to come looking for food.”

“Then Red hasn’t been here?”

“Why, no, not yet.”

“We’re looking for him,” Dan explained. “Guess he must be somewhere else.” Without telling more, he ran back to the river front to report to Mr. Hatfield.

Both Mr. Hatfield and Midge’s father were troubled to learn that Red had not been found at the house. Anxiously, they gazed toward the dark woods.

“Maybe he’s lost in there,” Dan said, reading their thought. “I saw him start off that way.”

Mr. Hatfield reached for a powerful flashlight which he always kept ready for use. “I thought Red had more sense than to go beyond view of the camp fire,” he commented. “He can’t be very far away though.”

“Let’s call to him,” proposed Mr. Holloway. “If he’s anywhere near, he’ll hear us.”

The two men shouted Red’s name repeatedly. No answering cry came from the darkness. However, the other Cubs gathered about, alarmed by the disappearance of their den mate.

“It’s really my fault,” Brad said, addressing the two men. “I shouldn’t have let him do it.”

“Do what, Brad?” questioned Mr. Hatfield. “What are you talking about.”

“The truth is, Red planned to play a little joke on the Cubs.”

“A joke? What kind of joke, Brad?”

“It was connected with that paper sack he had with him. He brought a bear skin rug from home. Red figured he’d slip away from camp, put it on, and then sneak back to scare the Cubs. You know—pretend to be a real bear.”

“Red should have known better than to try such a kid trick!”

“It was my fault,” Brad said, taking the blame. “I should have set my foot down hard when he told me his plan. He was so hepped up about it, I let him go ahead.”

“But why didn’t he come back as he planned?”

“That’s what has me bothered,” Brad admitted anxiously. “He intended to make a few scratching sounds in the trees and show himself about the time the story telling reached a climax.”

“Red is such a youngster,” Mr. Holloway murmured. “He never did have much sense of direction—”

“Right now, he may be wandering around in the woods, hopelessly lost,” added Mr. Hatfield grimly. “We must find him quickly, or it may turn into an all-night job!”

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