He opened the bag and brought out three stockings, one for each of his guests. He fastened them to the baggage racks above the seats and watched the two boys contentedly close their eyes and go to sleep.
"They will be awfully disappointed when they wake up in the morning and do not find anything in them," said Mary.
"They're going to find something in them," said Henry confidently. He went to the end of the car, opened his trunk and lifted out various packages which had been designed for him. Of course he was going on sixteen, but there were some things that would do for Philip and plenty of things for George and some good books that he had selected himself that would do for Mary. Then there were candy and nuts and cakes and oranges galore. Mary was even more excited than he was as they filled the boys' stockings and arranged things that were too big to go in them.
"These are your own Christmas gifts, I know," said the girl, "and you haven't hung up your stocking."
"I don't need to. I have had my Christmas present."
"And what is that?"
"A chance to make a merry Christmas for you and your little brothers," answered Henry, and his heart was light.
"How long do you suppose we will have to stay here?" asked the girl.
"I don't know. I suppose they will try to dig us out to-morrow. Meanwhile we have nuts, oranges, crackers, and little cakes, to say nothing of the candy, to live on. Now you go to bed and have a good sleep."
"And what will you do?"
"I'll stay up for a while and read one of these books and keep the fire going."
"You are awfully good to us," said Mary, turning away. "You are just like a real Santa Claus."
"We have to help other people--especially people in trouble," answered the boy. "It is one of the first Scout rules. I am really glad I got left behind and found you. Good-night." The girl, whose experience that day had been hard, soon fell asleep with her brothers. Henry did not feel sleepy at all; he was bright and happy and rejoiced. This certainly was an adventure. He wondered what Dick and Joe and Spike and the other fellows of his troop would think when he wrote them about it. He did not realize that he had saved the lives of the children, who would assuredly have frozen to death in the cabin. When he was satisfied that Mary was sound asleep, he put some things in her stocking and then piled in the rack over her head two books he thought the girl would like. It was late when he went to sleep himself, happier than he had dreamed he could be. He awoke once in the night to replenish the fire, but he was sleeping soundly at seven o'clock in the morning when the door of the car opened and half a dozen men filed in. They had not made any noise. Even the big snow-plough tearing open the way from Kiowa had not disturbed the four sleepers. The first man in was the conductor. After the trainmen had discovered that the coach had been left behind they had managed to get into Kiowa and had started back at once with the rotary plough to open the road and to rescue the boy. Henry's uncle had been in town to meet Henry, and of course the trainmen let him go back with them on the plough. The third
man was Mr. Wright. He had been caught by the storm and, as he said, the abandoned coach must be near his claim, he asked to be taken along because he was afraid his children would be freezing to death. The men stopped and surveyed the sleeping boys and girl. Their glances ranged from the children to the bulging stockings and the pile of Christmas presents in the racks.
"Well, can you beat that?" said the conductor.
"By George!" exclaimed Rancher Ives, "a regular Christmas layout!"
"These are my children safe and well, thank God!" cried Mr. Wright.
"Boy," said the conductor, laying his hand on Henry's shoulder, "we came to wish you a Merry Christmas."
"Father!" cried Mary Wright, awakened by the voice, and the next minute she was in his arms, while she told him rapidly what Henry had done for them all.
The boys were awake, too, but humanity had no attraction for them.
"Santa has come!" shouted Philip making a dive for his stocking.
"This is your uncle, Jim Ives," said the conductor to Henry.
"And this is my father," said Mary in turn.
"I am awfully sorry," said Henry to the conductor, "but we had to eat your dinner. And I had to chop up your kitchen table," he added, turning to Mr. Wright.
"I am glad there was something to eat in the pail," said one.
"You could have chopped the cabin down," said the other.
"By George!" said the ranchman proudly. "I wrote to your father to send you out here and we'd make a man of you, but it seems to me you are a man already," he continued as Mary Wright poured forth the story of their rescue.
"No, I am not a man," said Henry to his uncle, as he flushed with pride at the hearty praise of these men. "I am just a--"
"Just a what?" asked the conductor as the boy hesitated.
"Why, just a Boy Scout," answered Henry.