"Now I want something to stretch on these things, so as to let the sled ride over the snow, instead of digging into it," he said to the girl. She brought him her father's old "slicker." Henry cut it into suitable shape and nailed and lashed it securely to the runners and to the table top. Now he had a flat-bottomed sled with a rising front to it that would serve. He smiled as he looked at the queer contrivance and saidaloud: "I wish Mr. Lesher could see that!"
"Who is Mr. Lesher?" asked George.
"Oh, he's my Scoutmaster back in Ohio. Now come on!"
He opened the door, drew the sled outside, pushed it up on the snow and stepped on it. It bore his weight perfectly.
"It's all right," he cried. "But it won't take all three of you at once."
"I'll wait," said Mary, "you take the two boys."
"Very well," said Henry.
"You'll surely come back for me?"
"Surely, and I think it's mighty brave of you to stay behind. Now come on, boys," he said. Leaving Mary filled with pleasure at such praise, he put the two boys carefully into the sled, stepped into his snow-shoes and dragged them rapidly across the prairie. It was quite dark now, but the sky was clear and the stars were bright. The storm had completely stopped. He remembered the bearings he had taken by the stars, and reached the high hill without difficulty. Below him lay the car. Presently he drew up before the platform. He put the boys in the car,
told them to go up to the fire and warm themselves and not to touchanything. Then he went back for the girl.
"Did you think I was not coming?" he asked as he re-entered the cabin.
"I knew you would come back," said the girl and it was Henry's turn to tingle with pride. He wrapped her up carefully, and fairly ran back to the car. They found the boys warm and comfortable and greatly excited.
"If we just had a Christmas tree and Santa Claus and something to eat and a drink of water and a place to sleep," said the youngest boy, "it would be great fun."
"I am afraid we can't manage the Christmas tree," said Henry, "but we can have everything else."
"Do you mean Santy?"
"Santy too," answered the boy. "First of all, we will get something to eat."
"We haven't had anything since morning," said the girl. Henry divided the sandwiches into three portions. As it happened, there were three hard-boiled eggs. He gave one portion to each of his guests.
"You haven't left any for yourself," said Mary.
"I ate before I looked for you," answered Henry, although the one sandwich had by no means satisfied his hunger.
"My, but this is good!" said George.
"Our mother is dead," said Mary Wright after a pause, "and our father is awful poor. He has taken out a homestead and we are trying to live on it until he gets it proved up. We have had a very hard time since mother died."
"Yes, I know," said Henry, gravely; "my mother died, too."
"I wonder what time it is?" asked the girl at last.
Henry pulled out his watch. "It is after six o'clock," he said.
"Say," broke in George, "that's a funny kind of a uniform you've got on."
"It is a Boy Scout uniform."
"Oh, is it?" exclaimed George. "I never saw one before. I wish I could be a Scout!"
"Maybe you can," answered Henry. "I am going to organize a troop when I get to Kiowa. But now I'm going to fix beds for you. Of course we are all sleepy after such a hard day."
He had seen the trainmen lift up the bottoms of the seats and lay them lengthwise of the car. He did this, and soon made four fairly comfortable beds. The two nearest the stove he gave to the boys. He indicated the next one was for Mary, and the one further down toward the
middle of the car was for himself.
"You can all go to bed right away," he said when he had made his preparations. The two boys decided to accept this advice. Mary said she would stay up a little longer and talk with Henry.
"You can't undress," she said to the two boys. "You'll have to sleep as you are." She sat down in one of the car seats; Philip knelt down at one knee and George at the other. The girl, who was barely fifteen had already taken her mother's place. She laid her hand on each bent head and listened while one after the other the boys said their prayers. She kissed them good-night, saw them comfortably laid out on the big cushions with their overcoats for pillows and turned away.
"Say," began Philip, "you forgot something, Mary."
"What have I forgotten, dear?"
"Why, it's Christmas Eve and we must hang up our stockings."
Mary threw up her hands. "I am afraid this is too far away for Santa Claus. He won't know that we are out here," she said.
"Oh, I don't know," said Henry, thinking rapidly, "let them hang them up."
Mary looked at him in surprise. "They haven't any to hang up," she said. "We can't take those they're wearing."
"You should have thought of that," wailed Philip, "before you brought us here."
"I have some extra ones in my bag," said Henry. "We will hang them up."