Scout: The Secret of the Swamp

by Piet Prins

Copyright 1997, 2000 by Inheritance Publications

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Last modified: June 26, 2016




Chapter 1

The Stranger


The pet shop was alive with noise and movement. Songbirds fluted, parakeets squawked, and a brightly coloured parrot fluttered his eyelids and screeched. In one large cage a spider monkey was swinging on the branch of a dead tree.

There were also dogs: big ones and little ones, each in his own pen. There were yappy little whelps and calm, noble beasts; expensive, pedigreed dogs and cheap, friendly mongrels.

In one cage, staring through the wire mesh, sat a German Shepherd puppy with a beautifully marked head. His intelligent eyes stared sadly out into the world. He was lonesome. The puppy had been born two months earlier on a big farm and was used to open fields. For the last three days he had been locked up in the strange surroundings of the crowded pet store.

The sudden change was very hard on the puppy. He was well-cared for, but no one ever petted him or took him outside for a run.

On the street in front of the pet shop a small station wagon pulled up. Out of it stepped a man and a boy about ten years old.

"I want a puppy for my son," said the man.

The storekeeper opened several cages and showed the boy a number of puppies. But each time the boy shook his head, and so did the father.

Then the storekeeper lifted the German Shepherd puppy from his cage and set him on the floor. Happy to regain his freedom, the puppy wagged his tail joyfully and began sniffing about in the store.

"Oh, Father, isn't he beautiful! Can I have that one? I've already thought of a name for him. See the way he's sniffing around? He must be a good tracker. So I'll call him Scout!"

"Well, all right, Tom," said the boy's father. "If you're sure you want him. He's going to grow up into a big dog, you know. And you'll have to take care of him."

A few minutes later, when the car pulled away from the pet store, Scout was sitting in the front seat between Tom and his father.

Soon they were leaving the city. They drove through country that Scout had never seen before, but Scout felt the hand of his new master stroking his head and he was happy.

After about an hour's drive, the car turned up a long driveway to a large remodeled farmhouse. On the fence hung a sign: Heathview. The station wagon stopped by the side door. Scout was led into the house. First he came into a large porch where his nails clicked on the linoleum. Then he was coaxed down a carpeted hallway to the living room. A tall, handsome woman jumped to her feet and opened her mouth in happy surprise.

"Look, Mom! Isn't he beautiful!"

"Oh, he is! And he'll make a fine watchdog too!" exclaimed Mother.

Everyone admired Scout, including the housekeeper and the gardener; they all petted him and spoke to him in friendly voices. Then Tom took the puppy into another room C a light, airy bedroom where a young girl lay in bed. She was Tom's sister, Ina. She had been ill for a long time and was slowly starting to recover, but she would have to remain in bed for some time yet.

Ina, too, thought Tom had made a good choice. "When you're in school, he can come into my room and play with me," she said.

That was all right with Tom. And with Scout too. He barked and wagged his tail happily.

The days that followed were very happy ones for Scout. Every day he played and romped with Tom, and chased around the large yard with him. Sometimes he spent hours in Ina's bedroom learning funny little tricks and listening to her friendly voice.

At night he slept in his own basket in the kitchen.

At mealtimes he was spoiled by everyone, and he quickly grew into a strong, young dog.

One day as Scout was wandering about in the back yard enjoying the sun and exploring, he put his head through the hedge. Suddenly he started. Right beside him were the legs and tattered boots of an evil-smelling man who was standing on the other side of the hedge studying the house.

The man was startled too when the German Shepherd's head came poking through the hedge. He aimed a hard kick at the dog's nose, but Scout was too quick for him.

Scout wasn't afraid of the man: he bared his teeth and growled.

Then the man suddenly changed his behaviour. He bent forward toward Scout, clucking his tongue and patting his leg. "Here, boy! Come here. Good boy! Look what I've got for you." From his pocket he pulled a chunk of meat and held it out to Scout.

The meat smelled delicious, but Scout sensed that the man was not a friend. The man's evil smell mingled with that of the meat. The dog ignored the outstretched hand and fixed his eyes on the man's face, growling deeply.

The gardener came walking into the back yard, whistling. The man mumbled a few curses and, dropping the meat back into his pocket, he hurried off, still crouching behind the hedge.

Several days later in the middle of the night, as he lay sleeping in his box in the kitchen, Scout was suddenly awakened. Had he heard a strange noise in his sleep? He pricked up his ears and listened. But he heard nothing. Nevertheless, something was amiss. He sniffed. There was a strange smell in the house. A stranger? The fur on his neck bristled. He remembered that evil smell. Growling softly, he rose to his feet. Now he also heard noises.

The door to the study was partly open. When Scout peered into the room, he saw a man with a bright torch burning a hole in a large black cabinet. A second man was bending over him. But Scout paid no attention to him, for he recognized the man with the torch. It was the man at the hedge who had tried to kick him.

Scout shot through the doorway like an arrow and was on the man in an instant. With a smothered cry, the safecracker dropped the torch. But at the same time the other man brought a steel pipe down on Scout's head, and the dog sank to the floor without uttering a sound.

"There! He's dead," whispered the man. "He won't bother us again."

But he was wrong.

Several hours later, Scout regained consciousness. Daylight was streaming in through the windows. The safe stood wide open and empty. The burglars had escaped with everything.

Coby, the young housekeeper, bent over him, crying. She was usually the first one to be up and around in the morning, and she had discovered the robbery.

"Oh! Oh, how awful!" she wailed. "And just when Mr. and Mrs. Sanders are away! Those burglars must have known. Oh, oh! They've stolen everything and nearly killed poor Scout."

Scout wagged his tail a little to show that, in spite of the roaring in his ears, he was far from dead. But when he tried to get up, he toppled over again and lapsed back into unconsciousness.

When he came to for the second time, a veterinarian was bandaging the gaping wound in his head. Tom hovered over him with tears in his eyes. Also in the room were two policemen, one of whom was busily writing in a small notebook.

"Poor Scout," said Tom. "If only you could talk, then you could tell the police what happened."

But it was too late anyway; the robbers were long gone.






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Last modified: June 26, 2016