THE MOUNT AIRY TOXOPHILITES

MOUNT AIRY, the village in which Joe Wayring and Roy Sheldon lived, was
situated a few miles away from a large city which, for want of a better
name, we will call New London. It was so far distant from the city that
it could not properly be spoken of as one of its suburbs, and yet the
railroad brought the village so near to it that a good many men who did
business in New London, Joe’s father and Roy’s among the number, had
their homes there. It was a veritable “hide and seek town”. Sometimes,
as you were approaching it on the cars, you would see it very plainly,
and then again you wouldn’t. It was nestled in among high mountains, and
in the woods which covered them from base to summit could be found an
abundance of small game, such as hares, squirrels and grouse, that
afforded sport to the local Nimrods, and even received attention from
the New London gunners. It was surrounded by a perfect network of
babbling trout brooks, and there were several lakes and ponds in the
vicinity in which some of the finest fish in the world awaited the lure
of the skillful angler. And it required skill to take them, too. They
were shy of strangers, and it wasn’t every body who could go out in the
morning and come back at night with a full creel.

Nor was larger game wanting to tempt the hunter who plumed himself on
being a good shot with the rifle. Visitors standing upon the veranda of
the principal hotel in the village had often heard wolves howling in the
mountains, and on more than one occasion a deer had been seen standing
on the opposite shore of Mirror Lake (it was generally called Wayring’s
Lake, because Joe’s father owned the land on all sides of it), regarding
with much curiosity the evidences of civilization that had sprung up on
the other side. More than that, a bear was expected to make his
appearance at least once every season; and when word was passed that he
was in sight, what a hubbub it created among the visiting sportsmen! How
prompt they were to seize their guns and run out after him, and how sure
they were to come back empty-handed! Uncle Joe used to say that he
believed the managers of the hotels would close their doors against the
man who was lucky enough to shoot that bear, for unless Bruin had a
companion to take his place, his death would spoil their advertisements.
For years the proprietor of the Mount Airy House had been accustomed to
tell the public, through the New London papers, that bear could be seen
from the piazza of his hotel, and the announcement had brought him many
a dollar from sportsmen who came from all parts of the country to shoot
that bear. Why didn’t Uncle Joe shoot him? He owned the hotel.

We have said that Mount Airy was acquiring some fame as a
watering-place; but that must not lead you to infer that it was like
other places of resort—lively enough in summer, but very dull in winter,
for such was by no means the case. The village was lively at all seasons
of the year. Of course there were many more people there in summer than
there were in winter, for during warm weather the hotels and all the
boarding houses were crowded with visitors, and so were the cottages on
the other side of the lake; but when these visitors went away, the
citizens did not hibernate like so many woodchucks and wait for them to
come back, because they were not dependent upon tourists either for
their livelihood or for means of entertainment. Strangers were
astonished when they found what a driving, go-ahead sort of people they
were. They were proud of their village, of its churches, its hotels, its
fine private residences, and its high-school was so well and favorably
known that it attracted students from all parts of the country. It could
boast of an efficient fire department, composed of all the leading men
in town (the ministers and teachers, to a man, belonged to it), a
military company which formed a part of the National Guard of the State,
and a band of archers known as the Mount Airy Toxophilites. We ought,
rather, to say that there were _two_ bands of archers, one being
composed of boys and girls, and the other of their fathers, mothers and
older brothers and sisters. They were both uniformed, but the boy
members of the Toxophilites were the only ones who ever paraded.

It was worth a long journey to see these forty young archers turn out
and march through the streets to the music of the band. They looked as
neat in their green and white suits, with short top boots, and black
hats turned up at one side and fastened with a black feather, as the
military company did in their blue uniforms and white helmets: and as
for their marching, it was nearly perfect. They had a manual of arms
which originated with Uncle Joe, who, for more than a year, acted as
their instructor and drill-master. They were governed by a constitution
and by-laws, and fines were imposed upon those who did not turn out
regularly to the drills and parades. They had shooting matches at which
prizes were distributed, also a grand annual hunt, followed by a dinner
that was equally grand; and every year some of the boys spent a week or
two camping in the mountains, taking bows and arrows with them instead
of guns. A good many of the young archers were very fine shots with
these novel weapons, and there were about half a dozen of them, of whom
Joe and Roy made two, who stood ready at any time to meet an equal
number of riflemen at the trap, the archers shooting at twelve yards
rise and the riflemen at twenty.

On the morning of July 4, 18—, a large party of newly-arrived visitors
were seated on the wide veranda of the Mount Airy House, enjoying the
refreshing breeze that came to them from over the lake, and
congratulating themselves on having left the city, with all its dust,
heat and noise, behind them for one good long month at least. Some of
these visitors had never been there before, and consequently they knew
little or nothing about the village and its inhabitants. Among these
were Tom Bigden and his two cousins, Ralph and Loren Farnsworth, who
were leaning over the railing, fanning their flushed faces with their
hats, and wondering how in the world they were going to put in four
weeks’ time in that desolate town. They were city boys, any body could
see that, and they were disappointed, and angry as well, because their
parents had not decided to spend a portion of the summer at some place
convenient to salt water, so that they could enjoy a dip in the surf now
and then.

“I see a boat down there,” observed Loren. “I wonder if we could hire it
for an hour or two? I think I should like to take a sail on that lake,
it looks so cool and inviting.”

“Humph!” exclaimed Tom. “I’d much rather take a run up to Newport or
over to Greenbush in my father’s yacht.”

“I wouldn’t,” answered Loren. “I can go down to the Sound any day, but a
gem of a lake like this is something I haven’t feasted my eyes upon in a
long time. I am going to see if I can hire a boat; and after I get tired
of sailing around in her, I’m going to lie to under the shade of some
tree that hangs over the water, and be as lazy as I know how. That’s
what I came up here for.”

“Boom!” said a field-piece, from some distant part of the village.

“What was that?” exclaimed Ralph. “A cannon?”

“Naw,” replied Tom, in a tone which implied that he had no patience with
any one who could ask such a question. “What would a cannon be doing up
here in the woods? Do you think these greenhorns are going to try to get
up a celebration for our benefit?”

“No, I don’t; but they’ve got up one for their own. Do you hear that?”
answered Ralph, as the warning roll of a drum, followed by the music of
a band, rang out on the air. “The procession, or whatever it is, is
coming this way, too. Now I shall expect to see something that will
eclipse any thing New London ever thought of getting up.”

It wasn’t a celebration; it was only the annual review of the Mount Airy
fire department, which was always held on the Fourth of July. Ralph and
his cousins were fully prepared to make all sorts of fun of it, but when
the head of the procession came into view around the corner of the
street below, they were so surprised at the size of it that they had not
a word to say. It took up the whole width of the street, and that it was
determined to have all the room it wanted, was made plain by the actions
of a couple of mounted policemen who rode in front to clear the way.

“That’s good marching, boys,” said Loren, who had seen so much of it in
New London that he thought himself qualified to judge. “It is a very
creditable display for so small a place as this.”

“Every body seems to think it’s going to be something grand,” sneered
Tom, who was really amazed at the rapidity with which the spacious
veranda was filled by the guests, who came pouring out of the wide doors
in a steady stream.

“Why, there’s a military company in line with the firemen—two of them,”
exclaimed Ralph.

“Visiting companies, no doubt,” said Tom, “and that’s what makes every
one so anxious to see them.”

“There’s where you are wrong, Tom,” said Mr. Farnsworth, who,
approaching them unobserved, had heard every word of their conversation.
“You never saw a parade just like this, and I don’t believe you will
ever see another unless your father and I carry out some plans we have
been talking about, and come up here to live.”

“To live?” echoed Tom.

“Up here in the woods?” cried Ralph.

“Among all these country greenhorns!” chimed in Loren.

“You will find very few country greenhorns in Mount Airy,” said Mr.
Farnsworth, with a laugh. “Why, boys, those fire companies represent
millions of New London’s business capital.”

“Oh!” said Tom.

“Ah!” said Ralph.

“That makes the thing look different,” added Loren. “I supposed that
they were made up of the same material we used to find in the old
volunteer organizations.”

“By no means. They are all rich and intelligent men. They own valuable
property here, and by taking an interest in their fire department, they
get their insurance at much lower rates than we do in the city.”

The near approach of the column put a stop to the conversation. First
came the drum-major, a big six-footer, with a high bear-skin cap, which
made him look a great deal taller than he really was, and behind him the
band, which discoursed as fine music as any body wanted to hear. Then
came the hook and ladder company, two hundred strong, marching four
abreast and drawing their heavy truck after them without the least
apparent exertion. Next came a steam fire engine, drawn by men instead
of horses, after that a hose cart, followed by a small company of about
twenty young fellows in black dress-coats and white trowsers and caps,
who pulled along something that looked like a skeleton road wagon,
loaded with Babcock fire extinguishers.

“That’s a little the queerest looking turn-out I ever saw,” Tom
remarked. “_They_ couldn’t do any thing toward putting out a fire. I
suppose they are more for show than any thing else.”

“Wrong again,” said Mr. Farnsworth. “They have done good work, and the
citizens, in recognition of their services, presented them with money
enough to build an engine house for themselves, and furnish it in fine
style.”

Next came the soldiers, veterans, every one of them, and behind them a
company of oddly uniformed youngsters, whose movements were governed by
the blast of a bugle instead of the word of command. They must have been
the ones the guests were waiting for, for when they came in sight, and,
following the movements of the military company, executed the maneuver:
“Platoons right front into line,” which they did with as much
soldier-like precision as the veterans themselves, the gentlemen on the
veranda cheered them lustily, while the ladies waved their handkerchiefs
and bombarded the ranks with bouquets, which were deftly caught by the
boys, and impaled upon the ends of their long bows.

“Now, then, can any body tell me who and what those fellows are?”
exclaimed Ralph.

“They are the Mount Airy Toxophilites,” replied Mr. Farnsworth.

“Lovers of a bow or arrow,” said Ralph, who was well up in his Greek.
“What do they do?”

“Oh, they have regular shooting-matches, drills and parades, and now and
then a hunt and a camp in the woods.”

“They can’t hit any thing with those bows, of course.”

“Yes, I believe they can,” replied Mr. Farnsworth. “I am told that when
they go on a hunt, they are as sure of coming back full-handed as those
who use guns. After passing in review before the trustees, they are to
have a drill in the park. I see that a good many of the guests are
getting ready to go down, and if you would like to see it, we will go
also.”

Tom and his cousins had found reason to change some of their opinions
during the last few minutes, and that was just what Mr. Farnsworth
desired. He had talked with that very end in view—to make them see that
New London was not the only place in the world in which boys could enjoy
themselves, and to prepare them for the change which he and his
brother-in-law, Tom’s father, intended to make that very summer. They
were anxious to get their boys away from New London, for it was full of
temptations which Tom and his cousins found it hard to resist. They were
learning to think more of billiards than they did of their books, and
they had even been known to roll ten-pins for soda water. Soda water
wasn’t hurtful, and neither were ten-pins nor billiards; but the
conditions under which the one was imbibed and the others played
certainly were. In Mount Airy there was none of that sort of thing. Of
course there were billiard rooms and ten-pin alleys there, but they
belonged to the hotels, and were kept for the exclusive use of the
guests. The men who had just marched up the street owned all the land
for miles around, and they would not sell a foot of it. They were
willing to lease it for a term of years, but before they did so, they
wanted to know all about the man who applied for the lease, and the
business he intended to follow while he remained in town. In that way
they made the society of the village just what they wanted it to be. It
is true that some objectionable characters now and then secured a
temporary foothold there, but as soon as they were detected, they were
“bounced” without ceremony.

Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Bigden thought Mount Airy would be just the place
for their boys, but the latter would have raised the most decided
objections if the subject of a change of residence had been broached to
them before they witnessed that parade, and learned something about the
men and boys who composed it.

“I’ll tell you what’s a fact!” said Tom, as he and his cousins walked
with Mr. Farnsworth toward the park where the drill was to be held.
“Uncle Alfred was right when he said that we would not find many country
bumpkins here. Those bowmen must have lots of fun. Do you and father
really intend to come here to live?” he added, turning to Mr.
Farnsworth.

“We have been thinking and talking about it for a long time,” was the
answer.

“All right. I am in favor of it,” said Tom. “I wonder if we could get
into that company of archers!”

“Of course we could,” said Loren.

“There’s no ‘of course’ about it,” answered his father. “You would be
balloted for the same as the rest; and I have been told that one
black-ball would keep you out for a year.”

“Humph!” exclaimed Tom. “They wouldn’t black-ball _us_. I guess our
folks have just as much money as any body here.”

“No, they haven’t; and even if they had, it would make no sort of
difference. Money doesn’t rule the world up here as it does down in New
London. I am informed that some of the boys in that company are so poor
that the others had to help them buy their uniforms.”

“Humph!” said Tom. “Well, if that’s the sort of trash they take into
their company, I don’t know that I care to belong to it, do you, boys?
We don’t have any thing to do with such fellows in the city.”

“Couldn’t we gradually weed them out?” asked Loren. “That’s the way we
did with our ball club, you know.”

“Yes, and what was the consequence?” demanded his father. “You ‘weeded
out’ your very best players, and you have been beaten by every club you
have met since. Served you right, too.”

“Well, I would rather be beaten than be chums with fellows who were too
mean to chip in two or three dollars when we wanted to get up a dinner,”
observed Loren.

“They were not too mean; they couldn’t do it. The two or three dollars
that you speak of so lightly, were a large sum in the eyes of boys whose
fathers gain a livelihood by working by the day, and you ought to have
exercised a little common sense in your dealings with them. If it were
necessary that you should have the dinner or starve, why did you not pay
for it yourselves, and not ask those poor boys to ‘chip in’, as you term
it? There’s the high school,” said Mr. Farnsworth, pointing with his
cane to an imposing building, standing in the midst of extensive and
well-kept grounds which occupied one whole block of the village
property.

“That’s my great objection to Mount Airy,” said Ralph, shaking his fist
at the school house. “Our teacher told us one day last term that the
binomial theorem is just the same in China and Brazil that it is in New
London, so I suppose it must be the same up here. Fine scenery around a
school house doesn’t make the lessons inside any easier.”

“You’re right there,” growled Tom, who was thinking of those Orations of
Cicero to which he would have to devote his attention next term, “I’d
much rather go fishing.”

The boys reached the park long before the procession did, and took up a
position near the pagoda in which the president of the village and the
trustees were to stand while the line passed in review. When it arrived,
the band led the way around the park until it met the advancing column;
then it turned inside of it and went around again, and thus the whole
line, with the exception of the Toxophilites, was wound up like a coil.
The archers kept straight ahead, the boys in the ranks carrying arms,
and the captain saluting by bringing his bow to a position that somewhat
resembled the “secure arms” of the tactics, until they reached a clear
space at the other end of the park which had been reserved on purpose
for them. There they halted, and, when the firemen had broken ranks, and
the soldiers had been brought to parade rest, their commanding officer
put them through the manual of arms and some intricate evolutions in the
school of the company, giving his orders to the bugler who stood beside
him, and not to the company itself. Ralph and Loren were delighted with
every thing they saw, and had many words of praise to bestow upon the
young bowmen; but Tom was silent and sullen. He didn’t like to hear so
much cheering when none of it was intended for him. When he was engaged
in a game of ball he always flew into a passion if he made an error, or
if any of the other side made a play that called forth applause from the
spectators. He was angry now; but it would have puzzled a sensible boy
to tell what reason he had for it.

“That captain, or whatever you call him—” began Loren.

“Master bowman,” said his father.

“Well, he is a nobby fellow, and that bugler looks gorgeous in his green
uniform with its white facings,” continued Loren. “I wonder who they
are, any way?”

“Why don’t you go and inquire?” asked Mr. Farnsworth.

“They wouldn’t speak to you,” snarled Tom. “They’re little upstarts; I
can tell that from here by the frills they throw on.”

Loren and his brother didn’t care if they were. The signs seemed to
indicate that they were coming to Mount Airy to live, and if that was
the case, they wanted to know something about the boys they would have
for their associates. So as soon as the drill was brought to an end and
the ranks were broken, they set out to scrape an acquaintance with the
master bowman and bugler, Tom following them with rather a listless,
indifferent air. But in reality he was as eager as his cousins were.
Would he not be willing to give something handsome if he could make
himself the leader of a select band like that?

LOREN and Ralph Farnsworth, in spite of Tom’s predictions to the
contrary, had no trouble in scraping an acquaintance with the first
bowman they met. It was Arthur Hastings, the secretary of the company
and one of the best shots in it. They drew his attention by touching
their hats to him as he passed (that is, the brothers did, Tom being in
too bad humor to be civil), and Arthur seeing that they desired to speak
to him, stopped and opened the conversation himself.

“I know almost every stranger here this summer, but I don’t remember to
have seen you two before,” said he, pulling off his white gloves and
extending a hand to each of them.

“We came on the early morning train,” replied Ralph. “We were just in
time to witness your parade, which I assure you was something we did not
expect to see up here in the woods. You bowmen are bully soldiers.”

“Thank you,” said Arthur, raising his hand to his hat in response to
Tom’s very slight nod. “There must be something in what you say, for
every one who comes up here tells us the same. The truth is, we ought to
be proficient. We have been under the strictest kind of a drill-master,
and have done plenty of hard work since our organization two years ago.”

“What first put the idea into your heads?” inquired Loren. “You got it
out of your history, didn’t you?”

“And if you did, why don’t you dress up like Indians and adopt their
system of tactics?” chimed in Tom, who for the moment forgot that he had
resolved that he would not have a word to say to any of the bowmen. “I
have read that the Sioux have a drill of their own which is so very
bewildering that our best troops can’t stand against it. It seems to me
that you make hard work of something that might, under different
management, be made to yield you any amount of pleasure.”

“We are very well satisfied with the way our affairs are managed,”
answered Arthur, who did not quite like the tone in which Tom uttered
these words. “You must know that we are not copying the aborigines, but
the Merry Bowmen of Robin Hood’s time. Of course we have to work, for if
we didn’t we couldn’t give exhibition drills; but somehow we see plenty
of fun with it all. The idea was suggested to us, not by our histories,
but by an old man who lives up here in the woods,” added Arthur, turning
to Loren, at the same time jerking his thumb over his shoulder and
nodding his head toward an indefinite point of the compass. If he
intended by these motions to give his auditors an idea of the direction
in which the old man referred to lived, he failed completely. “He has
seen better days. He used to belong to an archery club in his own
country—that’s England, you know—and I tell you he is a boss shot. He
makes a very good living with his bow now; but he is so much ashamed of
the accomplishment—”

“Excuse me,” interrupted Loren. “I don’t see why he should be ashamed of
it.”

“Neither do I,” said Arthur. “But you see, there are very few people in
this country who take any interest in archery, and sportsmen, as a
general thing, look upon the long bow as a toy; but they always change
their minds when they see what it can be made to do in the hands of an
expert. Now take those two boys, for example,” added Arthur, directing
Loren’s attention to the master bowman and his bugler. “It isn’t every
rifle shot who can break as many glass balls in the air as they can.”

“Who are they?” inquired Tom. “We noticed them particularly during the
drill.”

“They are Wayring and Sheldon. Would you like to know them? They’re good
fellows.”

Arthur looked at Tom as he said this, but Tom didn’t act as though he
heard him. He wasn’t anxious to make the acquaintance of boys who could
beat him at any thing, but his cousins were not so mean spirited.

“Certainly we would,” replied Ralph. “It looks now as though we were
coming here to live; and if we do, we should like to know something
about the boys into whose company we shall be thrown.”

It would seem from this that Ralph took it for granted that he and his
brother and cousin would get into the company without the least trouble,
and he was somewhat surprised because Arthur did not offer to take in
their names at the very next meeting; but he did not even ask them what
their names were. He led them to the place where the master bowman and
his bugler were standing in the midst of a party of their friends, and,
as soon as the opportunity was presented, introduced them as visitors
who thought it possible that they might one day become permanent
residents of the village. Then he excused himself and went off to hunt
up one of the girls with green and white badges, who were carrying
little buckets of lemonade around among the thirsty firemen and
soldiers.

Tom and his cousins found the young archers to be very pleasant and
agreeable fellows, but a trifle too independent to suit them. They did
not seem to think that Tom was better than any other boy because his
father was a banker, and owned a yacht in which he talked of going to
Florida during the coming winter, and neither did they ask him and his
cousins to step up to the armory when they fell into ranks and marched
up to put away their bows and quivers. They left them standing in the
park, as they did scores of others who had been talking to them, and
that was a slight that Tom said he would not soon forget.

“You are altogether too touchy,” said Loren, with some impatience in his
tones. “You appear to think that every boy who lives outside the city
limits must, of necessity, be a greenhorn. These fellows know as much
about New London as we do.”

“When I become a member of that company, I shall use my best endeavors
to bring about a different state of affairs,” said Tom, decidedly. “If
they are taking pattern after Robin Hood, why don’t they pass their time
as he and his men did, lounging about in the greenwood under the shade
of the trees, instead of parading through the streets on a hot day like
this? I don’t see any fun in that.”

Nevertheless, before he had passed a week in Mount Airy, Tom Bigden
decided that it was just such a place as he had always thought he should
like to live in, and his cousins came to the same conclusion. So did
their fathers and mothers; and so it came about that a couple of Mr.
Wayring’s handsome cottages, on the other side of the lake, were rented
until such time as Mr. Farnsworth and his brother-in-law could erect
houses on the grounds they had leased in the village.

Tom and his cousins lost no time in getting ready to enjoy themselves.
Before another week had passed away, they had the finest sail and row
boats, and the most expensive canoes on the lake; and in anticipation of
their immediate admittance to the ranks of the Toxophilites, they sent
for a supply of bows and arrows and ordered uniforms of their tailor.
But the old saying, that there’s many a slip, held good in their case;
and this was the way they found it out:

One afternoon they and their parents were invited to a lawn party, at
which the Toxophilites, girls as well as boys, appeared in force and in
uniform, the girls wearing white dresses, green sashes and badges, and
light straw hats, turned up at the side and fastened by a tiny silver
arrow, which, at the same time, held in place the long black plume of
the company. Tom declared that they looked stunning; and when he saw how
they sent their arrows into the target, hitting the gold almost as often
as they missed it, and played croquet and skipped about the lawn tennis
ground, he added that he had never been to such a party before, nor seen
handsomer girls. He was going to apply for admission to the club, and he
wasn’t going to waste any time in doing it, either. With this object in
view, he hurried off to find Arthur Hastings.

“I don’t wonder that you fellows are happy here,” was the way in which
he began the conversation.

“Yes, I suppose we see as much pleasure as falls to the lot of most
people,” answered Arthur, “but we have any amount of hard work as well.”

“I never see you do any,” said Tom.

“That’s because you are not acquainted with us or our ways. I drilled
until after ten o’clock last night, and spent this forenoon in working
in the garden and wrestling with my geometry; getting ready for next
term you know.”

“Do you study and work during vacation?” exclaimed Tom, who had never
heard of such a piece of foolishness before.

“Of course I do; we all do.”

“I’m glad that I haven’t such parents as you seem to have,” said Tom,
rudely.

“Our parents have nothing whatever to do with it. It’s the rule of the
company.”

“That you shall work during vacation?” cried Tom.

“That we shall keep busy at something—yes. We are told that an idle
brain is the workshop of a certain old chap who shall be nameless, but
we go further, and hold that there is no such thing as an idle brain. It
is at work all the time during our waking hours, and sometimes when we
are asleep—dreams, you know—and if it is not busy with good things, it
is ready to take in bad ones. Have you seen any boys loafing around the
corners since you have been here? Then you can bet your bottom dollar
that they didn’t belong to us.”

“Well, when I get to be a member of the company, I shall vote down all
such rules as that,” said Tom to himself. “A fellow needs a little time
to be lazy, and I shall take it, too, without asking any body’s
consent.” Then aloud he asked, as if the thought had just occurred to
him: “By the way, when do you hold your next meeting?”

“Thursday night.”

“Well, take in our names, will you? Mine and my cousins’.”

“I should be glad to oblige you, but I can’t do it.”

“You can’t do it?” said Tom, who was angry in an instant. “Why not, I’d
like to know?”

“There are two reasons. In the first place, you have not been here long
enough—we don’t know any thing about you.”

“If that isn’t a little ahead of any thing I ever heard of I wouldn’t
say so!” exclaimed Tom, as soon as his rage would permit him to speak.
“My father is—”

“We don’t care who or what your father is; we must know what _you_ are.
In the second place, our membership is limited, and the boys’ roster is
full.”

“Couldn’t you suspend the rules for once?”

“That’s no rule. It is a part of the constitution.”

“Well, couldn’t you amend it?”

“No, we couldn’t. It has been tried in the case of one of the best
fellows in town—or, rather, he was one of the best until he found that
he couldn’t wind eighty boys and girls around his finger, and then he
turned against us and stands ready to-day to do us all the harm he can.”

“And you will find, to your cost, that my cousins and I will do the same
thing,” thought Tom, and it was all he could do to keep from uttering
the words aloud. “Things have come to a pretty pass when a lot of Yahoos
can make gentlemen knuckle to them. Who is this boy?”

“His name is Prime; but I tell you, as a friend, that you must not have
any thing to do with him if you want to get into the company. There are
half a dozen of our fellows going away this fall, and then, if you feel
like it, you can make a try for membership. Perhaps I shall be able to
help you to the extent of one vote, though I can’t promise to do so.”

“How about the yacht and canoe clubs?” said Tom, with something like a
sneer in his tones. “No doubt they are full, too.”

“Oh, no, they’re not. Any good fellow who owns a boat or who intends to
get one, can come in there. Are you and your cousins good swimmers? Then
why don’t you join us and enter for the up-set race that will come off
next month.”

“I don’t know what kind of a race that is.”

“It’ll not take long to tell you. You see the contestants come out clad
in some light stuff that won’t hold much water, and when they are well
started in the race, a signal is given, generally the blast of a bugle,
whereupon each fellow must overturn his boat, climb into her again and
go ahead as if nothing had happened. The one who crosses the line first,
is of course the winner.”

“Who among you is the best at that kind of a race?”

“Well,” replied Arthur, with some hesitation, “it is nip and tuck
between Wayring, Sheldon and me.”

“I expected as much,” said Tom, to himself. “Wayring, Sheldon and
Hastings are better than the rest at every thing. I shall enter for that
or some other race, and if I don’t take the conceit out of all of you, I
shall never forgive myself. Then it would not be of any use for me to
try to get into the Toxophilites?” he said, aloud.

“Not the slightest. I’ll tip you the wink when there is an opening, and
you can apply or not, just as you think best. We never ask any body to
join us.”

“But you asked me to join the canoe and yacht clubs.”

“I know it, and I had a right to. The three organizations are governed
by entirely different rules. There’s the bugle,” said Arthur, catching
up his bow which lay on the rustic bench on which he and Tom had been
sitting during this conversation. “I must go and shoot as soon as I can
find my girl. Come on, and see us punch the gold three times out of
five.”

“I can’t,” replied Tom. “I must hunt up the hostess, tell her I have had
a very pleasant time and all that, and bid her good-by. I have another
engagement.”

This was not quite in accordance with the facts of the case. Tom had no
other engagement, but he wanted to go off by himself, or in company with
Loren and Ralph, and give full vent to his feelings of disappointment
and rage. He shook his fist at Arthur when the latter turned his back
and hurried away, and it would have afforded him infinite satisfaction
if he could have followed him up and knocked him down. He found his
cousins after a while, and although they stood in the midst of a jolly
group and were laughing gaily, and appeared to be enjoying themselves,
Tom was well enough acquainted with them to tell at a glance that they
were as angry as he was.

“Sorry to break in upon so pleasant a gathering as this one seems to
be,” said Tom, approaching the group, one of whom was the young lady in
whose honor the party was given, “but our time is up.”

“Why, Mr. Bigden, you don’t mean to say that you are going away so soon,
and before supper, too?” exclaimed the young lady, who looked so
charming in her neat uniform that Tom had half a mind to go back and
pound Arthur Hastings for telling him that he couldn’t become a
Toxophilite at once.

“Must—can’t be helped,” answered Tom, giving his cousins a look which
they understood. “We are indebted to you for a very pleasant afternoon,
Miss Arden.”

“I don’t believe you have enjoyed yourselves one bit,” exclaimed the
fair archer. “If you have, why do you go away so early? The next time
you attend one of our lawn parties, be sure and arrange your business so
that your other engagements can wait.”

After a little more badinage of this sort, Tom and his cousins lifted
their hats and walked off. As soon as the front gate had closed behind
them, the expression on their faces changed as if by magic, and the
three boys turned toward one another with clenched fists and flashing
eyes. After each one had glared savagely at his neighbor as if he were
going to strike him, they all put their hands in their pockets and moved
away. Tom was the first to speak.

“Now that I look back at it, I don’t see how I kept my hands off that
Hastings boy while he was talking so insolently to me,” said Tom. “He
told me that he didn’t care who or what my father was, but I couldn’t
get into the archery club, and that was all there was about it. They
must stick to their constitution, no matter if the world goes to pieces
on account of their obstinacy. He asked me to join the canoe and yacht
clubs, but said they never asked any body to apply for admission to the
Toxophilites.”

“I guess Ralph and I know just what he said to you first and last,”
remarked Loren, “for Sheldon talked to us in about the same way. We are
going to enter for the upset race.”

“I thought you would,” answered Tom, “and so I made up my mind to go in
too. We’ll make it our business to see that neither Sheldon nor Wayring
wins that or any other race. If we find that we can’t beat them by fair
means, and I have an idea that I can paddle a boat about as fast as the
next boy, although I never got into one until last week, we’ll foul
them, and sink their boats so deep that they will never come up again.”

“Loren and I talked that matter over, and resolved upon the same thing,”
said Ralph. “Did Hastings tell you any thing about a George Prime who is
down on them because they would not take his name before the
Toxophilites? Sheldon told us to give him a wide berth, but Loren and I
thought we would do as we pleased about that.”

“That’s just what I thought,” answered Tom. “I think it would be a good
plan to hunt him up the very first thing we do. If he has reason to
dislike Wayring and his friends, we might induce him to strike hands
with us.”

“That was our idea,” said Ralph. “It can’t be possible that Prime is the
only boy in this village who does not like Wayring and the rest, and if
we find them to be the right sort, and can raise enough of them, what’s
the reason we can’t get up a club of our own?”

“That’s another idea,” said Tom, who was delighted with it. “I wish I
had thought to ask Hastings where Prime lives.”

“I know where his father’s drug-store is, for I saw the sign over the
door,” said Loren. “Let’s go down there and get a cigar, and trust to
our wits to learn something about him.”

The others agreeing to this proposition, Loren led the way to the
drug-store, and the three stopped in front of the show-case near the
door in which the cigars were kept.

“That’s Prime, and I know it,” whispered Tom, as a dashing young fellow,
who was seated at the further end of the store reading a paper, came up
to attend to their wants. “He looks to me like a chap who isn’t in the
habit of allowing himself to be imposed upon, and that’s the sort we
want to run with.”

“See-gahs? Yes, sir,” said the clerk. “Being from the city, you want the
best, of course. There you are, sir. Genuine imported.”

“How do you know that we are from the city?” inquired Loren, as he made
a selection from the box that was placed on the show-case.

“Because I was a city boy myself, until father took it into his head
that he wanted to spend a summer at Mount Airy,” replied the clerk.
“That was a bad move for me, for we have been here ever since. Besides,
in a little place like this, every body knows more about your business
than you do yourself. I know who you are, and where you came from, and
all about it.”

“Then it was a bad change for you, was it?” said Ralph. “You don’t like
to live here? Neither do we.”

“I don’t blame you,” said the clerk. “Wait until you get acquainted with
some of these old-timers and find out what an exclusive lot they are,
and you will dislike it worse than you do now. There are a few of them,
especially the Toxophilites, as they call themselves, who try to
monopolize all the fun there is going.”

“Why don’t you join them?” asked Tom.

“Because they won’t let me—that’s why.”

“Then you must be George Prime.”

“That’s my name, and you are Tom Bigden, and you two are Loren and Ralph
Farnsworth.”

“You’ve hit it,” answered Tom. “They wouldn’t take us in either. They
told us so not more than an hour ago. Why didn’t you go to the party?”

“Because they didn’t invite me,” said Prime, angrily. “I don’t get
invitations to any thing any more. I showed rather too much spirit to
suit them, and so they dropped me.”

“Probably they will do the same by us,” said Loren. “We have always been
in the habit of doing as we pleased, and we don’t intend to change our
mode of life for the sake of getting into an archery club that makes its
members drill until ten o’clock when they might see more fun in playing
billiards. There will be some vacancies this fall, and then we shall
make another attempt to get in.”

“Is that what you have made up your minds to? Well, now, look here.” As
Prime said this, he came out from behind the counter and stood in the
open door, looking up and down the street. “You must begin by doing your
smoking in secret,” he continued, as he came back and motioned to the
boys to follow him toward the rear of the store.

“Do you mean to say that the Toxophilites look with disfavor upon a good
cigar?” demanded Tom.

“I do, indeed. You mustn’t use tobacco in any form, and you must be
temperate in all things—in eating, drinking and talking. They’ll fine
you if you use any language while you are out with your companions, that
you wouldn’t use if your mother or sister was present. Now sit down
here, and if you see any body coming, you can put your cigars out of
sight.”

“But we don’t know all the members of the club,” said Loren.

“No difference. Don’t let any one see you with a weed in your mouth. If
you do, good-by to all your chances of being a Toxophilite.”

“Why, it’s the meanest little town I ever heard of!” exclaimed Ralph,
who was greatly surprised as well as disgusted. “I didn’t suppose that
there were any such boys in this wicked world. I thought they all lived
in Utopia.”

“So did I, until I found some of them right here in Mount Airy,”
answered Prime. “The girls are at the bottom of it—you know that they
are never easy unless they are kicking up a row of some kind—and if I
had been a member of the club when it was organized, wouldn’t I have
worked hard to keep them out? I was very anxious to get into it once,
but I don’t believe I care to be one of them now.”

Tom and his cousins began to feel the same way.