RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
The scout stood where three roads cut three green tunnels in the
pine woods and met at his feet. Above his head an aged sign-post
pointed impartially to East Carver South Carver and Carver
Centre and left the choice to him.
The scout scowled and bit nervously at his gauntlet. The choice
was difficult and there was no one with whom he could take
counsel. The three sun-shot roads lay empty and the other scouts
who with him had left the main column at sunrise he had ordered
back. They were to report that on the right flank so far at
least as Middleboro there was no sign of the enemy. What lay
beyond it now was his duty to discover. The three empty roads
spread before him like a picture puzzle smiling at his
predicament. Whichever one he followed left two unguarded. Should
he creep upon for choice Carver Centre the enemy masked by a mile
of fir trees might advance from Carver or South Carver and
obviously he could not follow three roads at the same time. He
considered the better strategy would be to wait where he was where
the three roads met and allow the enemy himself to disclose his
position. To the scout this course was most distasteful. He
assured himself that this was so because while it were the safer
course it wasted time and lacked initiative. But in his heart he
knew that was not the reason and to his heart his head answered
that when one's country is at war when fields and fire-sides are
trampled by the iron heels of the invader a scout should act not
according to the dictates of his heart but in the service of his
native land. In the case of this particular patriot the man and
scout were at odds. As one of the Bicycle Squad of the Boston
Corps of Cadets the scout knew what at this momentous crisis in
her history the commonwealth of Massachusetts demanded of him. It
was that he sit tight and wait for the hated foreigners from New
York City New Jersey and Connecticut to show themselves. But the
man knew and had known for several years that on the road to
Carver was the summer home of one Beatrice Farrar. As Private
Lathrop it was no part of his duty to know that. As a man and a
lover and a rejected lover at that he could not think of anything
else. Struggling between love and duty the scout basely decided to
leave the momentous question to chance. In the front tire of his
bicycle was a puncture temporarily effaced by a plug. Laying the
bicycle on the ground Lathrop spun the front wheel swiftly.
"If" he decided "the wheel stops with the puncture pointing at
Carver Centre I'll advance upon Carver Centre. Should it point to
either of the two other villages I'll stop here.
"It's a two to one shot against me any way" he growled.
Kneeling in the road he spun the wheel and as intently as at Monte
Carlo and Palm Beach he had waited for other wheels to determine
his fortune he watched it come to rest. It stopped with the plug
pointing back to Middleboro.
The scout told himself he was entitled to another trial. Again he
spun the wheel. Again the spokes flashed in the sun. Again the
puncture rested on the road to Middleboro.
"If it does that once more" thought the scout "it's a warning
that there is trouble ahead for me at Carver and all the little
For the third time the wheel flashed but as he waited for the
impetus to die the sound of galloping hoofs broke sharply on the
silence. The scout threw himself and his bicycle over the nearest
stone wall and unlimbering his rifle pointed it down the road.
He saw approaching a small boy in a white apron seated in a white
wagon on which was painted "Pies and Pastry. East Wareham." The
boy dragged his horse to an abrupt halt.
"Don't point that at me!" shouted the boy.
"Where do you come from?" demanded the scout.
"Wareham" said the baker.
"Are you carrying any one concealed in that wagon?"
As though to make sure the baker's boy glanced apprehensively into
the depths of his cart and then answered that in the wagon he
carried nothing but fresh-baked bread. To the trained nostrils of
the scout this already was evident. Before sunrise he had
breakfasted on hard tack and muddy coffee and the odor of crullers
and mince pie still warm assailed him cruelly. He assumed a
fierce and terrible aspect.
"Where are you going?" he challenged.
"To Carver Centre" said the boy.
To chance Lathrop had left the decision. He believed the fates had
Dragging his bicycle over the stone wall he fell into the road.
"Go on" he commanded. "I'll use your cart for a screen. I'll
creep behind the enemy before he sees me."
The baker's boy frowned unhappily.
"But supposing" he argued "they see you first will they shoot?"
The scout waved his hand carelessly.
"Of course" he cried.
"Then" said the baker "my horse will run away!"
"What of it?" demanded the scout. "Are Middleboro South
Middleboro Rock Brockton and Boston to fall? Are they to be
captured because you're afraid of your own horse? They won't shoot
REAL bullets! This is not a real war. Don't you know that?"
The baker's boy flushed with indignation.
"Sure I know that" he protested; "but my horse--HE don't know
Lathrop slung his rifle over his shoulder and his leg over his
"If the Reds catch you" he warned in parting "they'll take
everything you've got."
"The Blues have took most of it already" wailed the boy. "And
just as they were paying me the battle begun and this horse run
away and I couldn't get him to come back for my money."
"War" exclaimed Lathrop morosely "is always cruel to the
innocent." He sped toward Carver Centre. In his motor car he had
travelled the road many times and as always his goal had been the
home of Miss Beatrice Farrar he had covered it at a speed
unrecognized by law. But now he advanced with stealth and caution.
In every clump of bushes he saw an ambush. Behind each rock he
beheld the enemy.
In a clearing was a group of Portuguese cranberry pickers dressed
as though for a holiday. When they saw the man in uniform one of
the women hailed him anxiously.
"Is the parade coming?" she called.
"Have you seen any of the Reds?" Lathrop returned.
"No" complained the woman. "And we been waiting all morning.
When will the parade come?"
"It's not a parade" said Lathrop severely. "It's a war!"
The summer home of Miss Farrar stood close to the road. It had
been so placed by the farmer who built it in order that the women
folk might sit at the window and watch the passing of the stage-
coach and the peddler. Great elms hung over it and a white fence
separated the road from the narrow lawn. At a distance of a
hundred yards a turn brought the house into view and at this turn
as had been his manoeuvre at every other possible ambush Lathrop
dismounted and advanced on foot. Up to this moment the road had
been empty but now in front of the Farrar cottage it was blocked
by a touring-car and a station wagon. In the occupants of the car
he recognized all the members of the Farrar family except Miss
Farrar. In the station wagon were all of the Farrar servants.
Miss Farrar herself was leaning upon the gate and waving them a
farewell. The touring-car moved off down the road; the station
wagon followed; Miss Farrar was alone. Lathrop scorched toward
her and when he was opposite the gate dug his toes in the dust
and halted. When he lifted his broad-brimmed campaign hat Miss
Farrar exclaimed both with surprise and displeasure. Drawing back
from the gate she held herself erect. Her attitude was that of one
prepared for instant retreat. When she spoke it was in tones of
"You promised" said the girl "you would not come to see me."
Lathrop straddling his bicycle peered anxiously down the road.
"This is not a social call" he said. "I'm on duty. Have you seen
His tone was brisk and alert his manner preoccupied. The
ungraciousness of his reception did not seem in the least to
But Miss Farrar was not deceived. She knew him not only as a
persistent and irrepressible lover but as one full of guile
adroit in tricks fertile in expedients. He was one who could not
take "No" for an answer--at least not from her. When she repulsed
him she seemed to grow in his eyes only the more attractive.
"It is not the lover who comes to woo" he was constantly
explaining "but the lover's WAY of wooing."
Miss Farrar had assured him she did not like his way. She objected
to being regarded and treated as a castle that could be taken only
by assault. Whether she wished time to consider or whether he and
his proposal were really obnoxious to her he could not find out.
His policy of campaign was that she also should not have time to
find out. Again and again she had agreed to see him only on the
condition that he would not make love to her. He had promised
again and again and had failed to keep that promise. Only a week
before he had been banished from her presence to remain an exile
until she gave him permission to see her at her home in New York.
It was not her purpose to return there for two weeks and yet here
he was a beggar at her gate. It might be that he was there as he
said "on duty" but her knowledge of him and of the doctrine of
chances caused her to doubt it.
"Mr. Lathrop!" she began severely.
As though to see to whom she had spoken Lathrop glanced anxiously
over his shoulder. Apparently pained and surprised to find that it