Mr. Hatfield stood in the doorway of the hogan, staring past the Holloway home on the hill toward the main road.

“It’s not like Brad and Dan to be late,” he remarked to Mr. Holloway. “I can’t guess what’s keeping them.”

“Red’s not here either,” the Den Dad returned looking worried. “The boys were here early—we know that, because a sack of food was left on our porch. But what’s become of ’em?”

The sun had risen high and the hour set for the start of the Pack pow-wow now approached. All the Cubs shared Mr. Hatfield’s uneasiness. Without Dan and Brad, particularly the latter, it would be most difficult to carry on the planned ceremonies and competitions.

Already the Den 1 boys were starting to arrive for the big meet, many of them with their parents.

“I’ve telephoned to their homes,” Mr. Holloway added. “All three boys left early, presumably for here. We know they arrived, only to vanish.”

“Brad and Dan wouldn’t have wandered off without good reason,” Mr. Hatfield declared. “I’m sure they’ll be along any minute.”

Outwardly showing no uneasiness, the two Cub leaders went ahead with last-minute preparations for the pow-wow. As the hour grew later, more and more parents appeared upon the scene.

Fred, Chips, Mack and Midge were on hand, all four togged out in Indian costumes they had made themselves.

“We can delay the start a little while longer by taking the parents to the ravine to see the big carved face,” Mr. Hatfield said. “By the time everyone gets back, the boys surely will be here.”

Mr. Holloway guided the assembled parents to the cliff. Deliberately, he made the trip a slow one. But when the group finally returned to camp, Red, Dan and Brad had not put in an appearance.

“It’s no use waiting any longer,” Mr. Holloway decided. “We’ll have to go ahead without them. Frankly, I’m worried. Something serious must have come up, or they’d be here.”

The ceremony began with the Cubs from both dens parading in a circle, about the camp fire.

Mr. Hatfield as Akela then emerged from the hogan.

Solemnly, he raised his hand in greeting.


“How!” responded all the Cub Scout Indians.

“You my Indian brothers are the true first Americans,” Mr. Hatfield recited.

“How!” again answered the Cubs.

“Do you promise to continue to do your best to do your duty to God and your country?”

“HOW!” the Cubs shouted, howling so loud that the cry reechoed through the forest.

Mr. Hatfield directed the boys to seat themselves about the camp fire.

Mr. Holloway, who had a deep base voice, then led the assembly in singing “Home on the Range,” repeating it twice in the hope of gaining more time.

Next came the branding ceremony, or the induction of new families into the Pack. All regular Cubs were recognized as such by branding them as “old hands.” Boys who had qualified for advancement in rank next came forward to receive certificates and badges.

Though Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Holloway ran off the ceremonies as slowly as possible, all too soon it came time for the competitive events.

“Without Dan and Brad, we haven’t a chance to win,” Midge remarked to Chips. “It makes me sick! After all the work we’ve done. Then to lose out to Den 1!”

“We haven’t lost yet.”

“No, but we will. You know that. Look at Ross Langdon! He’s strutting around like a peacock. Figures Den 1 already has won the silver plaque.”

Deep gloom had settled upon all the Den 2 Cubs. Their uneasiness was shared not only by Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Holloway, but by parents of the three missing boys. Repeatedly, the grown-ups whispered together, apparently uncertain whether to continue the pow-wow or to halt it and organize a search for Brad, Dan and Red.

It was Dan’s mother who decided the matter.

“The pow-wow must go on as planned,” she declared. “My son wouldn’t have disappeared without good reason. I’m confident he’ll get word to us as quickly as he can. Meanwhile, he’d want the affair to continue exactly as planned.”

Judging of the various handicraft items next began. Above all else, the magnificent sand painting for which Dan had been responsible, drew favorable comment.

Unquestionably, it would have won top honors. However, Mr. Hatfield explained that only the planning work had been Dan’s and that therefore the den could not fairly claim the exhibit for points.

Judges awarded Den 1 ten points for a carved tom-tom, eight for an elaborate Indian head-dress, and three for a skillfully painted paddle. Excellent examples of Indian weaving brought an additional five points.

“That’s a total of 26 already,” Fred muttered in alarm. “We’ll be whitewashed!”

“We’ll pick up,” Midge insisted, with a confidence he did not feel.

Judges now were grading the Den 2 exhibits. With the sand painting eliminated from the entries, the Cubs of Den 2 could not expect to attain as many points as their competitors. Their only hope of winning the pow-wow rested in the athletic competition.

Chips was highly elated to win ten points for the paddle he had decorated. Fred added five points for having the best Indian costume. Brad, though not present, was awarded eight points for a cleverly made bracelet.

“Twenty-three points to Den 1’s twenty-six,” Mack added them up. “We’re behind, but it could be worse.”

The first athletic event was called a “Medicine Man’s Rassle with the Evil Spirits.”

Mr. Hatfield produced a three-foot length of broomstick. The Den 1 boys stood on one side, grasping the stick with both hands. On the other opposing side were Mack, Fred, Midge and Chips.

Though Den 1 to show its sportsmanship, limited their competitors to the same number of boys, they were able to select their strongest Cubs. Den 2 had no such choice.

Without Brad and Dan, they were greatly handicapped.

At the signal from Mr. Hatfield, each side tried to touch an end of the stick to the floor. Den 1 succeeded almost at once, achieving another ten points.

“Thirty-six to twenty-three!” Ross Langdon rubbed it in. “Why, this isn’t even a competition.”

“Quiet, you!” Midge growled. “It could be different if all our Cubs were here.”

“So you’re already cooking up an alibi?” Ross gloated. “Poor losers!”

“That’s not so!” Midge retorted furiously. “You’re welcome to the silver plaque if you can win it. We’ve beaten you enough times before.”

“Brad and Dan didn’t show today because they’re afraid of being licked in the canoe race,” Ross went on.

“You know that’s not true.”

“Then why didn’t they come?”

“I don’t know,” Midge admitted. “They may be here yet.”

“They’d better hurry then. The pow-wow’s nearly over.”

The next scheduled event was an Indian dance. The Den 1 group offered a rather uninspired number, characterized by a noisy beating of tom-toms.

By contrast, Den 2 had planned an elaborate version of the Navajo fire dance, using flashlights instead of torches. Brad was to have led this number.

“Fred, you’ll have to act as leader,” Mr. Hatfield told his son. “Think you can do it?”

“I’ll sure try,” Fred promised grimly.

The four Den 2 Cubs threw themselves into the dance whole-heartedly. So spirited was their performance that all the parents applauded vigorously.

After a brief conference, judges announced that Den 2 had captured the event, winning back the ten points they had lost.

“Thirty-six to thirty-three!” Chips chortled, taking heart. “Say, we still have a chance to win this old pow-wow!”

“Only one more event remains,” Mack pointed out. “That’s the canoe race.”

“Then we’re sunk,” Mack groaned. “Without Brad and Dan, we may as well give up without even entering the event.”

“A Cub doesn’t quit,” Midge said severely.

“Who can we put in besides you?” Mack demanded. “You’re pretty fair, but there’s no one else to back you up. Chips, Fred or me—we’re not in the class of Dan or Brad.”

Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Holloway held a brief conference concerning the final event on the program. They too were fully aware that without Brad or Dan, the competition could not be won.

“Even if we do trail miserably, we’ll enter the event,” Mr. Hatfield decided. “We can’t have Den 1 saying we’re poor sports.”

“Midge is our best bet. He’s very nearly as good as Dan.”

“But not the equal of Brad,” Mr. Hatfield said ruefully. “And we have no one else. Neither Mack or Chips is strong and they’re only fair swimmers. Fred can swim well enough, but he hasn’t practiced paddling enough to develop much skill.”

“We have no choice,” the Den Dad replied. “It will have to be Fred.”

A short course had been marked on the river with buoys. In this, Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Holloway had taken no part, leaving the matter entirely to Den 1 leaders.

The two canoes were carried down to the beach, ready for launching.

“Now remember, boys, this is a friendly competition,” Mr. Hatfield warned. “No straining to win. Just take it in your stride.”

Fred selected a paddle, his heart thumping. The Den 2 boys were being very decent. Both Midge and Mack had assured him that it didn’t matter whether or not the race was lost. But he knew better!

Den 2, especially Dan and Brad, had worked like beavers in the hope of winning the silver plaque.

Now, despite very bad luck, the score stood 33 to 36!

According to the rules, ten points would be awarded the two-man team which won the canoe race. None were to be given for second place.

So, as it stacked up, the silver plaque and Den 2’s honor depended upon winning the competition.

But no one knew better than Fred how hopeless was the prospect. Ross Langdon and another powerfully built Cub, Donald Fall, were to represent Den 1.

The boy watched them as they warmed up a bit, dipping their paddles in perfect unison.

He and Midge could not hope to coordinate their movements, for they never had practiced together. Always it had been taken for granted that if for any reason Dan could not compete, the team would be comprised of Midge and Brad.

“Don’t look so worried, son,” Mr. Hatfield said, slapping him on the shoulders. “This race is only for fun, you know. Win or lose, just do your best.”

“Sure,” Fred agreed with a grin. He gripped the paddle so tightly that the knuckles of his hands showed white.

“If Ross and Donald take the lead, don’t let it worry you,” Mr. Hatfield added. “Just stroke at your own speed.”

“Which will be plenty slow,” Fred replied. “Den 1 already is starting to celebrate victory.”

It was true that several of the Den 1 Cubs were capering about on the beach, laughing and acting as if the plaque already were theirs.

In the stern of the Den 1 canoe, Ross flashed a confident, almost arrogant smile.

“What we waiting for?” he demanded. “Let’s go!”

Sick at heart, Midge and Fred took their own places in the Den 2 canoe. Both crafts prepared to line up at the starting point for the race.

Paddle poised, Midge chanced to raise his eyes to gaze toward the forest. He stiffened into alert attention. Dare he trust his own vision?

Midge brushed a hand across his eyes and looked again. No mistake. From amid the trees emerged two disheveled figures. Red and Brad!

“Wait!” shouted Midge, letting his paddle clatter into the bottom of the canoe. “Hold everything! They’re here at last!”

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