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Title: Captain Chub
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             Captain Chub



[Illustration: The boys entertain Mr. Ewing]



                             Captain Chub

                                  By
                          Ralph Henry Barbour

      Author of “The Crimson Sweater,” “Tom, Dick, and Harriet,”
                        “Harry’s Island,” etc.


                          With Illustrations
                            By C. M. Relyea


                            [Illustration]


                               New York
                            The Century Co.
                                 1909



                       Copyright, 1908, 1909, by
                            THE CENTURY CO.


                      _Published September, 1909_


                           J. F. TAPLEY CO.



                              TO J. P. M.

                       WITH THE AUTHOR’S REGARDS
                            AND BEST WISHES



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                 PAGE
      I. THE STOLEN RUN                     3
     II. LETTERS AND PLANS                 19
    III. AN INVITATION TO MISS EMERY       30
     IV. LEASING A HOUSE-BOAT              47
      V. A TRIP OF INSPECTION              61
     VI. THE JOLLY ROGER                   74
    VII. THE CRUISE BEGINS                 96
   VIII. DRIVEN TO COVER                  114
     IX. PRISONERS                        125
      X. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE               139
     XI. MR. EWING IS OUTWITTED           163
    XII. THE TABLES TURNED                167
   XIII. CHUB TRIES A NEW BAIT            180
    XIV. THE CREW ENTERS SOCIETY          198
     XV. HARRY GOES TO SEA                217
    XVI. UNDER THE AWNING                 234
   XVII. MRS. URIAH PEEL                  249
  XVIII. KEEPING STORE                    263
    XIX. A MIDNIGHT ALARM                 282
     XX. “GASOLINE AND SUPPLIES”          306
    XXI. THE BURGLARY                     323
   XXII. CLUES                            336
  XXIII. IN THE GIPSY CAMP                349
   XXIV. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE APPEARS      362
    XXV. MR. EWING IS SUSPICIOUS          373
   XXVI. CHUB’S ADVENTURE                 382
  XXVII. GIFTS AND FAREWELLS              397



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                    PAGE
  The boys entertain Mr. Ewing                             _Frontispiece_
  Chub Eaton was lying in a cloud of dust                             15
  Writing the invitation to Harry                                     37
  In a great studio                                                   49
  Roy                                                                 59
  Chub descended at the Porter’s bag and baggage                      71
  The boys arrive at the wharf                                        83
  The “Jolly Roger” begins her cruise up the Hudson River             99
  Roy stared silently, with open mouth                               123
  Dick and Roy slumbering                                            153
  But Mister Trout didn’t want to come                               193
  They had dressed in their best clothes                             207
  The next moment they were all shaking hands                        223
  Before noon camp was made at the edge of the grove                 245
  She tied together the strings of a quaint little black bonnet      251
  The figure disappeared noiselessly into the night                  291
  “A little more of the hegg, ma’am?”                                299
  “I want the key of the store”                                      309
  The till was empty                                                 333
  Two men entered the tent                                           359
  “You stay where you are”                                           369
  They waved back to her and went on                                 405
  The doctor was called on for a speech                              409



CAPTAIN CHUB



CHAPTER I

THE STOLEN RUN


“That settles that,” groaned the captain of the Crimson nine as the
long fly settled gracefully into the hands of the Blue’s left-fielder.
The runner who, at the sound of bat meeting ball, had shot away from
second base, slowed his pace and dropped his head disconsolately as he
left the path to the plate and turned toward the bench.

“Come on, fellows,” said the captain cheerfully. “We’ve got to hold ’em
tight. Not a man sees first, Tom; don’t lose ’em.”

Pritchett, the Crimson pitcher, nodded silently as he drew on his glove
and walked across to the box. He didn’t mean to lose them. So far, at
the beginning of the ninth inning, it was anybody’s game. The score was
3 to 3. Pritchett had pitched a grand game: had eight strike-outs to
his credit, had given but one base on balls, and had been hit but three
times for a total of four bases. For five innings, for the scoring on
both sides had been done in the first part of the game, he had held the
Blue well in hand, and he didn’t mean to lose control of the situation
now. The cheering from the stands occupied by the supporters of the
Crimson team, which had died away as the unlucky hit to left-fielder
had retired the side, began again, and continued until the first of the
blue-stockinged batsmen stepped to the plate.

It was the end of the year, the final game and the deciding one.
The stands, which started far beyond third base and continued around
behind first, were filled with a gaily-hued throng, every member of
which claimed allegiance to Crimson or Blue. Fully eight thousand
persons were awaiting with fast-beating hearts the outcome of this
last inning. The June sun shone hotly down, and the little breeze
which came across the green field from the direction of the glinting
river did little to mitigate the intolerable heat. Score-cards waved
in front of red, perspiring faces, straw hats did like duty, and
pocket-handkerchiefs were tucked inside wilting collars.

Half-way up the cheering section sat a little group of freshmen,
hot and excited, hoarse and heroic. At every fresh demand from the
cheerleader they strained their tired lungs to new excesses of sound.
Now, panting and laughing, they fell against each other in simulated
exhaustion.

“I wish a thunder-storm would come along,” said one of the group,
weakly.

“Why?” asked another.

“So they’d call the game and I wouldn’t have to cheer any more,” he
sighed.

“Why don’t you do the way Chick does?” asked a third. “Chick just opens
his mouth and goes through the motions and doesn’t let out a single
yip.”

“I like that!” exclaimed the maligned one. “I’ve been making more
noise than all the rest of you put together. The leader’s been casting
grateful looks at me for an hour.”

There was a howl of derision from the others.

“Well,” said a tall, broad-shouldered fellow, “I don’t intend to yell
any more until something happens, and--”

“Yell now, then, Porter,” said Chick gloomily as the first of the
opponents’ batsmen beat the ball to first by a bare inch. But instead
of yelling Roy Porter merely looked bored, and for a while there was
silence in that particular part of the stand.

The next Blue batsman bunted toward third, and although he went out
himself, he had placed the first man on second. The Blue’s best batters
were coming up, and the outlook wasn’t encouraging. The sharp, short
cheer of the Blue’s adherents rattled forth triumphantly. But Pritchett
wasn’t dismayed. Instead, he settled down and struck out the next man
ignominiously. Then, with two strikes and two balls called by the
umpire, the succeeding batsman rolled a slow one toward short-stop and
that player, pausing to hold the runner on second, threw wide of first.
The batsman streaked for second and the man ahead darted to third and
made the turn toward home. But right-fielder had been prompt in backing
up and the foremost runner was satisfied to scuttle back to third.
The Blue’s first-baseman came to bat. He was the best hitter on the
team, and, with men on second and third, it seemed that the Blue was
destined to wave triumphantly that day.

“Two down!” called the Crimson captain encouragingly. “Now for the next
one, fellows! Don’t lose him, Tom!”

“Two out!” bawled the coachers back of first and third. “Run on
anything! Well, I guess we’ve got them going now! I guess we’ve got
them going! He’s sort of worried, Bill! He’s sort of worried! _Look
out!_” For the “sort of worried” one had turned quickly and sped the
ball to third.

“That’s all right!” cried the irrepressible coacher. “He won’t do that
again. Take a lead; take a lead! Steady!”

Pritchett glanced grimly at the two on bases and turned to the batsman.
He was in a bad place, and he realized it. A hit would bring in two
runs. The man who faced him was a veteran player, and couldn’t be
fooled easily. He considered the advisability of giving him his base,
knowing that the next man up would be easier to dispose of. It was
risky, but he decided to do it. He shook his head at the catcher’s
signal and sent a wide one.

“Ball!” droned the umpire, and the blue flags waved gleefully.

The next was also a ball, and the next, and the next, and--

“Take your base,” said the umpire.

“Thunder!” muttered Chick nervously as the man trotted leisurely down
the line and the sharp cheers rattled forth like musketry. “Bases full!”

“He did it on purpose,” said Roy Porter. “Burton’s a hard-hitter and a
clever one, and Pritchett didn’t want to risk it.”

“Well, a hit now won’t mean a thing!” grieved Chick.

“It’ll mean two runs; just what it meant before,” answered Roy. “Who’s
this at bat?”

“Kneeland,” answered his neighbor on the other side, referring to his
score-card.

“What’s he done?”

“Nothing. Got his base twice, once on fielder’s choice and once on
balls.”

“That’s good. Watch Pritchett fool him.”

They watched, breathlessly, in an agony of suspense. One ball; one
strike; two strikes; two balls; a foul; another foul.

“He’s spoiling ’em,” muttered Chick uneasily. But the next moment he
was on his feet with every one else on that side of the field, yelling
wildly, frantically. Pritchett had one more strike-out to his credit,
and three blue-stockinged players turned ruefully from their captured
bases and sought their places in the field.

The Crimson players came flocking back to the bench, panting and
smiling, and threw themselves under the grateful shade of the little
strip of awning.

“Easy with the water,” cautioned the trainer as the tin cup clattered
against the mouth of the big water-bottle.

“Who’s up?” asked some one. The coach was studying the score-book
silently. Pritchett was up, but Pritchett, like most pitchers, was a
poor batsman. The coach’s glance turned and wandered down the farther
bench where the substitutes sat.

“Eaton up!” he called, and turning to the scorer: “Eaton in place of
Pritchett,” he said.

The youngster who stood before him awaiting instructions was a rather
stockily-built chap, with brown hair and eyes and a merry, good-natured
face. But there was something besides good nature on his face at this
moment; something besides freckles, too; it was an expression that
mingled gratification, anxiety, and determination. Tom Eaton had been
a substitute on the varsity nine only since the disbanding of the
freshman team, of which he had been captain, and during that scant
fortnight he had not succeeded in getting into a game.

“You’ve got to get to first, Eaton,” said the coach softly. “Try and
get your base on balls; make him think you’re anxious to hit, see? But
keep your wits about you and see if you can’t walk. If he gets two
strikes on you, why, do the best you can; hit it down toward third.
Understand? Once on first I expect you to get around. Take all the risk
you want; we’ve got to score.”

“Batter up!” called the umpire, impatiently.

Eaton selected a bat carefully from the rack and walked out to the
plate. The head cheerleader, looking over his shoulder, ready to summon
a “short cheer” for the batsman, hesitated and ran across to the bench.

“Who’s batting?” he asked.

“Eaton,” he was told. “Batting for Pritchett.”

“A short cheer for Eaton, fellows, and make it good!”

It was good, and as the freshman captain faced the Blue’s pitcher the
cheer swept across to him and sent a thrill along his spine. Perhaps he
needed it, for there is no denying that he was feeling pretty nervous,
although he succeeded in disguising that fact from either catcher or
pitcher.

Up in the cheering section there was joy among the group of freshmen.

“Look who’s here!” shrieked Chick. “It’s Chub!”

“Chub Eaton!” cried another. “What do you think of that?”

“Batting for Pritchett! Say, can he bat much, Roy?”

“Yes; but I don’t know what he can do against this fellow. He hasn’t
been in a game since they took him on. But I guess the coach knows he
can run the bases. If he gets to first I’ll bet he’ll steal the rest!”

And then the cheer came, and the way those classmates of Chub’s worked
their lungs was a caution.

In the last inning of a game it is customary to replace the weak
batsman with players who can hit the ball, and when Chub Eaton stepped
to the plate the Blue’s catcher and pitcher assumed that they had a
difficult person to contend with. The catcher signaled for a drop, for
from the way Chub handled his bat it seemed that he would, in baseball
slang, “bite at it,” and Chub seemed to want to badly. He almost
swung at it, but he didn’t quite, and the umpire called “Ball!” Well,
reflected the catcher, it was easy to see that he was anxious to hit,
and so he signaled for a nice slow ball that looked for all the world
like an easy one until it almost reached the plate; then it “broke” in
a surprising way and went off to the left. Chub almost reached for it,
but, again, not quite. And “Two balls!” said the umpire. Chub swung his
bat back and forth impatiently, just begging the Blue pitcher to give
him a fair chance. The pitcher did. He sent a nice drop that cleared
the plate knee-high. “Strike!” announced the umpire. Chub turned on him
in surprise and shook his head. Then he settled back and worked his bat
in a way that said: “Just try that again! I dare you to!”

The pitcher did try it again; at least, he seemed to, but the ball
dropped so low this time that it failed of being a strike by several
inches. Chub looked pained. On the bench the coach was smiling dryly.
The Blue pitcher awoke to the fact that he had been fooled. He sent a
high ball straight over the plate and Chub let it go by. “Strike two!”
called the umpire. The Blue stands cheered mightily. Two strikes and
three balls! Chub gripped his bat hard. Again the pitcher shot the ball
forward. It came straight and true for the plate, broke when a few feet
away and came down at a weird tangent. Chub swung desperately and the
ball glanced off the bat and went arching back into the stand. “Foul!”
growled the umpire. Chub drew a deep breath of relief. Once more the
pitcher poised himself and threw. The ball whirled by him and Chub
dropped his bat and started across the plate, his heart in his mouth.

“Four balls! Take your base!”

The umpire’s voice was drowned by the sudden burst of wild acclaim from
the Crimson stands, and Chub trotted to first, to be enthusiastically
patted and thumped on the back by the coacher stationed there. Up
in the cheering section five freshmen were hugging each other
ecstatically. The head of the Crimson’s batting list was coming up, and
things looked bright. The cheering became incessant. The coach shouted
and bawled. But the Blue’s pitcher refused to be rattled. He settled
down, held Chub close on first and, before any one quite realized what
was happening, had struck out the next man.

But Chub had made up his mind to go on, and he went. He made his steal
on the first ball thrown to the new batter and, although catcher threw
straight and fast to second-baseman, Chub slid around the latter and
reached the bag. Then, while the cheers broke forth again, he got
up, patted the dust out of his clothes, and took a fresh lead. The
pitcher eyed him darkly for a moment and then gave his attention to the
batsman. _Crack!_ Ball and bat met and the short-stop ran in to field
a fast grounder, and as he ran Chub flashed behind him. Gathering up
the ball, short-stop turned toward third, saw that he was too late, and
threw to first, putting the batsman out by the narrowest of margins.
“Two out!”

[Illustration: Chub Eaton was lying in a cloud of dust]

The Crimson captain stepped to the plate, looking determined, and
hit the first delivery safely. But it was a bunt near the plate and,
although Chub was ready to run in, he had no chance. The captain stole
second and Chub looked for a chance to get home; but they were watching
him. The Crimson supporters were on their feet, their shouts imploring
victory. The next man up was an erratic batsman, one who had made home
runs before this in time of stress and who had, quite as often, failed
to “make good.” Amid the wildest excitement, the Blue pitcher pulled
down his cap, calmly studied the signal, and sped the ball toward the
plate.

“Strike!” Again, and the batsman swung and the ball glanced back
against the netting.

“Foul! Strike two!”

Then came a ball. The batsman was plainly discouraged, plainly nervous.
Chub, dancing around at third, worrying the pitcher to the best of his
ability, decided that it was now or never for him. Taking a long lead,
he waited poised on his toes. As the ball left the pitcher’s hand he
raced for home.

“Hit it! Hit it!” shrieked the men on the bench. The batsman, awakening
suddenly to the demands, struck wildly as the ball came to him, struck
without hitting. But the catcher, with that red-stockinged figure
racing toward him, made his one error of the game. The ball glanced
from his mitt and rolled back of the plate, and although he had thrown
off his mask and was after it like a cat after a mouse, he was too
late. Chub Eaton was lying in a cloud of dust with one hand on the
plate, and the crowd was streaming, shouting and dancing, onto the
field.



CHAPTER II

LETTERS AND PLANS


That 4 to 3 victory took place on a Thursday, in the third week of June.

Some two hours later the hero of the conflict lay stretched at full
length on a window-seat in the front room of a house within sound of
the college bell. His hands were under his head, one foot nestled
inelegantly amidst the cushions at the far end of the seat and the
other was sprawled upon the floor. The window beside him was wide open
and through it came the soft, warm air, redolent of things growing,
of moist pavements, of freshly-sprinkled lawns. The sounds of passing
footsteps and voices entered, too; and from across the shaded street
came the tinkle of a banjo. The voices were joyous and care-free.
To-morrow was Class-Day; the year’s work was over; books had been
tossed aside, and already the exodus from college had begun. The
twilight deepened and the long June day came unwillingly to its end.
The shadows darkened under the elms and here and there a light glared
out from an open window. But in the room the twilight held undisputed
sway, hiding the half-packed trunks and the untidy disorder of the
study.

Chub lay on the window-seat and a few feet away, where he could look
through the wide open casement, Roy Porter was stretched out in a
morris chair. We have already caught a brief glimpse of Roy in the
cheering section during the game, but in the excitement we did not, I
fancy, observe him very closely. He is a good-looking, even handsome,
boy, with light, curly hair and very blue eyes. He is tall and well
developed, with broad shoulders and wide hips. Roy and Chub have been
firm friends for three years: for two years at Ferry Hill School and
for one at college. In age there is but a month or two of difference
between them. Both are freshmen, having come up together from Ferry
Hill last September, since which time they have led a very interesting
and, withal, happy existence in the quarters, in which we now find
them. And they have each had their successes. Chub has made the
captaincy of the freshman Nine, they have both played on the freshman
foot-ball team, and each has been recently taken into one of the
societies. In studies Roy has accomplished rather more than his friend,
having finished the year well up in his class. But Chub has kept his
end up and has passed the finals, if not in triumph, at least without
disgrace.

“Another big day for you, Chub,” said Roy. Chub stretched himself
luxuriously and yawned.

“Yes. There have been quite a few ‘big days,’ Roy, since we met at
school, haven’t there? There was the day when you lammed out that home
run and won us the game from Hammond, two years ago. That was one of
your ‘big days,’ old chap, but it was mine, too. Then, last year, when
we won on the track. That was Dick’s ‘big day,’ but we all shared in
it, especially since it brought that check from Kearney and brought
the affairs of the Ferry Hill School Improvement Society to a glorious
close. And then there was the baseball game last year--”

“That was your day, Chub, and none other’s.”

“Well, if I recollect rightly, there was a little old two-bagger by
one Roy Porter which had something to do with the result,” returned
Chub, dryly.

“Oh, we’d have won without that. Say, do you remember Harry after the
game?”

“Do I! Shall I ever forget her? She was just about half crazy, wasn’t
she? And wouldn’t she have loved to have been here to-day?”

They both chuckled at the idea.

“By the way,” said Chub presently, “did we get any mail this evening?”

“I don’t think so,” said Roy; “but I didn’t look. Expecting a check?”

“Go to thunder! We ought to hear from Dick to-day or to-morrow. And Mr.
Cole, too, about the boat.”

“That’s so. Maybe we’ll hear in the morning.”

“Light the gas and have a look around,” begged Chub. “Sometimes Mrs.
Moore picks the letters up and puts them on the table, and we don’t
find them for weeks and weeks.”

“If you’d keep the table picked up,” said Roy, severely, as he arose
with a grunt and fumbled for matches, “such things wouldn’t occur.”

“Listen to him!” murmured Chub, apparently addressing the ceiling. “I’d
like to know which of us is the neat little housekeeper! I’d like to
know--”

The study was suddenly illuminated with a ghastly glow as Roy applied
the match to the drop-light. Chub groaned and turned his face away.

“I give you notice, Roy, that next year we’re going to have a different
shade on that thing. Green may be all very nice for the optic nerves,
but it’s extremely offensive to my--my sensibilities. Besides, it
doesn’t suit my complexion. I’ve mentioned that before. Now a red
shade--”

“Here’s a whole bunch of mail,” exclaimed Roy, mildly indignant. “I
wish she’d let it alone. Here’s two for you and one for me. This looks
like--yes, it’s from Dick. And I guess this one--” he studied it under
the light--“I guess this is from the artist man. Anyway, the postmark’s
New York, and--”

“Well, hand ’em over, you idiot,” said Chub.

“Come and get them. You can’t see to read over there,” replied
Roy tranquilly. Chub hesitated, groaned, and finally followed the
suggestion.

“Yes, this is from Dickums,” he muttered as he tore off the end of the
envelop. “I hope he can come. Who’s yours from?”

“Dad,” answered Roy, settling into his chair and beginning to read. But
he wasn’t destined to finish his letter just then, for in a moment Chub
had rudely disturbed him.

“It’s all right!” he cried. “Listen, Roy; let me read this to you.”

“He’s coming?” asked Roy eagerly, abandoning his own letter.

“Yes. Listen.” Chub pulled up a chair, sat down, and began to read:
“‘Dear Chub: Yours of no date--’”

“Stung!” murmured Roy. Chub grinned and went on.

--“‘received the day before yesterday. I’d have answered before, but
things have been pretty busy here. If we can get the house-boat,
I’ll go along in a minute. It will be a fine lark. I’m leaving here
to-morrow for New York. My dad’s there now, and we’re going to stay
somewhere around there for the summer, he says. You let me know just
as soon as you can. Send your letter to the Waldorf. I can start any
time. I haven’t written to Dad about it, but I know he will let me go.
I hope we can get the boat. I told Harry about it yesterday, and read
your letter to her, and she’s wild to go along. Says we might wait
until she gets back from her Aunt Harriet’s. I told her there wouldn’t
be room but she says she’d sleep up on top! So I had to tell her I’d
see what you fellows thought about it. Maybe we might have her along
for a little while. What do you think? I suppose her father or mother
could come, too, as--’”

“Chaperon,” said Roy. “Harry’s getting ‘growed up,’ you know.”

“Well, we’ll see. Here, where’s that other letter? Let’s find out what
Mr. Cole says.” He opened the second epistle and glanced through it
quickly, his face lighting as he read. “It’s all right!” he cried. “We
can have her! Only--” he looked through the brief note again--“only he
doesn’t say anything about the price. ‘When you get here we’ll talk
over the matter of terms.’ That doesn’t sound encouraging, does it?”
Chub looked across at Roy dubiously, and Roy shook his head.

“Not very,” he answered; “but you can’t tell. I guess he will let us
down easy. He’s a good sort, is the Floating Artist.”

“Well--” Chub tossed the note aside and went back to Dick Somes’s
letter. “‘I suppose her father or mother or some one would have to go
along, but that needn’t make much difference. She’s wild to know, so
you’d better drop her a line pretty soon and tell her what you think
about it. If you don’t she’s likely to explode!’”

“And that’s so, too, I guess!” chuckled Roy. “Say, it would be awfully
jolly if we four could get together again this summer, wouldn’t it?”

“Dandy!” answered Chub. “And we’ll do it, too,” he added stoutly.

“I don’t believe so. Something will happen at the last moment,” said
Roy dejectedly. “You’ll see.”

“My gentle croaker, let me finish this.... ‘I got through exams O. K.
and got my diploma to-day. So I’ll see you fellows in the fall if we
don’t make it before. That is, if I can pass at college. I wish you’d
speak a good word for me to the president. I suppose you know we won
the boat-race by almost three lengths. That makes up for losing the
ball-game. We missed you on the team this year. They’ve elected Sid
Welch captain for next year. Sid’s so pleased he can’t see straight.
To-day was Class-Day and we had a fine time. You ought to have heard
me orate. How’s old Roy? He owes me a letter, the scoundrel. Write as
soon as you can to the Waldorf. I’ll be there to-morrow evening. Tell
Roy to come and see me as soon as he gets home. You, too, if you stop
over there. I’ve got lots of news for you that I can tell better than
I can write. Hope you fellows win your game to-morrow. They’d ought to
have taken you on, Chub. But next year, when I get there, I’ll fix that
for you. So long. Don’t forget to let me know whether we can have the
house-boat. Yours, Dick.’”

“Good old Dickums,” murmured Chub as he folded the letter. “Well, it’s
all settled,” he went on animatedly. “We’ll take the midnight train
to-morrow, Roy; see Mr. Cole; look up Dick, and get ready for the
cruise! Won’t we have fun, though?”

“Did Mr. Cole say whether he’d let the boat to us furnished?”

“Yes.” Chub referred to the note. “‘The _Jolly Roger_ is quite at your
disposal as soon as you want her. I’m going abroad in August, and won’t
want her at all this summer. She needs paint, but you’ll have to attend
to that if you’re fussy. You’ll find her all ready for you. I won’t say
anything about the engine, for you know that engine yourself. Treat it
kindly and perhaps it will stand by you. When you get here we’ll talk
over the matter of terms. Regards to your friend and to you. Very truly
yours, Forbes Cole.’ That’s all he says. I don’t believe he will want
us to pay him much if he’s going abroad and can’t use the boat himself
anyway, do you?”

“I hope not,” answered Roy, “for it’s going to be rather an expensive
trip, Chub.”

“Nonsense! We can run her on ten dollars a week, I’ll bet.”

“You forget that we have to eat. You forget your appetite, Chub.”

“Well, if we have Harry along she can make doughnuts for us!”

“Well, if she does,” laughed Roy, “I’ll see that there’s no almond
flavoring aboard. Do you remember last summer when she put almond into
the doughnuts and--”

“Do I remember! I thought I’d never get that taste out of my mouth!”
Chub grinned reminiscently. Roy arose determinedly and threw back the
lid of his steamer trunk.

“What are you going to do?” asked Chub.

“Finish my packing. There won’t be any time to-morrow, and--”

But alas for good resolutions! There was a charge of feet outside
on the brick walk, a hammering at the door, and a covey of happy,
irresponsible freshmen burst into the room. There was no packing that
night. But what did it matter? There was to-morrow and many, many
other to-morrows stretching away in a seemingly limitless vista of
happy holidays, and the fact that when the visitors finally took their
departure the few things that the roommates had already packed had been
seized upon by rude hands and strewn about the study worried no one.
Nothing matters when “finals” are over and summer beckons.



CHAPTER III

AN INVITATION TO MISS EMERY


Two days later three boys were seated about an up-stairs room in a
house in West 57th Street, New York City. The room was large and square
and tastefully furnished, but you would have guessed at once that it
was a boy’s room; and the guess would have been correct. Roy Porter
was the host, and his guests were Mr. Thomas H. Eaton, otherwise known
as Chub, and Mr. Richard Somes, better known as Dick. Dick, as we have
learned through his letter, has just graduated from Ferry Hill School,
and for the present is staying with his father at a New York hotel.
While Roy lives in New York, and Chub hails from Pittsburg, Dick claims
the distinction of living nowhere in particular. If you ask him he
will tell you that he lives “out West.” As a matter of fact, however,
he is a nomad. Born in Ohio, he has successively resided in Nebraska,
Montana, Colorado, Nevada, London, and one or two other places. His
father is a mining man whose business of buying, selling, and operating
mines takes him to many places. Dick’s mother has been dead for three
years.

Dick himself is big, blond, and seventeen. He isn’t exactly handsome,
judged by accepted standards of masculine beauty, but he has nice gray
eyes, a smile that wins you at once, and a pleasant voice. Somehow,
in spite of the fact that nature has endowed him with a miscellaneous
lot of features he is rather attractive; as Chub has once remarked:
“He’s just about as homely as a mud fence, only somehow you forget all
about it.” It is the crowning sorrow of Dick’s young life that, owing
to his nomadic existence, his schooling has been somewhat neglected,
with the result that he is a year behind his two friends and that when
he reaches college in the fall--if he’s lucky enough to get in--he
will be only a freshman, while Roy and Chub are dignified and superior
sophomores. Chub, however, tries to console him by telling him not to
worry, that like as not he won’t pass the exams!

Chub is staying with Roy, as his guest, and Dick has taken dinner with
them this evening. And now, having left Mr. Porter to his paper in the
library and Mrs. Porter to her book, they have scurried up to Roy’s
room for a good long talk; for there is much to be said. At the present
moment Roy, sprawled on his bed, is doing the talking.

“It was Chub’s scheme in the first place, Dick. He thought of it two
months ago when we were down by the river one day. There’s an old
boat-house on a raft down there, and Chub said it reminded him of the
_Jolly Roger_. I said I didn’t see the resemblance, and he said all you
had to do was to turn it around and it would be just like the _Jolly
Roger_.”

“Turn it around?” asked Dick, mystified.

“Sure,” said Chub. “Turn a boat-house around and you have a house-boat.
See?”

“College hasn’t taught you much sense, Chub, has it?” laughed Dick.
“Then what, Roy?”

“Oh, then Chub got to talking about what fun Mr. Cole must have in his
house-boat and how he’d like to go knocking around in one. And then we
remembered that Mr. Cole had told us last summer that the _Jolly Roger_
was for sale. Of course, we knew we couldn’t buy it, but we thought
maybe he’d be willing to rent it for the summer. And, finally a week or
so ago, we wrote him--”

“_We?_” queried Chub.

“Well, then, _you_ wrote him, Chubbie my boy; but I supplied the stamp.
And yesterday--no, the day before yesterday--we got his note; and
to-morrow we’re all going to call at his studio and find out how much
he wants for it for the summer.”

“Bully!” cried Dick enthusiastically. “And where are we going in it?”

“I thought it would be fun to go down Long Island Sound, but Chub wants
to go up the river.”

“Up the Hudson? That would be great! We could go away up to--to
Buffalo--”

“Yes, we’d get there about November,” laughed Chub. “The _Jolly Roger_
goes about as fast as--as a mule walks!”

“Bet you Dick really thinks Buffalo is on the Hudson,” said Roy.

“Isn’t it?” asked Dick in surprise. “I did think it was; honest. Where
is it, then?”

“It--it’s on--you tell him, Roy.”

“It’s on a lake.”

“It’s on Niagara Falls,” added Chub knowingly. “Bounded on the north
by Canada, on the east by the St. Lawrence River, on the south by the
United States of America and on the west by--by water. Its principal
exports are buffaloes and--and--”

“Oh, dry up!” said Roy. “Anyhow, we could go up as far as Troy--”

“And get our laundry done,” suggested Chub.

“And we could stop for a while at Ferry Hill and see the school and the
Doctor and Mrs. Em and Harry--”

“What I want to know--” began Dick.

“And we could stay at Fox Island a day or two. It would be like old
times.”

“You mean Harry’s Island,” corrected Dick. “What I want to know,
though, is whether we can take Harry along.”

“Chub thinks we can,” answered Roy; “but I don’t see how we could
manage it.”

“Easy enough,” said Chub. “There’s three rooms we can use for sleeping.
Harry and her mother, or whoever came along with her, could have the
big room up front or the little room at the rear, the one Mr. Cole used
as a studio.”

“It’s only as big as a piece of cheese,” said Dick.

“Well, they’d only want to sleep in it. They could have that, and the
rest of us could have the bedroom and living-room. We’d need some
cot-beds--there’s a bully bed in the bedroom now, you know--and some
sheets and blankets and things. Pshaw, we could fix it up easy!”

“Well, she’s crazy to go,” said Dick; “and she made me promise to ask
you chaps.”

“When does she go away to her aunt’s?” asked Roy.

“The day after to-morrow; and she’s going to stay two weeks. That is,
if she can come with us. If not she’ll stay three, I believe. Did you
write to her, Roy?”

“Not yet,” Roy answered. “I thought we’d get together and talk it over.
If you fellows think we can arrange it I’d be mighty glad to have her.
She’s a whole lot of fun, Harry is.”

“Then let’s take her along,” said Dick eagerly.

“Sure,” said Chub. “Let’s write to her now. Where’s your paper and
things, Roy?”

They all had a hand in the composition of that letter, and when
finished and signed it ran as follows;

    _Miss Harriet Emery_,
        Ferry Hill School,
            Ferry Hill, N. Y.

    MY DEAR MISS EMERY: You are cordially invited to join us in
    a cruise up the Hudson River in the good ship _Jolly Roger_,
    which will call for you at Ferry Hill in about three weeks, the
    exact date to be decided on later. Please bring your doughnut
    recipe, and any one else you want to. Come prepared for a good
    time. All principal foreign ports will be visited, including
    Troy, Athens, Cairo, and Schenectady. The catering will be
    in the hands of that world-renowned chef, Mr. Dickums Somes,
    formerly of Camp Torohadik, Harry’s Island. Kindly reply as
    soon as possible to address above. Trusting that you will
    consent to grace the house-boat with your charming presence, we
    subscribe ourselves your devoted servants,

                                                     CHUB, Master,
                                                     ROY, A. B.,
                                                     DICK, Steward.

“What’s A.B. mean?” asked Roy, suspiciously.

“It means Able Seaman,” replied Chub. “I put it that way because it’s
probably the only chance you’ll ever have of getting your A.B.”

[Illustration: Writing the invitation to Harry]

“You don’t suppose, do you,” asked Dick anxiously, “that she’ll take
that literally: about bringing any one else she wants to? She might
think we meant her to bring a crowd, a bunch of girls from that school
of hers.”

“Maybe we’d better change that a little,” agreed Roy.

“Well, we’ll say ‘Bring your doughnut recipe and any other one person
you want to.’ How’s that?”

“All right; although, of course, a doughnut recipe isn’t a person.”

“Oh, that’s just a joke,” laughed Chub.

“Hadn’t you better label it?” asked Dick innocently. “How is she going
to know it’s a joke?”

“She has more discernment than some others I wot of,” replied Chub
loftily.

“Well, if she wots that that’s a joke,” muttered Dick, “she’s certainly
a pretty good wotter.”

“Who’s got a stamp?” asked Chub as he finished scrawling the address
on the envelop. “Thanks. What a very nasty tasting one! I wonder why
the government doesn’t flavor its stamps better. It might turn them
out in different flavors, you know; peppermint, vanilla, wintergreen,
chocolate--”

“Almond,” suggested Roy.

“And then when you went to the post-office you could say: ‘I’d like ten
twos, please; peppermint, if you have it.’”

“You’re an awful idiot,” laughed Dick. “Give me the letter and I’ll
post it on the way to the hotel. Now, let’s talk about what we’ll have
to buy. Let’s figure up and see what it’ll cost us.”

“Go ahead,” said Chub readily. “I’ve got a pencil.”

“First of all, then, we’ll need a lot of provisions.”

“Unless we can persuade Chub to stay behind,” suggested Roy.

“Who thought of this scheme?” asked Chub indignantly. “I guess if any
one stays behind it won’t be Chub. And likewise and moreover if Chub
doesn’t have enough to eat he will mutiny.”

“Then you’ll have to put yourself in irons,” said Dick, “if you’re in
command.”

“I never thought of that!” Chub bit the end of the pencil and
frowned. “Maybe I’d rather be the crew than the captain. If you’re
captain you can’t mutiny, and I’ve always wanted to mutiny. Say,
wouldn’t it be great if we could be pirates? We could put up that
skull-and-cross-bones flag and board one of the Day Line steamboats.
Think of the sport we could have! We’d swipe all the grub on board of
her and make the officers walk the plank! Then--then we’d scuttle her!”

“How do you scuttle a boat?” asked Dick curiously.

Chub for a moment was at a loss, and glanced doubtfully at Roy. But
finding no assistance there he plunged bravely.

“Well, you first get a scuttle, just an ordinary scuttle, you know; and
I think you have to have a coal-shovel, too, but I’m not quite certain
about that. Armed with the scuttle you descend to the--the cellar of
the ship--”

“You bore holes in it,” said Roy contemptuously. “Thunder! I’m not
going to ship under a captain who doesn’t know the rudiments of
navigation.”

“I’m not talking navigation,” said Chub with dignity. “I’m talking
piracy. Piracy is a much more advanced study. Anybody can navigate,
but good pirates are few and far between, these days.”

“Oh, come on and talk sense,” begged Dick. “How much will it cost us
for grub?”

“Well, let me see,” responded Chub, turning to his paper. “I suppose
about two cases of eggs--But, look here, we haven’t decided how long
we’re going to cruise.”

“A month,” said Roy.

“Two months,” said Dick. “Anyway, we can’t buy enough eggs at the start
to last us all the time. Eggs should be fresh.”

“We’ll get eggs and vegetables as we go along,” said Roy. “What we have
to have to start with are staples.”

“Mighty hard eating,” murmured Chub. “Why not use plain nails?”

This was treated by the others with contemptuous silence.

“We’ll need flour, coffee, tea, salt, rice, cheese--”

“Pepper,” interpolated Dick.

“Baking-powder, sugar, flavoring extracts--”

“Mustard,” proposed Chub, “for mustard plasters, you know.”

“And lots of things like that,” ended Roy triumphantly.

“What we need is a grocery,” sighed Chub. “Aren’t we going to have any
meat at all? I have a very delicate stomach, fellows, and the doctor
insists on meat three times a day. Personally, I don’t care for it
much; I’m a vegetarian by conviction and early training; but one can’t
go against the doctor’s orders, you know. Now, for breakfast a small
rasher of bacon--”

“What’s a rasher?” Roy demanded.

“For luncheon a--er--two or three simple little chops, and for dinner
a small roast of beef or lamb or a friendly steak. Those, with a few
vegetables and an occasional egg, suffice my simple needs. I might
mention, however, that a suggestion of sweet, such as a plum-pudding,
a mince-pie or a dab of ice-cream, has always seemed to me a proper
topping off to a meal, if I may use the expression.”

“You may use any expression you like,” answered Roy cruelly, “but if
you think we’re going to have roasts you’ve got another guess coming to
you. Why, that kitchen--”

“Galley,” corrected Chub helpfully.

--“is too small for anything bigger than a French chop!”

“When Chub gets awfully hungry,” observed Dick, “we might tie up to the
shore and cook him something over the fire; have a barbecue, you know.”

“Cook a whole ox for him,” laughed Roy. “I guess that’s the only way
Chub will ever get enough to eat.”

“You quit bothering about me,” said Chub scornfully, “and study
seamanship. Remember you’re to be an able seaman and if you don’t
come up to the standard for able seaman I’ll do things to you with a
belaying-pin.”

“Isn’t he the cruel-hearted captain?” asked Dick. “I don’t believe I
want to ship with him, Roy.”

“Oh, you’ll be all right. Chub won’t dare to touch you for fear he
won’t get his dinner.”

“There you go again!” Chub groaned. “You fellows simply talk a subject
to death. Your conversation lacks--lacks variety, diversity. If you are
quite through vilifying me--”

“Doesn’t he use lovely language?” murmured Roy in an aside to Dick.

“We will now proceed with our estimate,” concluded Chub. “As I was
saying, eggs--”

“I tell you what we might use,” interrupted Dick. “Have you ever seen
any of this powdered egg?”

“Is this a joke?” asked Chub darkly.

“No, really! You buy it in cans. It’s eggs, just the yolks, you know,
with all the moisture taken out of them. It’s a yellow powder. And when
you want an omelet you just mix some milk with it and stir it up and
there you are!”

But Chub was suspicious.

“And how do you make a fried egg out of it?” he asked.

“You can’t, of course, because the whites aren’t there; but--”

“Then we want none of it! An egg that you can’t fry isn’t a respectable
egg. If I can’t have real eggs I’ll starve like a gentleman.”

“Well, let’s leave the eggs out of it for the present,” suggested Roy.
“Let’s figure on the other things.”

“Let’s not,” said Dick, rising. “I’m going home. We’ve got lots of time
to figure. Besides, the best way to do is to buy the things and let
the groceryman do the figuring. We’ve got to have them, no matter what
they cost. What time are we going around to see the Floating Artist?”

“Right after breakfast,” answered Chub. “You come up at about ten
o’clock--”

“What’s the matter with you fellows coming to the hotel and having
breakfast with me?” asked Dick.

“All right, then, luncheon. I’ll be around at ten in the morning. See
if you can at least get him up by that time, Roy.”

“With a glance of scathing contempt,” murmured Chub, “our hero turned
upon his heel and strode rapidly away into the fast-gathering darkness.”

But where he really strode was down the stairs, with one arm over
Dick’s shoulder, while Roy brought up the rear and gently prodded them
with the toe of his shoe.



CHAPTER IV

LEASING A HOUSE-BOAT


The preceding summer, while camping out on Fox Island--or Harry’s
Island, as they called it now--the boys had made the acquaintance of
the Floating Artist. He had appeared one day in his house-boat, the
_Jolly Roger_, in which he was cruising down the Hudson, sketching
as he went. His real name was Forbes Cole, a name of much importance
in the art world, as the boys discovered later on. He had proved an
agreeable acquaintance, and when camp had been broken the three boys,
together with Harry Emery, the daughter of the school principal, had
voyaged with him as far as New York.

Mr. Cole lived in a rather imposing white stone house within sight of
the Park. The entrance was on the level with the sidewalk. Bay-trees
in green tubs flanked the door which was guarded by a bronze grilling.
The three boys were admitted by a uniformed butler and conducted into
a tiny white-and-gold reception-room. As the heavy curtain fell again
at the doorway after the retreating servant the visitors gazed at each
other with awed surprise. Chub pretended to be fearful of trusting
his weight to the slender chairs, and all three were grinning and
giggling when the man appeared again, suddenly and noiselessly. Down
a marble-tiled hall carpeted with narrow Oriental rugs in dull colors
they were led to an elevator. When they were inside, the butler touched
a button and the tiny car, white-and-gold like the reception-room, shot
up past two floors and stopped, apparently of its own volition, at the
third, and the boys emerged to find themselves in a great studio that
evidently occupied the whole fourth floor of the house.

“Talk about your Arabian Nights!” murmured Chub in Roy’s ear.

The grating closed quietly behind them, the car disappeared and they
stood looking about them in bewilderment and pleasure. So far as they
could see the big apartment was empty of any persons save themselves,
but they couldn’t be certain of that for there were shadowy recesses
where the white light from the big skylights didn’t penetrate, and a
balcony of dark, richly carved oak, screened and curtained, stretched
across the front end of the studio.

[Illustration: In a great studio]

At the other end a broad fireplace was flanked by a tall screen of
Spanish leather which glowed warmly where the light found it. A white
bearskin was laid in front of it. Other rugs were scattered here and
there, queer, low-toned prayer rugs many of them, with tattered borders
and silky sheen. The walls were hung with tapestries against which was
the dull glitter of armor. Strange vessels of pottery and copper and
brass stood about, and two big, black oak chests, elaborately carved,
half hidden by silken cushions and embroideries, guarded the fireplace.
There was a dais under the skylight, and on it was a chair. At a little
distance was a big easel holding a canvas, and beside it a cabinet for
paints and brushes. There were few pictures in sight, but over the room
hung a faint and not unpleasant odor of paint and oil and turpentine.

At one of the broad, low windows--there were only two and both were
wide open--was a great jar of yellow roses. Under the window was a wide
seat upholstered in green leather and piled with cushions. And amidst
the cushions, a fact only now discerned by the visitors, lay a red
setter viewing them calmly with big brown eyes.

“It’s Jack,” Chub whispered. “I’ve met him before. He’s sure to chew
holes in us if we stir. Little Chub stays right here until help comes.”

But evidently Jack had become interested, for he slowly descended from
the window-seat and came across the room, his tail wagging slowly.

“We’d better run,” counseled Chub in pretended terror.

But the red setter’s intentions were apparently friendly. He sniffed
at Roy and allowed himself to be patted. Then he walked around to Dick
and Chub and completed his investigations, finally becoming quite
enthusiastic in his welcome and digging his nose into Chub’s hand.

“Bet you he knows us!” cried Chub, softly and delightedly. “The rascal
forgets that the first time we met he made a face at me and growled.
Well, all is forgiven, Jack. Where’s your master, sir?”

“I suppose we might as well sit down,” said Roy, “instead of standing
here like a lot of ninnies.”

“Did you ever see such a place in your life?” asked Dick. “It looks
like a museum and a palace all rolled into one!”

“Gee, but I wish I was an artist!” sighed Chub. “I wonder what’s on the
easel. Do you think we could look?”

“No, I think we’ll go over there and sit down and not snoop,” answered
Roy severely. “Come on.”

But at that moment the elevator door rolled softly open and with a
start the boys turned to see their host step out of the car. Forbes
Cole was one of the biggest men they had ever seen. He was well over
six feet high and, it seemed, more than proportionately broad. He was a
fine, handsome looking man with a big head of wavy brown hair, kindly,
twinkling blue eyes, and a brown beard trimmed to a point under a
strong chin.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said as he shook hands all around. “I
was just finishing breakfast. And how are you all? Let me see, this
is Roy, isn’t it? I remember every one of you perfectly, but I have a
bad memory for names. Chub, though, I recollect very well; that name
happens to stick. And this is Dick Somes. Yes, yes, now I’ve got you
all. Jack seems to have remembered you, too. Come over here and sit
down and tell me what great things have happened to you since we parted
last year. I suppose each one of you has done something fine for your
school or college. Dear, dear, what a beautiful thing it is to be
young! We never realize it until it’s too late. Now what’s the news?”

They perched themselves side by side on the broad window-seat and the
artist lifted the heavy chair from the dais with one hand as though it
weighed but an ounce and sprawled his great body in it. Jack settled
back amongst the cushions with his head on Dick’s knee.

“I guess there isn’t much to tell,” said Roy. “Chub and I have been at
college and Dick here is coming up in the fall.”

“If I can pass,” muttered Dick.

“And Miss Harry? How is she?” asked Mr. Cole.

“Fine,” said Dick. “I saw her the other day. We often talk about you,
sir, and the good times we had on the _Jolly Roger_.”

“And so you think you’d like to have more good times on it, eh?”
laughed the artist in his jovial roar. “I wish I could go along, if
you’d have me; but I’m going across after awhile. But the boat’s yours
when you want it, and I hope you’ll have the jolliest sort of a time,
boys.”

“It’s mighty nice of you to want us to have it,” said Roy. “We’ll take
very good care of it, Mr. Cole, and--”

“Oh, don’t bother about that,” laughed the painter. “You know I’ve got
tired of it, boys. Besides, it’s well insured and if it happens to go
to the bottom, why, I sha’n’t mind a bit--as long as you get out first!
She’s at Loving’s Landing, if you know where that is; about fifteen
miles up the river. You’ll find her in good condition, I guess. I wrote
the man day before yesterday to open her up and get her in shape. She
needs paint, as I wrote you; but I don’t believe I want to go to the
expense of having her done over. But if you think you’d rather have her
freshened up it won’t cost much to have Higgins put on one coat for
you.”

“I guess she’s all right as she is,” said Chub. He looked at Roy and
that youth took the hint.

“We were wondering,” he began, “how much you’d want for her for a
couple of months, Mr. Cole.”

“You can have her all summer for the same price,” answered the painter
with his eyes twinkling.

“Well, I suppose we couldn’t stay in her more than two months, sir; but
of course we realize that if we took her we ought to pay for the whole
time, because it would be too late to rent her again after we were
through with her, I guess. About how much would she be, sir?”

Mr. Cole looked at them thoughtfully for a moment. Finally,

“Well, I was going to ask you to take her and use her rent free,” he
answered, “but there’s something in Roy’s expression that tells me I’d
get sat on if I did.” He laughed merrily. “Am I right?”

“We wouldn’t sit on you,” answered Chub, “but we’d feel--feel better
about it if we rented it regularly from you. It’s mighty good of you,
though.”

“No, it isn’t, Chub. It isn’t mighty good for anyone to be generous
when it doesn’t cost him anything. The boat’s of no use to me this
summer and I shouldn’t rent it under any conditions--except to you
boys. But if you’d rather not take it as a gift, why, I’ll have to put
a price on it.” He thought a moment. “Suppose we say fifty dollars for
the summer?”

Chub eyed Roy doubtfully and Roy eyed Dick.

“That sounds like an awful little bit,” said Roy at last.

“I don’t think so,” replied their host. “I doubt if the _Jolly Roger’s_
worth much more, fellows. I’m satisfied and I don’t see why you
shouldn’t be. You won’t let me do you a favor, although I thought we
were pretty good friends last summer, but, on the other hand, I don’t
think you ought to insist on my driving a hard bargain with you. Fifty
dollars is my valuation, and there you are; I refuse to go up another
cent!”

“In that case,” laughed Roy, “I guess we’d better accept your terms,
sir. And we’re very much obliged.”

“That’s all right then. I’ll give you a note to Higgins; the boat’s in
his yard up there; and you can take her over as soon as you like and
keep her as long as you wish. That’s settled. Now tell me what you’ve
been doing the three of you. How do you like your college?”

The boys stayed for another hour and talked and were shown over the
studio and were invited to luncheon. But although Chub frowned and
nodded his head emphatically Roy politely declined. They finally
left with the lease of the house-boat _Jolly Roger_ in Roy’s pocket,
promising to call again after they had looked over the craft. Then they
shook hands, entered the elevator car and were dropped to the street
floor.

On the sidewalk Roy turned to the others.

“Let’s go up and see the boat this afternoon,” he said.

“Let’s go now!” exclaimed Chub with enthusiasm.

“Can’t; after making up that fifty dollars there isn’t enough money
in the crowd to pay the car-fares. No, we’ll go along with Dick and
have luncheon. When we get to the hotel we’ll find out how to get to
Loving’s Landing, and then we’ll start out right after luncheon. What
do you say?”

Chub and Dick agreed to the plan and the three strode off toward Dick’s
hostelry.

[Illustration: Roy]



CHAPTER V

A TRIP OF INSPECTION


It turned out when they got there that the real host was not Dick, but
Dick’s father. Neither Roy nor Chub had met Mr. Somes before. Like Mr.
Cole he was a large man, but his size was rather a matter of breadth
and thickness than height. He had a round, clean-shaven, jovial face
lighted by a pair of keen steel-gray eyes, and a deep, rumbly voice
that seemed to come from the heavy-soled shoes he affected. But he
was kindness itself, and by the time they had gathered about the
table beside the open window in the big hotel dining-room Roy and
Chub were quite captivated. And that luncheon! Chub talks of it yet!
There was ice-cold cantaloupe to start with, and then cold bouillon,
and tiny clams lying on shells no larger than half-dollars, and chops
not much larger than the clams--so small, in fact, that Chub viewed
them with dismay until he discovered that there were many, many of
them,--and potato croquettes, and pease no larger than birdshot,
and Romaine salad, and--but, dear me, no one save Chub can give the
entire program at this late day! I know there were lemon tarts and
strawberry ice-cream and all sorts of astonishing cakes at the end,
though; and I know that Chub was never much more miserable in his
life than when he was obliged to stop eating with half his portion of
ice-cream unconsumed! Of course such a repast took time, and after it
was over no one seemed in any very great hurry to leave the table.
So they sat there contentedly while Mr. Somes, craftily led on by
Dick, told marvelous stories of mines and discoveries, until Chub was
for abandoning the cruise in the _Jolly Roger_ and starting west to
prospect for gold. It was almost the middle of the afternoon when they
finally left the dining-room, and then a hasty consultation of the
time-table showed them that to reach Loving’s Landing that day and
return in time for dinner was quite out of the question. Roy and Dick
were a little disappointed, but Chub took it philosophically.

“We can go up in the morning just as well,” he said. “We can go any
day, but it isn’t every day a chap gets the chance of a feed like
that. It’s all right for you fellows to make fun, but you haven’t
been in training for two months, living on beef and potatoes and rice
puddings! I’m not kicking though,” he added softly and reverently, “for
that luncheon pretty nearly made up for it all!”

So instead of going to Loving’s Landing they ambled downtown, feeling
very contented and peaceful, and obtained a price-list from one of
the big grocery houses. Armed with this they returned to Dick’s room
and made out a long list of purchases. There is no use in setting it
down here, for when they reckoned up they found that it came to over
ninety dollars! In disgust Roy crumpled it up and threw it into the
waste-basket.

“We’re awful idiots,” he said. “What’s the good of wasting our time up
here when we might be out of doors? Let’s go and have a walk in the
Park.”

Chub, reclining at full length on Dick’s bed, groaned dismally.

“‘Strenuous’ is a much over-worked word, Roy,” he said, “but it
certainly applies to you. Just when I’m beginning to feel comfortable
you ask me to get up and walk! _Walk!_ If you’d said ride, now--”

“Well, let’s,” said Dick. “Let’s get on the top of one of those silly
Fifth Avenue stages and bump uptown. It’s lots of fun, honest; you
think every minute that the fool thing’s going to topple over!”

“What joy!” murmured Chub. “Let us go. I’m the neat little toppler.
Besides, maybe it will help settle my luncheon and give me an appetite
for dinner.”

“Great Scott!” exclaimed Roy. “You’re not thinking about dinner already
are you?”

“I’m thinking of nothing else,” responded Chub. “Hang it, you fellows
don’t seem to realize that I’ve got two months of starvation to make up
for! Come on and let us topple.”

But although they went to the end of the route in both directions the
coach failed to turn over, but there were several occasions when Chub
screamed with delight and told the others that the moment was at hand.

“Now we’re going!” Chub cried. “Stand back, men! Women and children
first!” And when the danger was over he shook his head disappointedly.
“I shall ask for my money back,” he declared warmly. “What kind
of service do you call this, anyway? Here I am out for a pleasant
afternoon topple and nothing doing! I believe I could have some one
arrested for this.” He looked darkly about him in search of a victim.
“The first policeman I see I shall make complaint to. It’s an outrage,
a perfect outrage!”

But when they reached Roy’s house the prospect of dinner had restored
his good-humor. Dick dined with them, and in the evening they went to
the theater.

Theoretically it is a simple matter to journey from New York to
Loving’s Landing. Actually it is much more difficult, especially when
you mistake the train as the three did the next forenoon and find
yourself hurrying off in quite the wrong direction. By the time they
were able to get out of that train they had wasted fourteen miles. By
the time they were back in the station, ready to start over again, they
had squandered nearly three quarters of an hour. Roy was inclined to be
angry, laying the blame, by some remarkable method of reasoning, on
the railroad company.

“What did that fellow tell us Track 12 for?” he asked irascibly.

“There, there,” said Chub soothingly, “don’t waste your time trying to
find out why anybody does anything in a railroad station. They have
laws of their own, Roy, laws that you and I will never comprehend. It
was our fault. We ought to know by this time that no one in a station
ever tells the truth on any subject. I’ll just bet you that if I go
over there and ask that gateman how to get to Loving’s Landing he will
tell me all wrong.”

“Well, we’ve got to ask someone,” said Dick, “and it might as well be
him. He looks as intelligent as most of them I’ve seen.”

“Then I’ll ask him, but of course he will lie to me.” Chub was back
in a minute shaking his head dismally. “He _says_ Track 8, and that
there’s a train in about four minutes, but of course--”

“Come on,” said Roy impatiently, “don’t let’s lose another.”

They sought Track 8, Chub expostulating against the folly of believing
the gateman. But both the conductor and the brakeman assured them
earnestly that the train did go to Loving’s Landing, and after some
persuasion Chub allowed himself to be dragged aboard.

“Have your own way,” he sighed. “But when you get out in Chicago or
Cincinnati or New Orleans don’t blame me, don’t blame me! I wash my
hands of the whole undertaking.”

“I guess it won’t hurt them,” answered Dick cruelly.

Loving’s Landing, at first sight, didn’t appear to be worth the trouble
they had taken to find it. It was largely composed of lumberyards,
machine-shops and wharves in front of which dirty little canal-boats
were lying. Higgins’s Boat Yard was difficult to discover, each
informant directing them differently, but at last they found it tucked
away between the railroad and the river and hidden by a lumberyard.
They presented their credentials at the office and were directed to
where the _Jolly Roger_ lay ready for launching. By that time Chub was
speculating on the chances of obtaining luncheon in such a “one-horse
metropolis.”

The _Jolly Roger_ lay at the top of the way, one end tilted high in
air. It was something of a feat to board her and more of a feat to move
around after they were there. The doors and windows had been opened
but the interior still had a musty odor that caused Roy to sniff in
displeasure. For the next half-hour they roamed around in and out,
planning and making memoranda of things to buy. The boat was furnished
just as when they had last seen it, although the hauling out had
seriously displaced many of the articles. In the forward cabin,--or
living-room, just as you had a mind to call it,--chairs and table had
congregated against one wall as though holding a conference.

“Seems to me,” said Chub, “we’re going to need a lot of things. We
ought to have new curtains all over the shop, cot-beds, bedding, some
more chairs--”

“Well, we’ve got those all down,” answered Roy shortly. “What is most
important. I fancy, is to have someone go over the engine.”

“You bet,” Dick agreed. “We can do without new curtains better than
we can do without an engine. I’ve been looking at the batteries and
wiring and they’re all out of kilter. We’d better consult Higgins and
find some one who can fix up that part of it.”

“She doesn’t look much as she did last summer,” said Chub
disappointedly.

“Oh, she will when she gets in the water and we have her fixed up,”
Dick replied. “How about painting her outside?”

They climbed down and had a look at her from the wharf, finally
agreeing that a coat of white on the house was necessary. Then they
found the boat builder and talked it all over with him. As soon as
he found that there was a prospect of work to be done he was all
attention. He agreed to take charge of the matter, paint her as
directed, have the engine and batteries thoroughly gone over and
deliver her at a certain dock in the North River, New York, in one
week’s time.

“Of course he’s lying, too,” said Chub gloomily as they made their way
out of the yard, “but it’s a sweet lie. I don’t suppose he will have
her ready before the middle of July. Some one of us will have to come
up here every day or so and get after him.”

“Don’t you worry,” answered Dick, “Roy and I will camp on his trail,
and by the time you come back she’ll be all ready.”

Chub allowed himself to be comforted, and they set forth in search of
luncheon. They found it, but the least said of it the better. The next
morning Chub left for Pittsburg, having bound himself as one condition
of the agreement with his father to spend a week at home before
beginning the cruise in the house-boat. While he was away Roy and Dick
fulfilled their promise to keep after Mr. Higgins, and that worthy
responded finely to encouragement. The boys went to Loving’s Landing
three times during the week, the last time bearing with them the new
curtains which had been purchased by Mrs. Porter and made under her
directions.

[Illustration: Chub descended at the Porter’s bag and baggage]

There were other purchases, too; cot-beds that folded into almost
nothing when not in use, blankets, sheets, mattresses, and pillows,
dishes and a few extra cooking utensils, new records for Mr. Cole’s
talking machine, two brightly-hued and inexpensive Japanese rugs for
the upper deck and numerous lesser things. The provisions were left to
the last. They kept up an incessant and animated correspondence with
Chub who hated to have anything done without getting a finger in it,
and altogether that was a busy week. At the end of it, strange to say,
the _Jolly Roger_ actually appeared in her berth in the river, and the
next afternoon Chub descended at the Porter’s bag and baggage.



CHAPTER VI

THE JOLLY ROGER


When I say that Chub arrived “bag and baggage,” I mean every word of it.

It was a delightful afternoon--July was almost a week old--and Roy,
pausing before his front door and fumbling for his latch-key, looked
westward along the street into a golden haze of sunlight. And as he
looked, suddenly there appeared, huge and formless in the sunset glow,
something that arrested his attention. For a moment he couldn’t make it
out, but presently, with a rattle of wheels, it drew near and resolved
into a “four-wheeler” piled high with luggage. It pulled up at the
curb before the door, and Chub leaped out, bringing with him numerous
packages.

“Hello,” greeted Roy; “come to spend the rest of your days with us? Why
didn’t you bring the grand piano? Or is it in the big trunk there?”

Chub grinned and directed the transfer of his belongings from cab to
house. There was a small steamer trunk, a whopping wicker trunk, a suit
case, a case containing fishing rods, a case containing a shot-gun,
three brown paper parcels, an umbrella, and a rain coat. The largest
trunk was placed in the rear hall down-stairs, but the other things
were carried up to Chub’s room. And when the confusion was over and the
cabman, liberally rewarded, had rattled away, Chub deigned to explain.

“Isn’t that a raft of stuff?” he asked, throwing himself into a chair.
“You see, Roy, after I’d got all packed up I came across two or three
things I thought would be nice for the boat, and as there wasn’t time
to do anything else, I just wrapped them up and brought them along.
That big bundle is a corn and asparagus boiler, and--”

“A _what_?”

“Corn and asparagus boiler. It’s a great thing. I found it in the
kitchen cupboard. It’s sort of oblong, you know, and there’s a tray
that lifts out with the corn on it when it’s done. You see, we’re
likely to have a lot of green corn and I was pretty sure we didn’t have
anything big enough to cook it in. Good idea, wasn’t it?”

“Splendid!” said Roy. “Did they know you were taking it?”

“They do by this time,” laughed Chub. “I forget whether I made any
special mention of it. There were so many things at the last moment,
you see. That littlest bundle is a barometer. Every boat ought to have
a barometer, so I borrowed it from the front porch. And the other--”

“Oh, you needn’t tell me,” sighed Roy. “I know what’s in that. It’s a
sewing machine.”

“You run away and play! It’s a pair of white canvas shoes. I found them
after the trunks had gone and there wasn’t room for them in the bag.”

“And, without wishing to appear unduly inquisitive,” said Roy, “may I
ask what the large trunk down-stairs contains? You said it wasn’t the
piano, I believe?”

“I’ll show you after dinner,” answered Chub. “I’ve got a lot of useful
things in there. What time is it? After six? Then I must wash off some
of this dust. My! it was a grimy old trip.”

“It must have been. How are the folks?”

“Splendid! They’re getting ready to go to the Water Gap. My, but I’m
glad I don’t have to go too! I suppose, though, I’ll have to go there
for a while in September. Is the boat done yet? Have you seen it?”

After dinner Dick appeared and Chub solved the mystery of the wicker
trunk. The entire household gathered in the back hall while he
displayed his treasures.

“What do you say to those?” asked Chub, pulling four sofa cushions out.
“They’ll be just the thing for the window-seat in the forward cabin,
eh?”

“We’ve got pillows for that window-seat,” said Dick.

“How many?” asked Chub, scathingly. “About six! We need a lot. Mother
said I could have these just as well as not for the summer, so I bagged
them. And look here! Camp-stools, don’t you see? You open them out
like--like this--no, like this!--yes, this must be the way they go--how
the dickens?--there we are! See? When we don’t need them they fold up
out of the way--_ouch!_” Chub had folded one of his fingers in the
operation.

“They’re fine!” laughed Roy. “We can use them on the roof.”

“Upper deck, please,” Dick requested. “What’s the red blanket, Chub?”

“That’s a steamer rug, and it’s a fine one. Feel the warmth of it. I
thought maybe we’d want extra covers some time. And there’s an old
foot-ball--”

“What’s that for?” asked Roy.

“Oh, we may want to kick it around some time when we’re ashore. It’ll
be something to do. And this is an old sweater; I thought I’d just
bring it along. And here’s a small ice-cream freezer. It only makes a
quart, but that’ll be enough, I guess. And that’s a bag of salt. Mother
thought I might as well bring it as buy new.”

By this time the audience was frankly hilarious.

“But do you know how to make ice-cream, Chub?” asked Mrs. Porter.

“Oh, anybody can make ice-cream,” he answered carelessly. “You just
mix some cream and sugar and flavoring stuff up and freeze it. I’ve
seen our cook do it lots of times. Here’s my electric torch. That’ll
be handy, you’ll admit. And here’s a collapsible bucket. It’s great! I
saw it in a store window one day. See how it folds up when you aren’t
using it? That’s a box of soap; I knew you fellows would forget to put
soap on your list.”

Neither Dick nor Roy had anything to say; they _had_ forgotten.

“Those are some books I want to read. Have you read that one, Roy?
It’s a thriller! Take it along with you. It’ll keep you awake half the
night. These old trousers I thought might come in handy in case anyone
fell in the water.”

“Dear me!” exclaimed Roy’s mother. “You don’t expect to fall overboard
do you?”

“No, Mrs. Porter, but you never can tell what will happen,” replied
Chub, wisely. “Those are shells for the shot-gun and that’s my
fly-book. I should think we might find some good fishing, eh? Here’s
a ‘first aid’ case. Mother insisted on my bringing that. I don’t know
what’s in it, but I suppose there’s no harm having it along. Here are
some curtains; I used to have them in my room until they got faded. I
thought maybe we’d find a place for them. And this is an extra blanket.
I just put it in so that the bottom of the trunk would be soft. And
a hair pillow; it’s rather soiled, but that’s just shoe-dressing I
spilled on it once. The laundress couldn’t get it all out. And I guess
that’s all except this thermometer. Oh, the mischief! The plaguey
thing’s broken! Throw it away. It was just a cheap one, anyhow. There,
that’s the lot. What do you say?”

“I don’t know how we’d have got along without those things, Chub,”
said Roy, very, very earnestly. “How we could have expected to go on a
cruise without a foot-ball and a hair pillow and a collapsible bucket--”

“And a pair of old trousers and a thermometer,” added Dick.

“I don’t see. Do you Dick?” Dick shook his head gravely.

“We must have been crazy,” he said, sadly.

“Oh, you say what you like!” responded Chub. “You’ll find that all
these things will come in mighty handy before we get back.”

“Of course,” said Roy, “even if we have to load them in another boat
and tow it along behind.”

“Oh, get out; there’s plenty of room for this truck. You fellows are
just jealous because you didn’t think of them.”

“I quite approve of the ice-cream freezer,” remarked Mr. Porter, “but I
don’t just see how you’re going to work it without the dasher.”

“_What!_” exclaimed Chub. “Didn’t I put that in?”

“Well, I don’t see it anywhere; do you?” Then followed a wild search
for the dasher. At last Chub gave it up and looked a trifle foolish.

“I remember now,” he muttered. “I took it out of the can so that it
wouldn’t rattle around. I--I must have forgotten to pack it.”

He joined good-naturedly in the laugh that arose.

“Anyhow,” he said presently, “I dare say we can get along without
ice-cream. It’s a bother to have to freeze it. And maybe we can use the
tub as a bucket and keep something in the can; we could keep our milk
in it.”

“I imagine that most of the milk we’ll have will come in cans,” said
Roy. “You don’t expect fresh milk, do you?”

“I surely do. We can buy it at the farm-houses.”

“Condensed milk is cheaper, though,” said Dick, “because you don’t
have to use much sugar with it.”

“Listen to Dickums!” jeered Chub. “He’s getting economical!”

It was finally decided to leave the ice-cream freezer behind, and the
bag of salt was donated to Mrs. Porter “as a slight testimonial of
esteem from the master and crew of the _Jolly Roger_.” Then the boys
went up to Roy’s room and sat there very late, planning and discussing.

The next morning found them at the wharf bright and early, even
Chub disdaining for once what he called his “beauty sleep.” The
wharf belonged to a company in which Mr. Porter was interested and
accommodations for the _Jolly Roger_ had been gladly accorded. She lay
in the slip looking very clean and neat. The new coat of paint had
worked wonders in her appearance. Each of the boys had brought a suit
case filled with things, and Chub carried besides the two camp-stools
and a large crimson pillow. And while they are aboard unloading let us
look over the house-boat.

[Illustration: The boys arrive at the wharf]

At first glance the _Jolly Roger_ looked like a scow with a little
one-story white cottage on top, and a tiny cupola at one end of
that. The hull was thirty-three feet long and thirteen feet wide and
drew about four feet. There was a bluntly curving bow and the merest
suggestion of a stern, but had it not been for the white cupola on top,
which was in reality a tiny wheel-house, it would have been difficult
to decide which was the bow end and which the stern end of the craft.
The hull was painted pea-green to a point just above the water-line.
Beyond that there was a strip of faded rose-pink, and then a narrow
margin of white. The decks were gray, or had been at one time, the
house and railings were white and the window and door trimming was
green. So she didn’t lack for color.

Small as the boat was she was well built and, in spite of having been
in use for several years, was in first-rate condition. It was nothing
short of a miracle that so many rooms and passages and cubbyholes were
to be found on her. Chub, in commenting on this feature, had said once:

“If you gave this hull to a regular carpenter and told him to build
one room and a closet on it he’d be distracted. And if he did do it
he’d have the closet sticking out over the water somewhere. But just
look what a boat-builder does! He makes three rooms, a kitchen, and an
engine compartment, all sorts of closets and cupboards, puts a roof
garden and a pilot-house on top and runs a piazza all around it! Why,
a fellow I know at home has a little old launch about twenty feet long
and six feet wide and I’m blessed if he hasn’t pretty nearly everything
inside of her except a ball-room! I’m blamed if I see how they do it!”

On the _Jolly Roger_, beginning forward, there was a living-room nine
feet by ten. There were five one-sash windows in it, two on each
side and one in front. Under the front window and running from side
to side was a broad window-seat comfortably upholstered and supplied
with pillows. Between two of the windows was a bookcase, in one corner
was a cabinet holding a talking-machine and records, in the center of
the room was a three-foot round table, and three wicker chairs were
distributed about. Forward, in front of the window, a tiny spiral
stairway of iron led up into the wheel-house above. It had been decided
that if Harry and her father or mother joined them, a cot-bed was
to be placed in this room, which, with the window-seat, would give
accommodations for two persons. The living room gave into a narrow
passage which traversed the boat. Across the passage at the other end
was a door leading into a little bedroom, nine feet by five. This held
a three-foot brass bedstead, one chair, and a lavatory. Above the bed
drawers and shelves and a mirror had been built.

Back of the bedroom, opening from the deck, was the engine-room. The
engine was of six horse-power and a very good one, in spite of Mr.
Cole’s aspersions. The gasolene tank was on the roof above. The _Jolly
Roger_ had a guaranteed speed of five miles an hour, but the boys
soon discovered that the guaranteed speed and the actual speed didn’t
agree by a whole mile. The engine-room had no window but was lighted
by a deadlight set in the roof. Beyond the engine-room, on the other
side of the boat, was a tiny kitchen, or, as the boys preferred to
call it, galley. This opened into the after cabin and was so small
that one person entirely filled it. But in spite of its size it was a
model of convenience. There was an oil-stove, a sink--you forced water
from a tank under the deck by means of a little nickel-plated pump--an
ice-chest, shelves for dishes, hooks overhead for pots and kettles,
cupboards underneath for supplies and a dozen other conveniences. As
Dick said, all you had to do was to stand in front of the sink and
reach for anything you wanted. There was a window above the sink and
Dick discovered that it was very handy to throw potato peelings and
such things out of.

The remaining apartment was a room nine by seven which the owner had
used principally to store his painting materials in. Previously it had
contained only a cupboard, table, chair, and a small, green chest. But
now two cot-beds were established on opposite sides. There wasn’t much
room left, but it was quite possible to move around and to reach the
galley. This after cabin opened on to the rear deck, about five feet
broad, from whence a flight of steps led up to the roof, or, again
quoting the boys, the upper deck.

This was one of the best features of the little craft. It was covered
with canvas save where panes of thick glass gave light to the rooms
below, and was railed all around. Outside the railing were green
wooden boxes for flowers. Last summer these had been filled with
geraniums and periwinkle and had made a brave showing. And the boys
had decided that they would have them so again. Stanchions held a
striped awning which covered the entire deck. At the forward end was
the wheel-house, a little six by four compartment glassed on all sides,
in which was a steering wheel--the boat could also be steered from
the engine-room--various pulls for controlling the engine, a rack for
charts, a clock, and a comfortable swivel chair. Near the stairs there
was a little cedar tender, but this was usually towed astern. Stowed
away below were some inexpensive rugs which belonged up here, and three
willow chairs and a willow table. A side ladder led from the upper
deck to the lower so that one could get quickly from engine-room to
wheel-house. Topping the latter was a short pole for a flag. Such was
the house-boat _Jolly Roger_, Eaton, master.

“Tell you what I’m going to do,” said Dick, when they had unloaded
their bags and distributed the contents. “I’m going to try the engine.
We’d better find out as soon as we can whether she’s going to run.”

“What do you mean?” asked Roy, anxiously. “Go monkeying around here
among all these ferry-boats and things?”

But Dick explained that his idea was to keep the boat tied up. So they
looked to their two lines which ran from bow and stern and Dick slipped
into the engine-room. Presently there was a mild commotion at the stern
of the boat which gradually increased as Dick advanced the spark. The
lines tightened, but held, and Roy and Chub joined the engineer.

“How does she go?” asked Chub.

“All right,” Dick answered, cheerfully. The engine was chugging away
busily and Dick was moving about it with his oil-can. “I didn’t have
any trouble starting it. I don’t believe Mr. Cole knows much about
engines.” There was a tone of superiority in Dick’s voice that caused
the others to smile, recalling, as they did, his own vast ignorance of
the subject less than a year ago. The summer before Dick had purchased
a small launch and what he now knew of gas engines had been learned in
the short space of a few months’ experience chugging about Ferry Hill
in the _Pup_.

“Oh, Mr. Cole always said he didn’t understand that engine,” answered
Roy. “Turn her off, Dick, or we’ll break away from the dock.”

“Wait till I see how she reverses,” said Dick.

“Well, start her back easy,” Chub cautioned, glancing anxiously at the
lines which held them to the wharf. So Dick slowed the engine down and
then threw back the clutch. The _Jolly Roger_ obeyed beautifully, and
Dick was finally persuaded to bring the trial to an end. Then they went
over the boat again.

“If Harry brings her mother with her,” said Roy, “they’ll have to have
this room.” They were in the forward cabin or living room. “We can put
up a cot along here for Mrs. Emery and Harry can have the window-seat!”

“That’s all right,” said Chub, “but the only place to wash is in
the bedroom. We’ll have to put a bowl and pitcher in here, and a
looking-glass, too; ladies can’t get along without a looking-glass.”

“If her father comes with her,” said Dick, “Harry can have the bedroom,
Doctor Emery can sleep in here on the cot and one of us fellows can
have the window-seat. Then the other two can sleep in the after cabin.”

“Where’ll we eat our meals?” Roy asked. They looked at each other in
perplexity.

“Mr. Cole ate in the after cabin,” said Chub, finally, “but there isn’t
room there with those two cots set up.”

“I tell you,” said Dick. “While we’re alone we’ll take the cots out of
the after cabin and use it for a dining-room. Roy can have the cot in
here and I’ll sleep on the window-seat. Chub can have the bedroom; he’s
captain, you know.”

“That’s a good scheme,” answered Roy, “but how about when the others
come?”

“Oh, we’ll fix it somehow. Besides, maybe they won’t come. We haven’t
heard a word from Harry yet.”

“Well, the letter had to be forwarded from Ferry Hill to her aunt’s,
I suppose,” explained Roy. “We’ll probably hear from her to-day or
to-morrow. Half the time we’ll be tied up to the shore, any way, and we
can easily enough set that little table on the ground.”

“Maybe there’d be room for it on the rear deck,” suggested Dick. “Kind
of under the stairs, you know. Let’s go and see.”

A survey of the space showed that the plan was quite feasible,
especially as Dick volunteered to sit on the railing.

“There’s another thing we’ll have to have,” said Chub, “and that’s a
place to wash when Harry’s with us. Suppose we haul that little green
chest out here and put a tin basin on it. We could bring water from the
kitch--the galley.”

“That’s all right,” laughed Roy, “but why not use your precious folding
bucket and dip the water out of the river?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Chub responded. “That’s a good scheme.
We’ll hang it on a nail, over the basin.”

“Where the mischief are we going to keep those extra cots when we’re
not using them?” Dick asked.

“I found just the place for them,” Chub replied. “We’ll lean them up in
the passage beyond the bedroom door and keep the outside door at that
end closed. We don’t need to use it anyway.”

Other problems were solved, and then luncheon, which they had brought
with them, was spread on the table in the forward cabin and they set
to with a will. Before they had finished the florist appeared on the
scene with geraniums and periwinkle for the flower boxes. By the time
he had transferred the plants from pots to the boxes along the edge of
the upper deck, he had managed to mess the new white paint up pretty
badly and the boys spent the better part of half an hour cleaning up
with water and brushes. By that time it was well toward the middle of
the afternoon and they were quite ready to go home.

“If we can get the rest of the supplies in to-morrow morning,” observed
Chub as he locked the last door and slipped the key in his pocket, “I
don’t see why we shouldn’t start to-morrow after luncheon instead of
waiting until the next morning. We could easily get up the river far
enough to spend the night. What do you think?”

Both Roy and Dick were quite as eager to get off as he was, and it was
agreed that if the groceries arrived in time they would begin their
cruise at one o’clock on the morrow. When they reached Roy’s house they
found a letter from Harry. Roy read it aloud.

    Miss Emery accepts with pleasure the kind invitation of Messrs.
    Chub, Roy, and Dick, and will be ready to embark on the _Jolly
    Roger_ at Ferry Hill at the time appointed.

    P. S. Isn’t it lovely? Mama says I can come home the 20th and
    papa will go with me, although he says we can’t stay with you
    more than two weeks. But perhaps you didn’t want us for more
    than that. Did you? Do you think I might take Snip along? He
    will behave beautifully. Aunt Harriet says I’m certain to be
    drowned and wants me to carry a life preserver around in my
    hand all the time. Isn’t that funny? She’s taught me to make
    pie-crust and so I’ll make you all the pies you want. Won’t
    that be fine? I can make three kinds: apple, cherry, rhubarb. I
    can make mince, too, if I have the mincemeat. Don’t forget to
    write at once and let me know when you will get to Ferry Hill.
    Remembrances to Chub and Dick.

                                              Yours truly, HARRY.

“Well, I’m rather glad it’s the Doctor that’s coming and not Mrs.
Emery,” said Dick. “Mrs. Emery is charming and kind, but a man will be
less trouble. Hello, what’s the matter with you, Chub?”

Chub was gazing into space with an ecstatic smile on his face.

“Me?” he asked, coming out of his trance. “Nothing! I was just thinking
of those pies!”



CHAPTER VII

THE CRUISE BEGINS


Behold, then, the _Jolly Roger_ proceeding, as Chub phrased it, “under
her own sail” up the Hudson River in the middle of a glorious July
afternoon. There was a fresh little breeze quartering down the river
and the surface of the broad stream was merry with whitecaps. The long,
blue pennant which Dick had discovered in the wheel-house snapped and
waved from the pole. Chub said he didn’t know what a blue pennant
meant, but that since it looked mighty well they’d fly it. Roy hoped
it wasn’t a demand for assistance or a token of sickness on board.
They wanted to dip it as they passed Grant’s tomb, white and stately
on the crest of the hill, but the halyards had got twisted, and by the
time they were righted there was nothing to salute but a dingy little
tugboat.

With both tide and wind against her the house-boat made slow progress,
and Chub was inclined to be impatient.

“We’ll never get to Ferry Hill this side of Christmas!” he declared. “I
vote we name her over, and call her the _Slow Poke_.”

Dick and Roy applauded instantly. Chub was at the wheel and the others
were standing behind him at the open door of the wheel-house, ready
with suggestions and assistance, Dick having been dragged away from the
engine almost by main force.

“Fine!” said Dick. “Only she’s got _Jolly Roger_ painted on her bow.”

“That’s all right,” said Chub. “Mr. Cole said we could do anything we
liked with her. When we get to a town we’ll buy some paint and rename
her.”

“It’s a good name,” laughed Roy. “I wonder Mr. Cole never thought of it
himself.”

“Maybe he did; she’s had all sorts of names; he said so. Now what’s
that little sail-boat trying to do? If she doesn’t look out she’ll get
run over.” Chub blew the whistle warningly.

“We’ve got to get out of her way,” said Dick.

“What for?” asked Chub, haughtily. “Let her get out of our way.”

“Law requires sailing craft to give way to dories and such and
steamboats to give way to sail-boats,” responded Dick, knowingly.

“Listen to the Ancient Mariner,” jeered Chub. But he pulled a lever
that slowed down the engine, and so allowed the sail-boat to bob out
of harm’s way. Chub had a chart spread out in front of him, and now
and then he pointed out the places along the way with the manner
of a discoverer, though Roy said it seemed more like a ride in a
sight-seeing automobile.

“Manhattanville on our right, gentlemen. On the left historic Fort Lee.”

“What happened there?” asked Dick.

“I don’t know.”

“Then how do you know it’s historic?”

“All forts are historic,” answered Chub, loftily. “Across the river are
historic Fort Washington and historic Fort George.”

“I suppose the next fort is historic Fort Cherry-tree,” muttered Dick,
skeptically. “I don’t see any forts, anyhow. I’m going down again--”

[Illustration: The “Jolly Roger” begins her cruise up the Hudson
River]

“To throw more oil on that poor old engine,” mourned Roy. “Dick, let
me remind you that oil costs money. You’ve already squandered about a
gallon.”

“Get out! We only had a quart to begin with. I’m not going to put any
more oil on, anyway; I just want to see how she’s working.”

“Dick thinks that if he isn’t sitting beside that engine holding its
hand it’ll get mad and quit work,” laughed Chub. “Let him go, Roy, for
goodness’ sake!” So Dick climbed over the side and disappeared into the
tiny engine-room to sit on a camp-stool with a bunch of dirty waste in
his hand and watch the engine fascinatedly.

The departure of the house-boat had been quite devoid of brilliant
features. The groceries and supplies had been delivered early, suit
cases and other luggage had been brought across town in a cab, and by
noon all was in readiness. The boys had returned to the house for an
early luncheon and afterward, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Porter and
Mr. Somes, had come down to the sea in two bright red taxicabs. The
older folks had been shown over the boat and had then stood on the end
of the wharf and waved good-by while the _Jolly_--pardon me, the _Slow
Poke_ had been warped out of the slip and had started up the river.
But Roy’s parents and Dick’s father had not been the only spectators,
and many and sarcastic had been the comments from the assembled wharf
hands and loiterers. But the boys hadn’t cared. They had been far too
excited and busy. The _Slow Poke_ didn’t answer very readily to her
helm, and as a result Chub, gallantly assisted by Roy, had run into the
end of a pier and narrowly escaped colliding with a lighter.

At four o’clock Chub announced that the _Slow Poke_ had accomplished
about four miles. They were then off what Chub called “picturesque
Tubby Hook.” Roy had to see the name on the chart before he would
believe in the existence of any such place.

“What I want to know,” said Dick, who had again momentarily separated
himself from the engine, “is where we’re going to lie up for the night.”

“Well, there’s no hurry,” said Roy. “By six we ought to be--where,
Chub?” Chub did some lightning calculating.

“At Yonkers.”

“The mischief! That’s no place to spend the night,” said Dick,
disgustedly.

“Why not?” Roy asked. “Some folks have to live there all the year
round!”

“We don’t have to stop there,” said Chub. “We’ll cross the river and
find a nice, quiet spot along the Palisades.”

“And as we’ll have to have some dinner--”

“Supper,” corrected Chub.

“You’d better start about now to get your hands clean, Dick. I never
cared for the flavor of cylinder oil.”

“Seems to me,” said Dick, “I’m in for a lot of work. When I signed for
this trip I didn’t know I was to be engineer and cook, too.”

“Oh, yes, you did, Dickums. You knew it, but you didn’t realize it.”

“Well, then, you fellows needn’t complain if you don’t get all your
meals on time,” answered Dick, morosely.

“No, we won’t complain; we’ll simply throw you overboard. But I think
Roy had better take lessons in engineering so that you can have your
Thursday afternoons off. Dickums, take him down with you now and give
him his first lesson.”

“I want to steer for a while,” said Roy. But Chub shook his head.

“I don’t feel that I can trust you,” he answered. “With all these young
lives depending on careful navigation--”

The others howled.

“Considering that you hit everything in sight when we started out,”
said Roy, “you’d better--” Chub viewed them scowlingly.

“This sounds to me like mutiny,” he muttered. “Kindly put yourselves in
irons.”

Roy spent the next half hour studying “Somes on the Gas-Engine.”
Toward six o’clock the _Slow Poke_ chugged across to the Jersey shore
and after some discussion a place was selected for anchorage. There
was a break here in the rocky wall of the Palisades and a little
stream meandered down through a tiny valley. The woods came closely
to the river’s edge, and after getting the _Slow Poke_ as near shore
as her draft would permit, they carried lines from stern and bow and
made them fast to trees. Then all hands set to to prepare supper.
Chub established himself on the railing of the after deck and pared
potatoes, pausing in his task whenever a boat went up or down the
river.

“Say, Dick,” he called, “you ought to bestir yourself to-morrow and
clean that oil stove. I can smell it out here.”

“Oil stoves always smell,” answered Dick from the galley.

“Not if you keep them clean. Maybe it needs new wicks.”

“Maybe it does. And maybe if you don’t finish paring those potatoes in
the next hour or two we’ll have them for breakfast instead of supper.”

“I like your cheek,” murmured Chub resuming his task with a sigh. “I’m
fairly working my hands off out here. What’s that loafer Roy doing
anyhow? Why don’t you put him at work?”

“Don’t you worry about him. I’ve got him busy all right,” was the
reply. “Say, did we order any salt, Chub? If we did I can’t find it.”

“Send Roy out here to pare these potatoes and I’ll look for it,”
responded Chub insinuatingly.

“We’ve found it,” called Dick. “Aren’t you nearly done?”

“Sure; all done; been done for hours.” Chub slid off the railing and
bore the potatoes indoors and watched them disappear into the pot of
boiling water. Then he and Roy set the table. As each of them had his
own convictions regarding the arrangement of knives, forks and spoons
there was some confusion for a while. But half an hour later, all
differences of opinion were forgotten. Sitting about the table in the
tiny after cabin, they had their first meal on board. Through the open
windows wandered a little evening breeze which, as Chub poetically
remarked, “caressed their cheeks, flushed with the toil of the long
day.” On one side the shadowed woods showed, on the other the broad
expanse of the river, deeply golden in the late sunlight.

“It’s a perfect shame,” sighed Chub, “to spoil such an appetite as
this. I feel as though I ought to keep it and treasure it as something
valuable. Pass the ham, Dick.”

“I guess there’s no doubt about our being in New Jersey,” muttered Roy,
slapping the back of his neck. “The place is full of mosquitoes.”

“That’s so,” said Chub. “I’ve been wondering what was getting after me
so. I thought it was the bite of hunger.”

“I guess it is,” laughed Dick. “The bite of hungry mosquitoes. Say,
they won’t do a thing to us to-night. Let’s move on.”

“Pshaw, we’ve got to get used to them sometime and we might as well
start now. Mosquitoes don’t pay any attention to you after a while.
Where’s the bread gone to?”

“You ought to know, Chub,” replied Dick, rising to cut a fresh supply.

“It’s a funny thing about mosquitoes,” continued Chub, helping himself
to half a slice of bread which Roy had left unguarded. “Just you let
them bite you a day or two and they get tired of you. I suppose they
like a change of diet the same as the rest of us. Is there any more of
the excellent tea, Dickums?”

Presently Chub pushed back his chair with a sigh of contentment.

“Come on, Roy,” he said. “Let us go up and sit on deck and watch the
pageant of Nature while the hireling cleans up the dishes.”

“No you don’t!” retorted the hireling. “You and Roy will stay right
here and help. You needn’t think I’m going to do everything on this
blooming boat!”

“That smacks of mutiny, methinks,” said Chub. “What do you say, Roy?
Still, I’ll stay and add my feeble assistance. I choose to wipe the
dishes.”

Half an hour later they were sitting on the upper deck, their feet on
the railing, feeling very much at peace with the world. To be sure, the
mosquitoes were somewhat troublesome, but they strove to take Chub’s
advice and bear the annoyance philosophically. A white light hung from
the flag-pole above the wheel-house and from the after cabin a feeble
glow spread itself over the water. They had left a lighted lamp there
to fool the mosquitoes.

“They’ll think we’re going to sleep in there,” explained Chub. “And
after they’re all on hand, sharpening their bills, we’ll sneak down and
close the door.”

“And lock it,” counseled Roy.

“And stuff up the keyhole,” added Dick. “Only thing I’m afraid of,
though, is that they’ll eat up all the provisions.”

But after a while Chub was obliged to acknowledge that his plan wasn’t
proving entirely successful.

“I guess some of these mosquitoes haven’t seen that light,” he
muttered, waving his hands about his head. “Suppose you run down and
turn up the lamp, Dick.”

“I wouldn’t venture in there among all those angry mosquitoes for the
world!” answered Dick. “They’d just simply tear me to pieces. I wish I
had some pennyroyal.”

“I wish you had,” Roy agreed. “I’d borrow some. I wonder why mosquitoes
always go for a fellow’s ankles.”

“They go for the biggest things they see,” explained Chub, “which, of
course, are your feet. As they can’t bite through leather they tackle
your ankles. They never trouble my ankles.”

“No, I suppose they go for your _cheek_,” retorted Roy. “What are you
rubbing your ankles together for, if they don’t bite them?”

“Er--one of my feet is asleep.”

“So am I--almost,” said Dick, drowsily. “What time is it?”

“About half past eight,” said Roy. “What time do we have breakfast?”

“At eight, sharp,” answered Dick, yawning.

“That means getting up at seven,” murmured Chub. “Then I must go to
bed at once or I shan’t have half enough sleep.”

“Being on the river certainly does make a fellow sleepy,” laughed Roy.
“I suppose we’ll get used to it after a day or two, though.”

“Like the mosquitoes,” said Dick. “I wish I could believe that tale of
Chub’s; it would help me to bear my present troubles with more--more--”

“Equanimity,” said Chub, helpfully. “It’s a scientific fact, though,
Dickums. Why, after a week or so--”

“You said a day or two!”

“Or thereabouts, the mosquitoes simply won’t look at you. They won’t
touch you even if you go down on your knees and beg ’em to!”

“I have a funny picture of myself doing it!” growled Dick.

“I don’t approve of these low expressions you use,” said Chub
regretfully. “I suppose you learn them at school. You should choose
your companions very carefully, Dickums.”

“I have since you fellows left,” answered Dick with a grin.

For a while the conversation turned to Ferry Hill and the fellows
there, but as each of the three evinced an inclination to fall asleep
in the middle of a sentence, the talk wasn’t very brilliant or
interesting. Finally, Roy dropped his feet with a thud from the railing
and stood up.

“There,” he said, calmly.

“Eh? What?” asked Chub, with a start.

“They’ve completed the circuit.”

“Circuit? What circuit? Who’s completed--”

“The mosquitoes have completed the circuit of my ankles. They have been
around both and I am now going to bed. I’ve done my duty by them.” Roy
stood on one foot and rubbed busily with the other.

“How nice,” murmured Chub. “Something accomplished, something done to
earn a night’s repose. That’s me too. Let us go quietly and leave Dick
to slumber peacefully on.”

    “‘The yawning youth, scarce half awake, essays
      His lazy limbs and dozy head to raise,’”

observed Dick.

“Hello! I thought you were asleep!” said Chub.

“I was until some noisy brute awoke me,” complained Dick.

“Where’d you get the poetry?” Roy asked.

“That? I don’t just recall,” replied Dick sleepily. “I think I composed
it myself. It was either I or Dryden.”

They stumbled down the steps to the lower deck, Chub begging them to
go softly so as not to attract the attention of the mosquitoes in the
after cabin, and sought their beds. Chub had the bedroom and the others
shared the living-room, Roy using a cot and Dick the window-seat.

“Is everything all right for the night?” yawned Roy.

“I think so,” replied Chub from across the little passage. “I don’t
know just what you do on a house-boat when you go to bed.”

“You lock the front door, fix the furnace, and turn down the gas in the
front hall,” murmured Dick.

Sleepy as they were, slumber didn’t come to them at once. It was all
rather new as yet.

“How’s your divan, Dickums?” asked Chub.

“Fine! I like a hard bed. How’s yours?”

“Great! Good-night.”

“Good-night. Oh, I say!”

“Well?”

“Got any mosquitoes where you are?”

“Have I. Plenty! Want some?”

“No, thanks.” A few minutes later,

“For goodness’ sake, you fellows,” called Chub, “what’s all that
squeaking in there?”

“It’s my bed,” answered Roy. “It squeaks every time I turn over.”

“Well, don’t turn over then,” grumbled Chub.

And finally, just when Dick and Roy were on the borderland of slumber,
Chub’s voice floated across again.

“Say, Dick!”

“What?”

“Did you let the cat in?”

Then there was peace and silence save for the contented, humming of the
mosquitoes.



CHAPTER VIII

DRIVEN TO COVER


The next day after breakfast was over the _Slow Poke_ took up her
journey again. It had been decided that the proper thing to do was to
get up the river to the neighborhood of Peekskill where, according to
Roy, there was fishing to be had. “Besides,” said Chub, “we want to get
away from all these towns. Civilization is wearying. I pine for the
virgin forest.”

“I don’t believe you’ll find much of that around Peekskill,” responded
Dick. “Look at the map!”

“Oh, you mustn’t believe all you see on the map,” answered Chub,
cheerfully. “Something tells me--” placing a finger on the chart--“that
here I shall find virgin forest. Also trout. Let us up and away.”

They chugged unhurriedly up the river all the morning, the engine much
to Dick’s delight, working beautifully. At noon they tied up near
Ossining and had dinner.

“I’d hate to travel on that,” said Chub, pointing with his fork to a
steamer which was gliding by out in the river. “It goes so fast those
people can’t begin to see the beauties of the country. Now with us
it’s different. We catch sight of an object of interest at ten in
the morning. At eleven we approach it. At twelve we reach it. At one
we are by but still have it in plain sight. It fades from view at
four in the afternoon. That’s something like. We have time to study
and--er--assimilate, you see. Why, every feature of the landscape we
have passed is indelibly engraven on my memory.”

“Oh, come now,” laughed Roy, “the _Slow Poke_ hasn’t done so badly.
We’ve come a good thirteen miles since breakfast.”

“What I’m afraid of,” said Dick, “is that if we keep on going like this
we’ll be at the end of the river before we know it. How much more is
there?”

“Only about two hundred and twenty-five miles,” replied Roy, dryly.
“If we keep on at the present rate of progress we’ll reach the end
of it in about eleven days--if we don’t stop on the way.” Dick looked
relieved.

“Oh, that’s all right, then. Because we are going to stop, of course.”

“We’re going to do more stopping than anything else,” said Chub.
“House-boats are intended primarily to stop in. As--as vehicles of
travel they are not to be taken seriously.”

“My!” murmured Dick, “what a college education does do for a fellow!”

“English A is a great course,” agreed Roy, smilingly. “You’ll be so
happy next year with your little daily themes, Dick!”

Dick groaned.

They wandered on again in the afternoon, Roy taking another lesson on
the gas-engine, and stopped for the night in a little cove on the east
side near Cortlandt. As it still lacked almost an hour of supper-time,
they left the boat to stretch their legs on shore. They found a road
and tramped along it for a quarter of an hour without finding anything
more interesting than a farm-house. But the farm-house put an idea
into Chub’s head. He stopped at the gate and pointed.

“Milk,” he ejaculated.

“Yes, but we didn’t bring anything to put it in,” Roy objected.

“It doesn’t matter. They’ll lend us a can, maybe. Come on.”

So they trudged up the long lane and knocked on the front door.
Receiving no answer after a decent interval of waiting, they proceeded
around back. At a little distance stood a big barn. Near-by was a well
with a number of big milk cans beside it.

“There you are,” said Chub. “Maybe they’ll lend us one of those. Come
on.”

The back door was open and from the little covered porch they had a
glimpse of a very clean and tidy kitchen. Chub knocked. There was no
answer.

“All out, it seems,” he muttered. He knocked again and then raised his
voice. “Any one at home?” he asked.

There was. A big, rough-coated yellow dog bounded across the yard,
the hair along his back bristling unpleasantly. His onslaught was
so sudden and fierce that Dick, who saw him first, was the first one
inside the door. But Chub and Roy were tied for second place, and the
dog--well, the dog would have made a good third if Roy hadn’t had the
presence of mind to slam the door a few inches in front of his nose.

“I say!” gasped Chub. “Did you see him? Isn’t he an ugly brute?”

“He certainly is,” agreed Dick, with an uneasy laugh. “Hear him, will
you?”

The dog was growling savagely and sniffing along the bottom of the door.

“Nice doggie,” called Chub, soothingly. “Nice doggie! Go away, Rover!”

“Try ‘Prince,’” Roy suggested.

“Try it yourself! I wonder if there’s any one in here. You fellows look
after the door and I’ll go and see.”

Chub walked through the kitchen into a little narrow entry and called
loudly. But there was no answer.

He returned to the others.

“Still there?” he asked, in a whisper.

“I don’t know,” muttered Roy. “I don’t hear anything. Maybe he’s gone.
Can you see from the window?”

Chub walked over to the nearest casement and looked out.

“He’s lying on the porch with his nose about half an inch from the
door,” he reported, disgustedly. “He’s a Saint Bernard, I guess.”

“I don’t care what he is,” said Roy. “He’s a nuisance. What shall we
do?”

“Put your head out of the window and yell,” suggested Dick. “They’re
probably in the barn.”

“All right, but not that window,” Chub answered. He went to the farther
side of the kitchen, raised the window there and yelled loudly.

“Hello! You in the barn! Call off your dog! Hello! Hello!”

But the dog started such a barking that Chub’s efforts were quite
wasted.

“I suppose we’ll just have to make ourselves comfortable and wait for
Mr. Farmer to come back,” he said, closing the window again.

“I tell you what,” said Dick, in a hoarse whisper. “We’ll get out the
front door. If we close it quietly he won’t hear us.”

They looked at each other doubtfully. The plan didn’t seem to awaken
much enthusiasm.

“That’s all right,” said Roy, “but if he did hear us--”

“I don’t believe he’d actually attack us,” said Dick.

“It didn’t look like it, did it?” asked Chub, sarcastically. “Oh, no,
he’s a nice little playful pet, he is.”

“Well, we can’t stay here all night,” said Dick. “And for all we know
there may not be anybody in the barn.”

“Of course there is! Do you think they’d go away and leave the back of
the house all open like this?”

“Well, with that animal out there I guess they’d be safe to put the
family silver on the front piazza,” retorted Roy. “But I guess there’s
some one around somewhere. There’s a fire in the stove and that looks
as though they meant to get supper.” The mention of supper brought back
Chub’s valor.

“Well, come on, and let’s try the front-door trick. Go easy, fellows.”

They tiptoed across the kitchen, through the entry, and reached the
front door only to find that it was locked and that there was no key in
sight.

“Sometimes they hang it on a nail alongside the door,” muttered Chub,
running his hand around the frame.

“Or put it under the mat,” said Roy.

“There isn’t any mat. Let’s try a window. Come on in here.”

He led the way into a dim and deserted parlor, a stuffy, uncanny
apartment in which the curtains were closely drawn at the three windows.

“See if you can see Fido,” counseled Chub. Roy raised the shade at one
of the windows on the front of the house and looked out. Beneath was a
bed of purple phlox and beyond was a walk and a little space of grass.
At the right was the lane--and safety.

“He isn’t in sight,” Roy answered in whispers. “But he may come.”

“That doesn’t matter,” answered Chub, recklessly. “I want to go home to
supper. Push up the window.”

Roy obeyed. The sash creaked and screamed as he forced it up and they
paused and held their breath, expecting to see the dog come bounding
into sight. But nothing happened.

“You go first, Roy,” said Chub. “Dick and I can run faster than you.”

“Want me to have the first bite, eh?” laughed Roy, as he put a knee
over the sill.

“Be quiet! Don’t make so much noise,” said Chub. “Get on out.”

Roy was sitting on the sill, his feet dangling above the flower bed.

“That’s all right,” he muttered, “but--say, Dick, go back and take a
peek out of the window and see if he’s still there.”

“All right.” Dick tiptoed back to the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” said Chub, “that I should want the family to walk in
now and discover us. We might have some difficulty in--_Hello!_”

He darted away from the window, leaving Roy blankly confronting a very
tall man with a tangled black beard, who had suddenly and noiselessly
come around the corner of the house. He wore dirty brown jumpers,
carried a single barreled shot-gun, and wasn’t at all prepossessing.
And beside him, still growling and bristling, was the yellow dog. Roy
stared silently with open mouth.

[Illustration: Roy stared silently, with open mouth]



CHAPTER IX

PRISONERS


The farmer smiled, but it wasn’t a pleasant smile, and it exposed half
a dozen yellow fanglike teeth that made Roy wonder whether there could
be any relationship between the dog and his master.

“Tell the other feller to come back,” said the farmer. “I seen him.”

“You mean you saw me,” murmured Chub, stepping into sight behind Roy.

“What’s that?” asked the farmer, suspiciously.

“How do you do?” asked Chub, affably.

“You’ll see how I do and _what_ I do,” was the grim reply. “What you
doing in my house?”

“We--we were just getting out,” answered Roy, with a sickly smile which
was intended to be propitiating.

“With your pockets full, I guess. You stay where you are, understand?”
He brought the shot-gun up and laid it over his arm in a suggestive
way that made Roy wish his legs were inside the window rather than out.

“If you mean that we’ve been stealing anything,” said Chub tartly,
“you’re making a mistake. We came up here to buy some milk and your
fool dog ran at us and drove us into the house. And here we are. If
you’ll take him out of the way we’ll get out.”

“Guess you will,” chuckled the farmer. “Guess you’d be pretty glad to.
But you won’t, understand? You get on back into that room.” This to Roy
in a threatening growl that fairly lifted the boy’s legs over the sill
and deposited them on the parlor carpet. “And you stay there till I
come, understand? Watch ’em, Carlo!”

Carlo growled and looked longingly at the boys. The farmer tucked the
shot-gun under his arm and disappeared around the corner of the house.
Roy and Chub looked at each other in comical dismay.

“Doesn’t this beat the Dutch?” asked Chub. “Say, where’s Dick? I’ll
wager he heard the old codger coming and has hidden. What are we going
to do, Roy?”

“Tell the truth. He hasn’t any business to keep us in here. If it
hadn’t been for his old dog--”

The farmer’s footsteps sounded in the entry and he entered the room,
his shot-gun still under his arm. He looked around suspiciously, as
though expecting to find the marble-topped center table and the cottage
organ missing, and cast shrewd glances at the boy’s pockets.

“Well, you see we haven’t stolen anything,” said Chub.

“Well, I ain’t taking your word for it,” said the farmer, dryly. “Maybe
if I hadn’t come when I did--”

“Now, don’t be unreasonable,” begged Chub. “I’ve told you how we came
to be here. We were passing along the road and wanted some milk--”

“Thought you’d find it in the parlor, did ye?”

“No, but your dog chased us in the back door and we couldn’t make any
one hear by shouting--”

“You shouted pretty loud, didn’t ye?”

“Yes, I did,” answered Chub, defiantly, “but that idiotic dog made such
a row with his barking that you couldn’t hear me. So then we came in
here to get out the window, because the front door was locked. Now you
know; and as we’re already late for supper, perhaps you’ll call off
that fool dog and let us go home.”

“Want to go, do ye?” asked their captor with a leer.

“Yes, we do,” replied Chub, shortly.

“Live right round here, I suppose?”

“You can suppose anything you want to,” broke in Roy, hotly. “But we
won’t tell you where we live. It’s none of your business and if you
don’t let us out of here this minute we’ll make trouble for you.”

“’Course you will,” said the farmer with a chuckle. “Go to town,
likely, and swear out a warrant for me, eh? How’d you know I was alone
here? How’d you know my wife was away?”

“We don’t know anything about your wife!”

“Some one told you, eh?”

“I tell you we never heard of you before--”

“And don’t want to again,” murmured Chub.

“But you didn’t know about Carlo, did ye? I bought Carlo after you was
here last month. He’s a good dog and--”

“After we were here last month?” repeated Chub. “Great Scott, we’ve
never seen your old farm before in our lives. We got here an hour ago
in our boat--”

“Travel in your private yacht, do ye? Left it down at the gate, I
suppose?” The farmer chuckled enjoyably.

“She’s tied up in the cove about a half mile below here,” said Chub,
angrily. “If you don’t believe it, you can come along and see her for
yourself.”

“Dare say, dare say. What you got in your pockets?”

“Nothing that belongs to you!”

“I haven’t seen anything worth stealing,” added Roy wrathfully.

“You haven’t, eh?” snarled the man. “Took it all last time, eh? Looking
for more silverware, I guess. Wan’t satisfied with what you had.
Should have been, eh? Made a mistake, didn’t ye? Made a mistake coming
back to the same place, eh? Thought Jim Ewing was fool enough to be
caught twice at the same game, eh? Huh!” he paused and looked at them
triumphantly. “More fools you, then. And you look sharp enough, too.
Wouldn’t have thought you’d have been such fools.”

“Oh, what’s the matter with you,” growled Chub, exasperatedly.

“Well, you march along up-stairs now, and you’ll see. Go along, and
don’t make any trouble or--” he patted the shot-gun--“this thing might
go off. That’d be a clear case of justifiable homicide, eh?”

“If you’ll just put that down a minute,” said Chub, yearningly,
“I’ll--I’ll--”

“No, you don’t; I’m a peaceable citizen, I am. Don’t say it wouldn’t be
some satisfaction to wallop you, but I’ll leave it to the law. Go on
up, now.”

“Look here,” said Roy, choking his anger, “what do you intend to do
with us?”

“Want to know, do you? You walk up-stairs, or--” he brought the ancient
shot-gun to the position of “charge.” Chub and Roy cast anxious glances
at each other. Then, with a shrug, Chub turned, crossed the room, and
mounted the staircase, followed by Roy and Mr. Ewing.

“Turn to the left at the top,” called the latter. “You’ll be real
comfortable while I’m gone, and you won’t find anything to tempt you
to steal. That’s it. Sit down, boys, and make yourselves to home. I
won’t be gone more’n an hour if I can help it. Don’t be lonesome.” He
closed the door and turned the key in the lock, and they heard him go
off down-stairs chuckling.

“I’d like to--to--!” But words failed him, and Roy dropped on the
old-fashioned bed and stared savagely about the little room.

“So would I,” said Chub, grimly, thrusting his hands in his pockets
and walking across to the single narrow window through which the late
sunlight slanted. When he turned again to Roy, there was a smile on his
face. “Isn’t this the greatest pickle, Roy? He thinks we’re a couple
of hardened criminals; thinks we have been here before.” He laughed
softly. “I’ve never been in jail yet. I wonder how it feels.”

“I don’t see where the fun comes in,” answered Roy. “We may have a
dickens of a time convincing folks that we didn’t come here to steal
his things. Where do you suppose Dick got to?”

“Blest if I know. Maybe he saw the old chap coming across from the barn
and hid himself. Maybe he managed to get out the back door while the
old fellow was round front. If he did--”

“He’s coming back,” muttered Roy. “And he’s bringing that beast of a
dog.”

“You stay here and watch, Carlo,” said the farmer outside the door.
“Don’t let ’em out, sir!”

“Mr. Ewing!” called Roy.

“Well? I hear ye.”

“Won’t you believe what we tell you? That we had no intention of
robbing your house.”

“Don’t you waste your breath on me, young man. Keep them yarns for the
police. I won’t keep you waiting longer’n I can help. You’d better not
try to get out; it wouldn’t be good for you; Carlo’s got a sort of a
mean disposition, he has.”

“So have you,” cried Chub. “You’ve got the upperhand now, but just you
wait till I get out of here! I’ll make you wish you had a grain or two
of common-sense; hear?”

“I hear ye,” muttered the farmer, “I hear ye. I guess what you fellers
need is a few years in jail, and, by gum, you’re going to get it! Watch
’em, Carlo!”

They heard him go stumping down-stairs and out of the house at the
back. Roy went to the window and after much grunting, managed to open
the lower sash. Chub joined him.

“We can’t get out here, that’s certain,” he said. “It’s thirty feet to
the ground if it’s an inch. Look at the old fool!”

Mr. Ewing was in plain sight in front of the barn. He had run a rickety
side-bar buggy out of the carriage shed, and now he entered the barn
again.

“He’s going to town for a constable,” mused Roy. “I wonder how far it
is.”

“He said he wouldn’t be more than an hour.”

“Then we’ve got an hour to find a way out of here.” Roy turned and
looked frowningly about the room. It was some twelve by fifteen feet
in size, with one door into the hall, and one window. The walls were
kalsomined a streaky white. The furnishings consisted of a bed and a
mattress, a yellow bureau, a chair, and a wash-stand with bowl and
pitcher and a square of rag carpet.

“If we only had some bedclothes,” muttered Roy.

“Or a ladder,” added Chub with a grin. “I guess we’re here to stay
unless--”

“What?”

“Unless Dick turns up. I don’t believe he’s gone off very far, do you?”
Roy’s reply was interrupted by the clatter of wheels and they went
back to the window in time to see Mr. Ewing rattle by in the buggy. He
looked up and grinned malevolently at the faces in the window.

Roy waved down to him airily. “Good-by, Pop!” he called.

The farmer cut the horse savagely with the whip and was out of sight
around the corner of the house.

“I don’t suppose it does any good to sass him,” said Chub, “but it
gives me a lot of satisfaction.” He went over and kicked the door and
was rewarded with a deep growl from Carlo. “Dear little doggie is still
at his post,” he said. He bent and put his mouth to the key-hole.
“Carlo,” he called softly, “dear little dogums! I’d like to wring your
blooming neck, do you hear? You do hear? Well, think about it, will
you?” He walked back to the window, whistling cheerfully. Roy, seated
on the edge of the bed, scowled.

“Don’t be an ass,” he said, grumpily.

“Why not? What’s the use of making a tragedy out of it? Let us dance,
sing, and be merry! ‘We’re here because we’re here, because we’re here,
because we’re here!’” Chub sang the words to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

Roy smiled faintly.

“Let us play we’re Monte Cristos,” said Chub. “What was it he did
when he was shut up in the Castle of Thingamabob? Dug his way through
the wall, didn’t he? Well, let’s do the same!” Chub drew out his
pocket-knife and began to hack at the plaster.

“If you do that,” observed Roy, “they’ll give us ten days in jail
for destroying property, or vandalism, or disturbing the peace, or
something.”

“That’s so! I don’t see but they’ve got us anyway,” said Chub. “We
might as well be hung for a lamb as a--no, for a sheep as a lamb, as
the old saying goes. What’s that?” He stopped and listened. Then he
ran to the window and looked cautiously out. Below, at the edge of the
lane, stood Dick, his hands in his pockets, grinning up at the window.

“Hello, Chub!” he called. “Come on out!”

“Mother won’t let me,” answered Chub, with a grin. “Where were you
Dickums, when the storm broke?”

“In the preserves.”

“In the what?”

“Preserve closet under the stairs. I heard everything nicely. I thought
I’d die!”

“Did, did you?” asked Roy, sarcastically. “You always did have a crazy
sense of humor. What are you going to do?”

“Me? Go back to the boat and have supper, of course,” replied Dick,
with a wicked grin. “It’s a fine night, isn’t it? See the new moon?”

“Don’t be a ninny,” said Roy, impatiently. “Do something! He may be
back any moment.”

“Oh, no, he’s good for an hour; he said so. What’ll I do--shoot the dog
or burn the house down?”

“Find a ladder, you blathering idiot,” Chub laughed. “There ought to be
one at the barn.”

“There is. I looked.”

“Well, why didn’t you bring it?”

“It’s too short.”

There was silence after this for a moment. Then,

“How much too short?” asked Roy.

“About ten feet, I guess.”

“You guess! Well, go get it and let’s find out!”

“Instantly, your Majesty!” Dick went off toward the barn unhurriedly,
whistling softly.

“Isn’t he exasperating?” asked Roy.

“We’ll square up with him when we get down,” answered Chub with a grim
smile of anticipation. In two or three minutes Dick was back, dragging
the ladder after him. He placed it against the house under the window
and they viewed the result. It lacked at least ten feet of reaching the
sill.

“That’s no good,” said Chub. “Isn’t there a longer one anywhere? Have
you looked?”

“Yes, Exalted One.”

“I say, don’t be so funny! Do you think we want to be arrested for
burglary and have to spend the night in jail? Can’t you think of
anything?”

“Certainly.”

“Well, what is it? Now, don’t you crack any more funny jokes or we’ll
make you sorry when we get down.”

Dick looked up speculatingly.

“Maybe you have some such idea in your head already?” he asked. “I
believe you have. Now before I go on with this heroic rescue you’ve got
to agree, both of you, to let me laugh as much as I like. Do you agree?”

“Yes.”

“Honest Injun?”

“Honest Injun, Dickums. Go ahead, like a good fellow, and get us out of
here.”

“All right. I’ve got a piece of rope here; see?” He took it from under
his coat and held it up. “I’ll tie this to the top of the ladder and
throw it up to you. Then you haul the ladder up and make the rope fast
to something in the room. That’ll leave the ladder only about ten feet
from the ground. You can drop that distance easily.”

“Good old Dickums! You’re the right sort.”



CHAPTER X

A NEW ACQUAINTANCE


It was a beautiful evening. In the west the sunset glow still hung
above the hills. Eastward the full moon’s great, golden disk was poised
against the darkening blue of the summer sky. It was very still and
quiet, and the only sounds that came to them were the soft _pat-pat_ of
their shoes on the dusty road. When half the distance to the house-boat
had been covered they slowed down to a walk, panting and puffing.

“What--are we going--to do--when we get--there?” asked Dick.

“Have some supper,” said Chub, decisively.

“But we can’t stay where we are. When he finds that we’ve skipped out,
he will be as mad as a hornet and will come down here looking for us.”

“Pshaw, I don’t think he believed a word we said about being in a
boat,” said Chub. “Besides, he’s just as likely to look up the river
as down.”

“And just as likely to look down as up,” replied Roy. “I guess Dick’s
right we’d better move on.”

“All right, then, we will; just as soon as we’ve had something to eat,”
agreed Chub.

“If we wait for that our supper is likely to consist of bread and
water,” answered Roy, dryly. “What we want to do is to get across to
the other side of the river. I never thought I’d be glad to get to New
Jersey, but the time has come.”

“That isn’t Jersey over there, it’s New York,” said Chub.

“Anyway, it’s a heap better than the calaboose,” laughed Dick. “Was
that wheels I heard?”

They stopped and listened, but the only sound that reached them was the
distant barking of a dog.

“Carlo!” said Chub.

“Get out! It’s the wrong direction. Come on and let’s get back. I had
no idea we’d gone as far as we have.”

“Nor I,” said Dick. “And what’s more I don’t believe we have!”

“What do you mean?” asked Chub, anxiously.

“I mean that we’ve gone by the boat.” They stopped and looked about
them in the twilight. Chub thrust his cap back and rubbed his forehead
reflectively.

“I guess you’re right,” he said. “All I remember is that we came
through a strip of woods, and it’s woods all along on this side. We’d
better strike through them here and see if we can see the boat.”

Much subdued they followed him between the trees and bushes. After a
minute or two of slow progress they came to a narrow field.

“I never saw this before,” growled Roy.

“There wasn’t any field here an hour ago,” agreed Dick.

“I’d just like to know,” muttered Chub, “how it got here. Someone’s
been taking liberties with the landscape.”

“It strikes me,” remarked Roy, “that we’re just lost.”

“Well come on. The river’s down here somewhere. Once we get to that
all we’ve got to do is to follow it till we find the _Jolly_--find the
_Slow Poke_,” said Dick, encouragingly.

“And which way shall we walk, upstream or down?” Chub inquired. Dick
looked a trifle crestfallen for an instant. Then,

“We can decide that when we get there,” he said. “Anyhow, don’t let’s
spend the night here. I’m as hungry as a bear.”

“Hungry!” muttered Chub, bitterly. “So am I! Well, come along.”

They crossed the field, a particularly moist and “squashy” one, and
entered more woods. By this time, although it was still light enough in
the open, it was difficult to see much in the forest, and they stumbled
over stumps and wandered into blackberry thickets every few steps.

“A chap needs a suit of chain armor for this sort of thing,” said Roy.

“‘This is the forest primeval,’” murmured Chub, picking himself out of
a bush. “It’s evil, anyhow.”

“Here it is,” cried Dick, who had found fewer pitfalls and had taken
the lead. “Here it is!”

“The boat?” asked Roy, eagerly.

“No, the river.”

“Oh!” they joined him and found themselves on the shore of a little
cove, but it was shallower than the one they had left the boat in and
was quite empty of craft. Chub sat down on a rock and sighed.

“How beautiful is Nature!” he murmured.

“I’ll swap my interest in it for a cup of coffee and a slice of bread,”
answered Dick, morosely. “I’m going to see if I can find the boat.”

“Don’t go,” begged Chub. “Sit here beside me on this downy couch and
let us view the prospect o’er.”

“I’ll wager we’re too far down the river,” said Roy, inattentively.
“Let’s go that way. From that point there we ought to be able to see
the boat.”

“Lead on,” cried Chub. “We place ourselves in your hands.”

They skirted the cove and reached the point, but although from there
they could see several hundred yards up the shore, there was no sight
of either another cove or the _Slow Poke_.

“I guess we’re too far upstream, after all,” said Roy. “Let’s look the
other way.”

“I’m thankful the river doesn’t run east and west as well,” said Chub.
“’Tis a merry life we lead.”

Back they went to the cove and around that to another point. But below
there the shore wound in and out confusedly, and, even had the _Slow
Poke_ lain fifty yards away from them, it was now so dark that it is
doubtful if they could have discerned her.

“Let us lie down here quietly and die,” suggested Chub.

“Oh, don’t fool,” said Roy. “Come on.”

“Wait a minute, fellows!” this from Dick. “Come to think of it, when
we got out onto the road this afternoon there was a sign on the fence,
don’t you remember?”

“Sure!” cried Chub. “‘Noble’s Chill and Fever Compound;’ we spoke of
it! That’s easy; all we’ve got to do is to get back to the road and
find the sign.”

“For all we know there may be one every fifty feet,” said Roy,
pessimistically. “However, we’ll try it.”

Getting back to the road was no simple matter, though. The woods were
pitch dark now, and the field beyond was not much lighter, while to
make matters worse they crossed the latter where it was little better
than a swamp, and at every step their shoes went _squash_, _squash_ in
the yielding turf. But they were soon across it and in the gloom of the
farther woods.

“Courage, mon braves,” said Chub. “It is soon over.”

But Chub was wrong, for they stumbled on and on, through bushes and
briars, and still no road appeared out of the darkness.

“This is funny,” panted Dick, pausing to disentangle himself from the
affectionate embrace of a vine. “We ought to have reached the road long
ago.”

“It is the enchanted forest,” replied Chub. “Have you never read of the
enchanted forest?”

“We’ve been keeping too far to the right,” said Roy, thoughtfully.
“Let’s try it off this way.”

“By all means!” Chub bumped into a tree, drew back to murmur politely,
“I beg your pardon, madam,” and followed.

“If I ever find that road,” said Dick, savagely, “you can be sure I’m
going to stay on it!”

“I don’t believe there is a road,” said Chub.

“I’m going to find one if I have to walk all night,” said Roy.

“That’s what you think,” replied Chub, sadly. “But you’re in the
enchanted forest, I tell you. We’re Little _Nemos_, that’s what we are!”

But the next moment the darkness gave place to twilight and they
stumbled down a little bank to the dusty road. With one accord they
threw themselves down on the grass.

“Here’s where I stay until morning,” sighed Dick.

“Isn’t that a sign over there?” Roy asked.

“Maybe,” muttered Chub, “but I’ve got so I don’t believe in signs.”
Roy, however, had crossed the road and was trying to decipher the words
on the panel nailed to the fence. Finally he lighted a match and,

“‘Noble’s Chill and Fever Compound,’” he read, “‘safe and certain. Ask
your druggist.’”

“‘Ask your druggist,’” sneered Dick. “I’d like to have the chance
to ask a druggist! I wouldn’t ask for that, though; I’d ask for a
chocolate, or an egg-and-milk.”

“I suppose those things are stuck all along the road,” said Roy,
throwing himself down again on the bank. “We know that that one isn’t
the one we saw before.”

“Maybe if we sit here much longer,” said Chub, “we’ll be glad to know
of a good remedy for chills and fever. I’m going on.”

“Where?” asked Roy.

“Anywhere! What matters it? If we walk long enough we’ll come to a
village. And once in a village if I don’t get my hands on a sandwich
and a cup of coffee it’s a wonder!”

“Well,” sighed Dick, “which way shall we go?”

“South,” answered Chub. “I saw a sort of a village a mile or so before
we stopped this afternoon. Come on, fellows; never say die!”

“Maybe we will come across a house pretty soon,” said Roy. “If we do
let’s ask for something to eat and a bed in the barn.”

“I don’t think they have beds in the barns around here,” replied Chub,
flippantly. “However, whatever we do let us _not_--remark the emphasis,
please--let us NOT ask for milk!”

They trudged southward along the winding road. At intervals they came
to advertisements of “Noble’s Chill and Fever Compound” nailed to
fence-rails and trees. For a while Dick religiously bowed and saluted
each one, but at last his anger wore itself out and he only growled
when he saw one. They had been walking for perhaps a quarter of an hour
when a turn in the road disclosed what, at first sight, appeared to be
a light in the window of a house, but their murmurs of satisfaction
were quickly ended, for, as they approached they saw that the light was
the tail lamp of an automobile standing by the side of the road.

“Wait!” whispered Dick, seizing Roy by the arm. “Maybe it’s old Ewing
and the constable.”

“And where would they get an automobile?” asked Roy.

“They might; you can’t tell. Better let me go ahead and have a look
first.” But the others laughed him to scorn. Just then a second light
came into sight, and, as they were now close to the car, they saw that
some one had been leaning with it over the engine.

“She’s broken down,” said Chub. As they drew near, the man with the
lantern held it up until its rays shone on them, when, as though he
had hoped for better things, he turned indifferently away and began
to pull things from under the rear seat. It was a large car, seating
seven, and was painted gray with trimming of some darker color.

“Having trouble?” asked Chub, sympathetically.

“No, I’m just spending the night here from choice,” was the answer.

“Well, it’s a pretty spot,” laughed Chub. “Anything we can do for you?”
The man turned and regarded Chub, disgustedly.

“Yes, get out!”

“Of course!” said Chub. “That’s easy. I asked you a civil question,
though. Good night.”

“Hold on!” called the other. “I didn’t mean to be haughty. But I’ve
been stuck here since six o’clock and I don’t know yet what the
trouble is. That’s enough to make a man rather peevish, isn’t it?” He
laughed grudgingly. He was about twenty-one or -two years old, with a
good-looking, if at present not over clean, face, and a nice voice.

“I suppose so,” answered Chub. “You’ve had your supper though, haven’t
you?”

“Yes, I’ve had that.”

“Well, we haven’t. And we’ve been chasing around the country for an
hour and a half on foot. And we’re tired and hungry. I imagine we’re
entitled to a little peevishness too, eh?”

“That’s so,” said the other. “Where are you going?”

“No one knows,” said Chub. “We’re just walking along this road in the
hope that some day we’ll come to a place where we can get something to
eat. What do you think the chances are?”

“Well, you’d do better if you went the other way. You won’t find a
hotel or a store nearer than five miles in this direction.”

Dick groaned.

“I wish this old thing would go,” continued the automobilist. “Then I’d
help you out. I suppose you don’t know anything about these things?”
His glance ranged over the three faces.

“Well I don’t know that kind,” answered Chub, “but I’ve had a little
experience with a four-cylinder Adams. May be, though, if we start and
go over her again together we’ll find the trouble. Getting your spark
all right, are you?”

“Yes, the trouble is somewhere in the engine, I guess.”

Chub took off his coat and hung it on a fence post.

For a while Dick and Roy looked on, following the others around the car
in the glow of the lantern. Then Dick asked permission to get in and
sit down and he and Roy sank onto the cushions of the rear seats and
stretched their tired legs luxuriously. The minutes came and went. They
listened drowsily to the talk of Chub and the owner of the machine,
to the clink of tools, the turning of the crank. The full moon worked
itself out of a cloud bank and cast a faint radiance over the scene. A
breeze came rustling across a corn-field, and Roy reached down sleepily
and pulled a robe over him. By that time Dick was frankly slumbering.
A half-hour passed since their arrival. Suddenly, there was a grunt of
satisfaction from the automobilist, an amused laugh from Chub and a
jarring that awoke the boys in the tonneau. The engine was going.

“I don’t believe I’d ever have found that without you,” the owner was
saying gaily as he slammed the tool-chest shut. “Pile in now, and I’ll
give you a lift.”

“Is it all right?” asked Roy, drowsily.

“Yes, Siree; your friend here is a regular genius.”

“Yes, that’s my middle name,” answered Chub as he climbed into the
front seat. “Wake up, Dick, we’re going to supper!”

“I am awake. Where are we going to get it?”

“By jove!” muttered their new acquaintance. “I wonder, myself.” He was
silent a moment, but when the car was rushing along smoothly into the
flood of white light thrown by the powerful lamps, he turned his head.
“Look here, you fellows. My name’s Whiting, Joe Whiting, and I live
about seven miles down the road. All my folks are away for the summer
and I’m going myself to-morrow, and so things aren’t in very good shape
for guests. But if you chaps don’t mind bunking around on mattresses
and couches I’ll be glad to put you up for the night. Any way, I can
give you plenty to eat. What do you say?”

“If you weren’t steering,” answered Chub, “I’d fall on your neck! We
accept your kind invitation, Mr. Whiting. We are too far gone to have
any sense of decency left; we accept anything and everything you want
to offer.”

[Illustration: Dick and Roy slumbering]

“All right,” laughed Whiting, jovially. “That’s good. Do you fellows
mind going a bit fast?”

“Not a bit,” answered Roy and Dick in a breath. The big car shot
forward and the wind rushed by them. The road was fairly straight and
level and quite deserted, and the car tossed the miles behind in a way
that made the boys stare.

“Going all right now!” bawled Whiting in Chub’s ear.

“None too fast for me--Whoa!”

“What’s the matter?”

“Cap’s gone. It doesn’t matter, though.”

“Lost your cap? I’ll stop and you can--”

“Don’t do it,” begged Chub. “I couldn’t find it in a week--besides I’d
rather lose a dozen caps than have this stop!”

On they went into the white radiance. Trees and fences and poles rushed
toward them from the glare ahead and disappeared into the blackness
behind. The road was following the railroad now, and for an exciting
minute or two they raced a train and gained on it, and would have left
it behind, perhaps, had the road not swerved to the left and taken
them out of sight. There was a defiant shriek from the engine, a brief
glimpse of the lighted car windows through the trees and they were once
more alone, coasting down a long hill with only the whirr of the fan
to be heard. A few minutes later the car swept from the public road
through a stone-pillared gateway and circled up to a big house in which
a single light gleamed through the transom above the front door.

“Doesn’t look very gay, does it?” inquired their host. “I don’t doubt
the servant has gone to bed. We’ll run around and leave the machine, if
you don’t mind.”

They got out when the car had trundled itself into the garage and
stretched their cramped limbs.

“I don’t believe,” said Dick, “that I changed my position once all the
way. I had a sort of a notion that if I moved we’d go flying off the
road into the next county. That was a dandy ride, Mr. Whiting.”

“Glad you liked it. Come on now and let’s eat. I had dinner at six, but
can dally with a little supper. I’m afraid, though,” he added as he
locked the doors, “I can’t give you fellows anything hot except coffee.”

“Hot or cold, it’s all the same to us,” said Roy.

Mr. Whiting unlocked the front door and admitted them to a wide hall
and from there conducted them into a big library and flooded it with
light at the touch of a button.

“Make yourselves at home now. If you want to wash come on up-stairs.
You needn’t be afraid of making a noise, the place is empty except for
Williams and he’s at the back of the house and wouldn’t hear a sound if
he wasn’t.”

They trooped up after him to the bath-room and washed the dust from
hands and faces. Chub, smoothing his hair with the silver-backed
brushes which their host provided, encountered in the glass the gaze of
Whiting fixed on him speculatively.

“Say, what’s your name?” asked Whiting.

“My name’s Eaton,” answered Chub. “And my companions are Mr. Porter
and Mr. Somes. I beg your pardon, I’m sure; we ought to have introduced
ourselves before.”

“Oh, that’s all right; I only asked because it seems to me I’ve seen
you before somewhere.”

“It’s possible, I live in Pittsburg.”

“You didn’t have to tell,” said Dick, reproachfully.

“I’ve never been there,” said Whiting, “but all the same--Well, never
mind. Let’s go down and see what we can find.”

They found a good deal. Together they raided the pantry and refrigerator
and bore their booty into the dining-room and spread it helter-skelter
on the big mahogany table. Then they made coffee, about two quarts of
it, and if it wasn’t perfectly clear it at least tasted very, very good.
It was after nine o’clock when they sat down to supper and it was well
toward ten when they got up. It takes some time to satisfy such hungers
as Chub and Roy and Dick had. But, of course, they didn’t spend quite
all the time eating, for Whiting’s curiosity had to be satisfied and so
it was incumbent to narrate the adventure in search of milk. Whiting
thought that a fine joke and wished he had been along.

“I tell you what I’ll do, fellows,” he said. “In the morning I’ll take
you back in the car, if you don’t mind starting rather early, and you
won’t have much difficulty finding your boat in broad daylight. I hope
no one has stolen anything out of it, though.”

Back in the library the boys stretched themselves out comfortably in
the big leather chairs, and Whiting turned to Chub with;

“Say, Eaton, do you play ball?”

“Yes, some.”

“Only some, eh? I thought that maybe I’d seen you on the ball field,
but--”

“He’s a fibber,” said Dick. “He was captain of his freshman team this
year and played on the ’varsity in the big game.”

“Jupiter!” cried Whiting. “I remember now! You’re the chap they put in
for Pritchett at the end of the game; you stole home and won the game!
That was all right, Eaton!” Whiting beamed across at him. “Thunder, I’m
glad I picked you fellows up! I’m a junior next year. You must come
and see me. Are you in college, too?”

“Yes,” answered Roy. “I’m in the same class with Chub, and Dick enters
in the fall.”

“That’s fine! It was good luck that I came across you to-night. If I
hadn’t I’d been stuck back there in the road yet!”

After that there was plenty to talk about, you may believe, and it
was well toward midnight when they climbed the stairs and distributed
themselves around the empty bedrooms.

“I suppose I might find sheets and blankets and things,” said Whiting,
apologetically, “but the mater has them put away somewhere and I
wouldn’t know where to look for them. But if a couple of you chaps will
only take my bed I’ll be perfectly comfortable in another room.”

“So will we,” said Chub. “Don’t you bother. A good hair mattress like
this is all a fellow needs, anyway; and it’s too warm for covers if we
had them. We’ll be all right, thank you. But you’ll have to wake us up
in the morning. I feel as though I could sleep for a week!”

“That’s all right; you’ll be called early enough. I told Williams to
have breakfast at seven. I’ve got over a hundred miles to do in the
car to-morrow and want to get started early. Good-night, fellows. I do
hope you’ll be comfortable.”

“If I felt any better,” murmured Chub, sprawled out on a big wide bed
which he was to have all to himself, “I’d certainly yell. Good-night,
Whiting. May you be forever blest!”

They slept finely, were up at half past six, had shower-baths, and were
seated around the table at a little after seven. Williams tried hard
not to show the astonishment he felt at finding the family circle so
suddenly and inexplicably enlarged, but didn’t altogether succeed. At
eight they were in the car again, retracing their path of the night
before, Chub attired in a plaid cap which his host insisted on his
accepting. It was a wonderful golden morning with the bluest of blue
skies overhead and an innocent-looking pile of fluffy white clouds in
the west, which Whiting declared meant a thunder-storm later on. But no
one was troubled about that. The big gray car was on its best behavior,
and in less than half an hour they were back in the vicinity of the
_Slow Poke_. After some hesitation, they decided on a spot to be set
down and bade their new friend good-by.

“Mind you look me up in the fall,” he reiterated. “I want to introduce
you to some of the fellows I know; you’ll like them. Good-by and good
luck. Hope you find your boat.”

He was off again in a cloud of dust and the three turned and plunged
into the woods. Their judgment was not in error, for after a minute or
so they came out on the shore of the cove. Twenty yards away lay the
_Slow Poke_.

“Thank goodness!” said Roy, devoutly. “I thought--”

But he didn’t tell what he thought. Instead, he stopped suddenly in his
tracks, and Chub and Dick stopped with him.

Sitting on the rail of the _Slow Poke_, his gun across his knees, was
Farmer Ewing.



CHAPTER XI

MR. EWING IS OUTWITTED


“Well, what do you think of that?” gasped Chub.

The boys stared at Mr. Ewing in vexation, and Mr. Ewing regarded the
boys with grim placidity.

“Just as though he hadn’t made trouble enough for us,” muttered Dick.

“Well,” said Roy, starting on determinedly, “I’m not going to put up
with any more of his nonsense.”

“That’s all right,” cautioned Chub, “but remember, chum, that he has a
gun there.”

They walked along the bank until they were opposite the boat. Mr.
Ewing watched them silently, his gaze resting with interest on Dick.
Evidently he couldn’t account for Dick. Chub made the first overtures.

“Salutations,” he called.

“Mornin’,” responded the farmer. A silence followed.

“Want to see us, did you?” asked Chub, cheerfully.

“Ye-es,” drawled the farmer, “I wanted to have a few words with ye.”

“We are deeply honored, sir. Tell the gentleman how deeply honored we
are, Roy.” But Roy only growled. The farmer sniffed.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“We’re coming aboard,” replied Chub, making ready to leap the yard of
water that intervened between shore and boat.

“You just stay where you are,” said the farmer, patting his gun stock
significantly.

“But that’s our boat!” cried Roy, wrathfully.

“Maybe, maybe; chances are you stole it, though,” replied Mr. Ewing,
calmly.

“Well, you’re the most suspicious man I ever did see,” declared Chub,
disgustedly. “Suppose we insist on going aboard; what’s going to
happen?”

“I might have to put a load of buckshot in your legs,” answered the
farmer, showing his yellow fangs in a grim smile. “This boat is
confiscated.”

“You don’t say? What for?”

“Pendin’ the arrival of the constable. You can talk to him when he gets
here; I guess he’ll answer all the questions you want to ask him.” The
farmer chuckled. Roy appeared to be in real danger of exploding with
anger.

“Leave this to me,” whispered Chub. Then, “and about how long do you
think we’ll have to wait for the constable?” he inquired of Mr. Ewing.
The farmer cast an eye toward the sun.

“About half an hour, I guess,” he replied. “He promised to be over
about nine.”

“As early as that, eh?” murmured Chub, reflectively. “I hate to put
him to so much trouble. I do hope you and he didn’t lose much time
last night looking for us. We were so sorry we couldn’t stay until you
returned, but we had an engagement we just had to keep.”

“Don’t you bother about me,” growled the farmer. “Think you’re pretty
smart, I guess, don’t ye? Maybe you did fool me last night, but I sort
o’ guess I’ve got ye this time, eh?”

“It does look like it,” admitted Chub, reluctantly. “But then you’re
too smart for us, anyway, I suppose.”

“Huh,” grunted the farmer, suspiciously.

“We might as well sit down and take it easy while we wait,” said Chub
to the others. “Me for a nice spot in the shade.”

He moved down the shore a little way and Roy and Dick followed. When
they sat down under the shade of the trees they were out of hearing of
the farmer.



CHAPTER XII

THE TABLES TURNED


“Anybody got anything to suggest?” Chub asked softly.

“If we rushed him all at once, the three of us,” said Dick, “we could
get aboard all right. You know very well he wouldn’t dare shoot at us.”

But Chub shook his head.

“He’s such an old sour-face, he’s likely to do anything. What do you
say, Roy?”

“I’ll risk it if the rest of you will,” he said, angrily. “I’d like to
throw him into the water.”

“A bath wouldn’t do him any harm,” said Chub, “unless he caught cold
from it. But I’ve got a better scheme, I think. We can’t afford to let
the constable find us here. If he does it’ll take a week to convince
him that we aren’t robbers. Now, listen. I’ll go back through the woods
as though I was going to the road. You fellows stay here and if he asks
where I’ve gone tell him I’ve gone to look for the constable. When I
get out of sight I’ll get some of my things off and sneak down to the
river again on the other side of the point. Then I’ll swim back quietly
and get aboard on the other side. He won’t be able to see me and you
fellows mustn’t look at me because he might catch on.”

“But what are you going to do when you get aboard?” asked Roy
dubiously. Chub’s brown eyes twinkled merrily.

“You leave that to me,” he said. “Come to think of it, you fellows had
better go back to the boat in about a couple of minutes and when you
see me coming get him talking; see? Make all the pow-wow you can, so he
won’t hear me. If he should hear me and go around the other side to see
what’s up, you fellows jump on board in a hurry. Got that?”

“Yes,” answered Roy, “but you--you be careful, Chub.”

“It’ll be a long swim, won’t it?” asked Dick, anxiously.

“I won’t have to swim at all,” said Chub. “I’ll just float down with
the current. I’m off.” He got up and started aimlessly into the woods
in the direction of the road. They watched him go. So did the farmer.

“Hey, where’s he going?” he called.

“Says he’s going to look for your friend, the constable,” answered
Dick, carelessly.

“Ain’t no use in you running away,” said Mr. Ewing. “We’ll get ye.”

“Well, you don’t see us running away, do you?” asked Roy, haughtily.
“We haven’t done anything to run away for.”

“Don’t you suppose we might fix those ropes so’s we can let go in a
hurry?” asked Dick, softly.

“We can try it,” responded Roy, with a glance toward the river beyond
the point. “Wait a minute longer. Then we’ll go down there. Maybe we
can loosen the knots a bit.” He looked anxiously at his watch. It
showed the hour to be ten minutes to nine. “I hope that constable
doesn’t take it into his head to appear for a few minutes yet.”

“So do I. Shall we go now?”

“Yes, come along.”

They got up and sauntered back to where the _Slow Poke_ lay, Mr. Ewing
eying them suspiciously. The boat was moored fore and aft to two trees
growing near the bank. When they reached the first one Roy stopped and
started to undo the knot, while Dick kept on.

“Say, there’re chairs up there on the deck,” said Dick, pleasantly.
“Why don’t you get one? You must be tired sitting on that railing.”

“I’m pretty tolerable easy, thanks,” answered the farmer. “Here, you
there! What you doing to that rope?”

“Me?” asked Roy, innocently. “Just fixing it.”

“Well, leave it alone, do you hear?” The old shot-gun was pointed in
Roy’s direction and Roy thought it wise to obey, especially as he had
practically accomplished his purpose. Meanwhile Dick had seized the
occasion to give attention to the second rope, but the farmer spied him
before he could loosen the knot.

“Come away from there or I’ll let ye have this!” he shouted, angrily.
Dick came away and he and Roy sat down on the edge of the bank in the
sun, trying to look perfectly at ease. A swift glance upstream showed
them a dark object in the water floating slowly down with the current.
The object was Chub’s head. They didn’t dare look again until Chub was
almost abreast of the boat. Then,

“That was a pretty easy place to get out of you put us in,” said Roy.
The farmer blinked his eyes and motioned at Dick with his chin.

“You’d been there yet if it hadn’t been for him,” he said. “If I hadn’t
been alone there I guess it wouldn’t have happened.”

“You had Fido,” said Dick.

“He means Carlo,” explained Roy, amiably. “He’s a pretty smart dog,
isn’t he?”

“Guess you thought so,” chuckled the farmer. (Roy and Dick were
straining their ears for evidences of Chub’s arrival at the other side
of the boat.)

“Yes, he’s a nice dog,” said Roy, reflectively. “Of course he isn’t
much to look at, but, then, mongrels never are, I suppose.”

“He ain’t a mongrel,” said the farmer, indignantly. “He’s a pure-blooded
Saint Bernard, he is.” (Still there was no sound!)

“You don’t say?” asked Dick. “Funny how folks will talk to you when
they want to sell a dog, isn’t it? It just seems as though they didn’t
have any moral sense, doesn’t it?” (There was a sound now, just the
faintest sound in the world! Roy and Dick both plunged desperately into
conversation.)

“Dogs are funny things, anyway--” began Dick.

“I used to know a dog that looked just like Carlo,” Roy declared with
enthusiasm. “He was the knowingest thing--”

“Wasn’t he?” asked Dick, loudly and eagerly.

“Why, that dog knew more than any farmer I ever met!” almost shouted
Roy. “Just to show you how knowing he was, Mr. Ewing--!”

Then Roy stopped with a grin on his face and he and Dick looked past
the farmer until that worthy’s curiosity got the better of him and
he turned likewise, turned to look into the twin muzzles of Chub’s
shot-gun, which the owner, damp and cheerful in his scant attire, held
a yard from the farmer’s head.

Mr. Ewing’s jaw dropped comically.

“Wh-wh-what--” he stammered.

“Kindly lean your gun against the railing, Mr. Ewing,” said Chub,
softly. “Thank you. Now get down and jump ashore, please.”

“I--I’ll have you fellers put in prison for this!” growled the farmer.
But he was far more subdued than they’d ever seen him, and he swung his
long legs over the railing and strode to the gangway at the rear. “What
you going to do with my gun?” he demanded.

“Never you mind about your gun,” said Chub. “You git!”

Mr. Ewing “got.”

“Throw off those ropes, fellows,” said Chub, “and bring them aboard.”
He picked up the farmer’s gun, unloaded it, and tossed it onto the
bank. “Nothing but birdshot, after all,” he scoffed as he glanced at
the shells.

Mr. Ewing only grunted as he picked up his gun. Then,

“You’re a pretty cute lot, you are, but you wait until the next time,
by gum!”

“There won’t be any next time, by gum,” laughed Chub.

Dick and Roy, keeping watchful glances on the farmer, brought the ropes
aboard.

“Start her up,” said Chub to Dick. Then he handed his shot-gun to Roy.
“See that he doesn’t try any tricks,” he said. “I’ll go up and take
the wheel. I want to get out of here before the constable comes.”

The farmer stood a little way off observing them sourly. The propeller
began to churn and the _Slow Poke_ waddled off into deep water. Chub
threw the wheel hard over and the boat swung its nose around until it
pointed down-stream. Then he called for full speed and the _Slow Poke_
made off in a hurry.

“My love to Carlo!” cried Chub from the wheel-house.

“Tell him I hope he chokes!” added Roy vindictively.

At that moment a man in a faded blue coat with brass buttons came out
of the woods and hurried toward the farmer. Hasty explanations followed
on the part of the latter.

Chub put his lips to the speaking-tube.

“Got her full speed, Dick?” he called.

“Yes,” was the answer.

“All right. Our friend, the constable, has arrived. Keep her going.”
The _Slow Poke_ was now far out of the cove and making good time down
the river. Roy waved a polite farewell to the two figures on shore; the
whistle croaked, and the next minute the wooded point had shut them
from view. Roy hurried up to Chub.

“What are you going down the river for?” he asked.

“Because they may send out warrants for us,” answered Chub. “I want
them to think we’re going this way. After a while we’ll turn around, go
over toward the other shore and come back. I’ve got to get rid of these
wet clothes.”

When he came back, once more in conventional attire, he headed the boat
across to the opposite shore, turned her and crept upstream again. Roy
brought his field-glasses up and they searched the shore of the cove as
they went by. But there was no one in sight.

“I wonder if he’s had enough?” pondered Roy.

“I’ll bet he hasn’t. I’ll bet if we came back here fifty years from
now we’d find him sitting on the fence outside his gate with that old
popgun in his lap, waiting for us. You don’t know the--the indomitable
will of our dear friend, Job Ewing.”

“Jim,” corrected Roy.

“Pardon me; I meant to say James. No, Jim won’t forget us in a hurry,
and I think it will be wiser to keep on this side of the river for a
while. That’s Westchester County over there and this is Rockland. I
don’t know much about such things, I’m pleased to say, but it seems to
me that if that old farmer gets out a warrant for us we’ll be better
off in some other county.”

“What are you going to do about your coat and things, though?” Roy
asked.

“Get ’em this evening,” answered Chub, “when the shades of night have
fallen over hill and vale. Let’s put in around that point there and
stay until then, shall we? I don’t believe they can see us from the
other shore.”

Dick joined them and they talked it over and finally agreed to Chub’s
plan. The _Slow Poke_ was steered around the point and anchored--since
a shallow beach made it inadvisable to stretch lines ashore--near a
little village. The railroad ran along within a few yards and a tiny
station was in sight. But the point of land cut them off from sight of
Farmer Ewing’s neighborhood and they believed that they could spend the
day there safely. They went ashore and made a few purchases and learned
that the nearest ferry was four miles up the river.

“That would mean a good five miles upstream and four miles back if they
tried to get us that way,” said Chub. “And I don’t believe they’d go to
that trouble. Besides, it’s safe that they think we’re still going down
the river.”

“Just the same,” said Dick, “one of us had better keep a lookout all
the time so that if they did try to get us we could skip out.”

“Right you are, Dickums. Yours is the wisdom of the owl and the cunning
of the serpent.”

They spent a quiet day. They would have liked to go ashore and tramp,
but didn’t dare leave the boat lest the relentless Mr. Ewing should
descend upon it in their absence. So, instead, they read and wrote
letters on the upper deck under the awning, which was stretched for
the first time. To be sure, they had been away from home only two
days, but, as Roy pointed out, more had happened to write about during
those two days than was likely to happen in the next two weeks, and
they might as well make the most of it. The quiet lasted until about
four o’clock when Whiting’s thunder-storm, which had been growling
menacingly for an hour or more, descended upon them in full fury. There
was a busy time getting the awning down again, and then, somewhat
damp, they retreated to the forward cabin and watched the rain lash the
river and listened to the roaring of the storm. It was all over in half
an hour, leaving the air cool and refreshing. They had a good supper
and afterward, at about eight, pulled up anchor and headed the _Slow
Poke_ diagonally down the river until it was opposite the place where
Chub had undressed and left his coat. There Chub jumped into the tender
and rowed ashore. The others watched anxiously while the _Slow Poke_
sauntered along with the current but in five minutes Chub was back
again, his clothes in a bundle in the bottom of the tender.

“Didn’t see a soul,” he answered in response to the questions of the
others. “Start her up, Dick, and we’ll go back.”

It wasn’t so easy to sleep that night, for the trains went rushing by
on an average of every half hour, shrieking and clattering. But they
managed to doze off at intervals until well toward morning when, having
become inured to the racket, they slept soundly until the alarm-clock
in Chub’s bedroom went off.

“I move you,” said Chub at breakfast, “that we get out of this
vicinity as soon as we can. I’ve had enough excitement to last me for a
month. I’m for the silent reaches and the simple life!”



CHAPTER XIII

CHUB TRIES A NEW BAIT


I could write in detail of the next three days, but the narrative
would only bore you, for nothing of special interest happened. In
brief, then, they made an early start the morning after the escape
from Mr. Ewing and the arm of the law, and were soon rounding the bend
in the river opposite Peekskill. By one o’clock they were in sight of
West Point and so kept on until they found a mooring at the steamboat
pier. There they ate dinner and afterward spent two hours “doing” the
Military Academy. Dick declared that if they didn’t see another thing,
that alone was worth the whole trip, and the rest agreed with him. At
twilight, they sidled the _Slow Poke_ across to shore almost under
the frowning face of Storm King. There was deep water there, and when
the mooring ropes were made fast they could step from the deck of the
house-boat right onto the bank. The map showed dozens of streams and
several small ponds, and it was decided that they would remain there
for a while and try the fishing. They slept on board that night, but
the next afternoon they rigged the little shelter tent which they had
brought between the trees at a little distance from shore, and made
camp. Dick and Roy fashioned a fireplace of stones and when the weather
was fair the meals were prepared over a wood fire. Chub declared that
he preferred the flavor of wood smoke to kerosine. For two days they
tramped around the neighboring country and fished to their hearts’
content, finding several good trout pools. It was on the second day
that Chub caught his “two-pounder.” To be sure, Dick and Roy declared
that it didn’t weigh over a pound and a quarter, but Chub retorted that
that was only their jealousy and that if there was a scales on board he
would soon prove his estimate correct. But there wasn’t a scales to be
found and so Chub’s claim was never disproved. He held the trout out at
arm’s-length while Roy photographed it, and when the picture developed
the fish looked like a salmon rather than a trout.

“You might as well call it a ten-pounder as a two,” said Dick. “Anyone
would believe you. Why, that fish is half as big as you--in the
picture!”

Chub viewed him sorrowfully and shook his head.

“That,” he replied, “would not be the truth, Dickums. When you know me
better you’ll find that not even a fish can tempt me from the path of
honesty. Perhaps, however, there wouldn’t be any harm in calling it a
three-pounder; what do you think?”

Roy and Dick had good luck, too, although their trout were smaller than
Chub’s “two-pounder,” and during their stay at Camp Storm King, as they
called it, they had all the fresh fish they could eat.

The day after Chub’s famous catch he informed the others that he was
going back to the scene of his victory for another try.

“We’ll all go,” said Roy, pleasantly, with a wink at Dick. “It must be
a dandy place.”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” replied Chub, shortly. “That pool is
my discovery.”

“Pshaw,” said Roy, “if I found a good place like that I’d want you to
try it.”

“Me, too,” said Dick. Chub viewed them scornfully.

“Of course you would,” he replied with deep sarcasm.

“Well, I would,” insisted Roy. “I’d be generous. Now--”

“I guess you’re like the Irishman,” said Chub. “His name was Pat.”

“It always is in a story,” murmured Dick.

“One day his friend Mike met him and said: ‘Pat, they tell me you’re
a Socialist.’ ‘I am,’ says Pat. ‘Well, now, tell me, Pat, what is a
Socialist?’ ‘A Socialist,’ says Pat, ‘is a feller that divides his
property equally. ’Tis like this, do you see: if I had two million
dollars I’d give you one million and I’d keep one million myself.’
‘’Tis a grand idea,’ says Mike. ‘And if you had two farms would you
give me one, Pat?’ ‘Sure would I,’ says Pat. ‘’Tis an elegant thing,
this Socialism,’ says Mike. ‘But, tell me, Pat, if you had two pigs
would you give me one?’ ‘Go ’long, now!’ says Pat. ‘You know I’ve _got_
two pigs!’”

“It’s a funny story,” said Roy, mournfully, “but I miss the application,
Chub.”

“You do, eh? Well, it just shows how easy it is to be generous with
something you haven’t got.” Whereupon Chub picked up his rod and
stepped ashore.

“You won’t get a bite!” called Dick.

Haughty silence from Chub as he walked away.

“You won’t bring home a thing!” This shot told.

“If I don’t bring home something as big as I did yesterday,” announced
Chub, grandly “I’ll--I’ll wash up the dishes!”

“That’s a go,” cried Dick. “Bad luck to you!”

They watched him disappear between the trees. Then Roy turned to Dick
with a grin. “Let’s follow him,” he said.

An instant later, carrying their rods, they were on Chub’s trail. They
went quickly and quietly, and soon had their quarry in sight. Chub was
ambling along very leisurely, whistling as he went. Presently they were
out of the woods and on a narrow road that was scarcely more than a
path. It wound along the bottom of the mountain for a half a mile or
so, running very straight and rendering it necessary for the pursuers
to keep in among the trees lest Chub should glance back. But it was
apparent that he had no suspicion. The road ran over or through several
small streams which came gurgling down the hill and at each of them
Roy and Dick expected to see Chub leave the road. But he kept on and
presently Dick gave signs of discouragement.

“Thunder,” he said, “I don’t believe he’s ever going to stop. This
isn’t much fun, Roy. Let’s quit. I’m all scratched up with these
branches.”

“Stop nothing!” answered Roy. “He can’t be going much further. Anyway,
the road curves pretty soon and then we can take it easy.”

Presently the road did curve, Chub was out of sight, and they left the
underbrush with sighs of relief.

“Have you any idea where this pool of his is?” asked Dick.

“Not the slightest. He and I started out together but he left me about
three o’clock and went down toward the river. We were fishing that
stream that comes down near the fork of the roads, you know; where we
were the first day. That’s about half a mile further, but I don’t see
why Chub has to go that far unless he can’t find his old pool any
other way. Here’s the turn. Careful, or he may see us.”

It was an abrupt curve and they went very slowly and softly until they
could see the stretch of road ahead. It was quite deserted!

“Shucks!” said Roy. “He’s got away from us, after all. Come on!”

They broke into a trot and hurried along, looking sharply to left and
to right as they ran. A moment or two later there was a rustling in the
woods near the turn of the road and Chub came cautiously out, a broad
smile on his face. Remaining in concealment, he watched his pursuers
until another turn of the road hid them. Then he cut a branch from a
small tree, sharpened one end of it, slit the other, and stuck it in
the middle of the road. Searching his pockets he, at length, brought
forth a crumpled piece of paper. Smoothing it out, he traced a single
word on it and stuck it in the cleft of the stick. Then, chuckling
aloud, he crossed the road and disappeared into the woods on the lower
side.

Some two hours later Roy and Dick came trudging back. They had five
trout between them, but they were all small ones. They were very
hungry and somewhat tired, and Roy almost walked into the stick in the
road before he saw the piece of paper. When he had read it he laughed
and handed it to Dick.

“‘Stung!’” read Dick. He grinned, crumpled it up, and tossed it aside,
and they went on for a moment without a word. Then,

“You have to get up pretty early to get ahead of Chub,” said Roy,
admiringly.

“Get up early!” quoth Dick. “You have to stay up all night!”

They trudged on home to the camp and dinner.

Meanwhile Chub was having hard luck. Fully a mile away, where a stream
rushed down a hill and paused for a while in a broad black pool lined
with rocks and alders, he had been fishing diligently for over an
hour with no success. He had tried almost every one of his brand-new
assortment of flies, but, to use his own expression, he hadn’t even
got a bid. It was getting along toward dinner-time, as his hunger
emphatically informed him, and he recollected his agreement with
regret. It wasn’t that he so much disliked to wash the dishes for
once--although as a matter of principle he always schemed to avoid
that task--but he hated to have Roy and Dick crow over him. And after
the way in which he had fooled them that morning, he had no doubt but
that they would crow long and loud!

He sat down on a convenient flat-topped stone and spread his fly-book
open beside him. It was a sunny day, but the pool was well shadowed
and perhaps, after all, a real brilliant fly wouldn’t be out of the
way. So he selected a handsome arrangement of vermilion and yellow
and gray--a most gaudy little fly it was--and substituted it for the
more somber one on his line. Then he cast again to the farther side
of the pool. For a while there was no reply to his appeal, and then
the fly disappeared and a moment later a gleaming trout was flapping
about under the bushes. It wasn’t such a bad little trout; Chub guessed
three quarters of a pound as its weight; and more hopefully now, he
flicked the pool here and there. But nothing else happened. At last,
discouraged, he reeled in his line and looked at his watch. The time
was a quarter past twelve. Even if he started back to the boat now,
he would arrive very late for dinner. Besides, he couldn’t face Roy
and Dick with only that insignificant trophy to show. If only he had
brought a luncheon with him! His eyes fell again on the trout and his
face lighted. Dropping his fly-book into his pocket and picking up rod
and fish, he turned his back on the pool and followed the stream as
best he could, winding in and out of the thickets and clambering over
the rocks that strewed the little vale.

Presently he was out of the thicket and before him lay a small clearing
in which waist-high bushes and trailing briars ran riot. The brook
spread itself out into a shallow stream and meandered off toward the
river, its course marked by small willows, alders, and rushes. Chub
found a clear spot in the shade of a viburnum and built a fire of dry
grass and twigs, adding dead branches as the flames grew. Fuel wasn’t
very easy to find, but by prospecting around he eventually had a
good-sized blaze. Then, warm and panting, he sat down out of the range
of the heat and prepared his trout. By the time it was ready the fire
had subsided to a bed of glowing coals. Wrapping the fish in leaves
he laid it on the embers and watched it carefully, turning it over
and over and raking the hot coals about it. After fifteen minutes of
cooking he took it off and laid it on a stone which he had meanwhile
washed in the brook. Then, with a couple of sharpened sticks he scraped
away the ashes and coals, and began his luncheon. Trout without any
other seasoning than wood smoke isn’t awfully appetizing, as Chub
speedily discovered, and he would have given a whole lot for a pinch
or two of salt. But it partly satisfied his hunger, and after he had
taken a drink of cold water from the brook he felt good for another two
or three hours’ fishing. He was determined not to go home until he had
something to show. He stretched himself out in the shade for a while
and rested. Then, picking up his rod once more, he returned to the
stream and sought a likely spot.

His search led him across the clearing and into a dense woods beyond.
Here the stream narrowed again and deepened, and he put another fly
on and tried his luck, wandering along from place to place. Twice,
inquiring fish nibbled at his fly, and once he hooked a small trout
only to lose it from the hook in landing. Then a full hour passed
without any results. It was almost three o’clock. The woods were
very warm and very still, only the ripple and plash of the brook
breaking the mid-afternoon silence. Even the birds were hushed. But
the mosquitoes, at least, were active, and Chub, hot and discouraged,
brushed them away and sighed for a breeze. Finally he sat down on the
ground and for the twentieth time viewed the contents of his fly-book
in perplexity. It seemed as though it contained every sort of fly that
the heart of trout could desire.

“Finicky things,” muttered Chub. “I’d just like to know what they do
want.” He picked out a pretty brown and gray fly tentatively. “That
ought to please any one. Maybe, though, they don’t like the taste of
them. I suppose, when you come to think of it, steel and feathers and
silk thread aren’t very appetizing--except to look at. If I was a trout
I’d much rather have a good worm or a nice, juicy grasshopper.”

He paused and stared thoughtfully at the flies. Then,

“Plagued if I don’t try it!” he murmured.

He got up and retraced his steps to the clearing. Ordinarily it’s the
easiest thing in the world to catch a grasshopper. All you have to do
is to stand still and the silly things will jump onto you; especially
if you happen to have on something white. But to-day Chub found the
grasshopper the most illusive of game, almost as illusive as trout!
With cap in hand, he crouched and jumped and ran and waited, missing
his prey time after time, and getting hotter and hotter and madder
and madder, until the perspiration streamed down his face and he was
mentally calling the grasshoppers all the mean names he could think
of. But perseverance is bound to win in the long run--and Chub had
plenty of long runs! And so, finally, he was trudging back, tired but
triumphant, with two hoppers firmly clasped in his hand. But it seemed
as though he was having more than his share of trouble to-day, for
although he had left rod and fly-book not more than fifty or sixty
yards from the edge of the clearing, he couldn’t find them for a long
while, and when he did he was so tuckered out that he had to lie on his
back for ten minutes before he could command sufficient energy to go on
with his experiment.

[Illustration: But Mister Trout didn’t want to come]

He sacrificed the most bedraggled of his flies, plucking off feathers
and silk, and then placed one of the grasshoppers on the hook. Looking
for a likely spot, he found it a few yards further down the stream
where the uprooted trunk of a big tree lay across the brook and made
a sort of dam. The bushes grew close to the bank and it was necessary
to make a short cast. The first attempt wasn’t a success, and he had
to wade into the pool and disentangle his leader from a stump. Then
he crawled out and tried again, assuring himself that he had already
scared every denizen of the pool into conniption fits and that, of
course, he wouldn’t get a bite. But the grasshopper had no sooner lit
on the surface than there was a sudden flash and the line spun out.

“Huh!” gasped Chub, his thumb on the reel. “That pleased you, didn’t
it? Come on, now.”

But Mister Trout didn’t want to come on. Instead, he had hidden himself
amongst the submerged roots of the trees. Chub wound in a foot or two
of line very gingerly, trying to coax the trout into deep water, and
the ruse succeeded. With a rush the fish darted from concealment and
sped upstream. But Chub brought him up with a turn that made the line
sing. Then he began to reel in. The trout fought valiantly and made a
good deal of trouble considering his size, and there were one or two
anxious moments for Chub. But in the end the victory was his, and back
among the stones lay the speckled beauty. It was a good ten inches long
and Chub beamed with delight. Now he could go home!

When he had secured his prize on a forked branch he released the other
grasshopper from the pocket of his fly-book.

“You’ve had a narrow escape,” he said, as the hopper flounced
bewildered away, “and considering the chase you led me I ought to feed
you to the fishes, too. But I won’t. Go on home, and don’t bat your
silly brains out against the rocks like that.”

At five o’clock Roy and Dick, who were beginning to get anxious about
Chub, beheld that young gentleman approaching camp. He had his rod in
hand, but no fish were in sight.

“Thunder!” said Dick. “I’ll wager he’s mad!”

“Had any dinner?” shouted Roy.

“Sure.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“Caught it and cooked it, of course. Say, he was a dandy! He was as
long--”

“Never mind about that,” laughed Roy. “You wash the dishes just the
same. You were to bring the fish home, you know.”

“Well, but I had to have something to eat, didn’t I?” asked Chub, with
a grin.

“That wasn’t in the bargain,” answered Dick. “You’re dish-washer
to-night.” Chub stepped aboard, reached under his coat, and laid his
trout on the railing.

“Is that so, Dickums?” he asked quickly. The others stared a moment.
Then,

“Great Scott!” murmured Dick.

“You win,” sighed Roy.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CREW ENTERS SOCIETY


“What day of the month is this?” demanded Roy.

“Fourteenth,” hazarded Chub.

“Fifteenth,” answered Dick, doubtfully.

“We need a calendar,” said Roy, looking vaguely about the cabin. “But
whether it’s the fourteenth or fifteenth, fellows, we ought to write to
Harry. She’s going home the twentieth and we promised to be there in
three weeks. That would be the twenty-first.”

“That’s so,” said Chub. “We’ve only got seven more days. You write,
Roy, like a good chap.”

“What shall I say?”

“Just tell her we’ll be along the twenty-first. Of course, we don’t
have to start right off after we get there. I think it would be fun to
stay there a while, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Roy left the window-seat on which he had been stretched and went
over to the table to write. “Let me take your fountain-pen, Dick, will
you? Mine’s dry.”

“You can take it if you can find it,” answered Dick, looking up from
his book. “I haven’t seen it since I loaned it to Chub yesterday.”

“Dickums, I gave it back to you,” responded Chub, gravely. “I remember
the circumstances perfectly; the whole thing comes back to me as though
it were but yesterday.”

“It _was_ but yesterday,” said Dick. “Look in your pocket.”

“Merely as a matter of form,” murmured Chub. “Why, here it is! How
strange! Some one must have put it there. Catch, Roy.”

Roy caught, opened the pen, and then gazed disgustedly from his fingers
to Dick.

“I should think you’d have a decent pen, Dick. This is the limit!”

“Never look a gift pen in the nib,” laughed Chub. “It is a pretty bad
one, though, and that’s a fact. Let’s serve notice on Dick that unless
he buys a good one we won’t borrow it any more.”

It was the second day after Chub’s success with the grasshopper bait,
and the second day of rain. Yesterday, it had merely showered at
intervals, and the three had half a day of good fishing, but since
about dawn it had been pouring torrents and they had been forced to
remain indoors save when, at about eleven, they had gone in bathing.
That had been good fun; there is a certain excitement about bathing in
a heavy downpour of rain that is missing under other conditions. Chub
had pretended to be disgruntled. “What’s the use of bathing,” he had
asked, “when you’re sopping wet before you get into the water?” But he
had enjoyed it as much as any of them.

The _Slow Poke_ stood the deluge well, all things considered. The rain
managed to get under the door of the after cabin until they spread
towels along the sill, and there was a small leak in the bedroom. But
Chub declared that he didn’t mind as long as it wasn’t over the bed.

“I think,” remarked Dick a few minutes later, laying down his book with
a yawn and glancing disapprovingly out of the rain-streaked windows,
“that we’ve had enough of this place. Let’s go on. What do you say,
Roy?”

“Ask the captain,” said Roy, sealing his note to Harry.

“Sounds like mutiny to me,” said Chub.

“For goodness’ sake, Dick, let’s mutiny and stop his talking about it!”

“Yes, why don’t you?” asked Chub, eagerly. “I’ve been looking forward
all along for a mutiny. I wish to put some one in irons and confine him
in the lazaret.”

“Lazaret nothing!” protested Dick. “The lazaret is where they put sick
folks.”

“Dickums,” responded Chub, superiorly, “without wishing to hurt your
feelings I’d like to say that you show a lamentable ignorance regarding
things--er--nautical. Let me prescribe for you a short course of Clark
Russell, W. H. G. Kingston, and Marryat.”

“I’ve read as many of Marryat’s as you have,” replied Dick, in injured
tones. “And I know that a lazaret is a hospital.”

“On some ships maybe, Dickums,” answered Chub, amiably, “but not on the
_Slow Poke_. And speaking of that, fellows, we haven’t changed her name
yet. I thought we were going to get some paint and fix it.”

“Well, you’re captain,” answered Roy.

“If I am not in error,” responded Chub, with dignity, “it is the able
seaman that does the painting, and not the captain.”

“The original question,” said Dick, “was, do we go on or do we stay
here?”

“We go on,” answered Chub. “If it stops raining before five o’clock
we’ll go on to-day. I, too, would visit new scenes. Besides, we must
get somewhere where we can post that note to Harry. Also, I shall buy a
newspaper and find out what the date is. Why, for all we know, to-day
may be yesterday or to-morrow. Think of eating yesterday’s supper
to-day!”

“I don’t want to kick,” said Dick, “but I think it would be jolly nice
to stop somewhere and get a good meal. It’s all right for you fellows,
because you don’t have to cook everything we have, but I’m getting
tired of eating my own cooking.”

Chub bounded out of his chair and pointed dramatically at Dick.
“Mutiny!” he cried. “Mutiny at last! Put him in irons, Roy; put him in
irons! Happy I am that I’ve lived to see this day!”

“Who’ll cook supper?” asked Roy.

“Oh, we’ll let him go before it’s time to cook supper. Get the irons,
Roy.”

“Where are they?”

Chub struck his forehead in despair, and sank back into his seat.
“Lost! lost! all is lost! We forgot to bring any irons!”

“We might keel-haul him or hang him from the yardstick,” suggested Roy,
hopefully.

“You mean yardarm, of course,” said Dick. “But there isn’t any, and I
don’t believe we’ve got a keel that deserves the name. So you’ll have
to think of something else. Meanwhile, I’m going to get this chap out
of trouble.” And he took up his book again.

“If he only showed the least bit of remorse,” sighed Chub, observing
him sadly, “I might be merciful. But this--this shameless effrontery
pains me. I tell you what, Roy, we’ll sentence him to make an omelet
for supper.”

“We haven’t any eggs,” said Dick, without looking up from his book.
Chub cast his eyes to heaven and groaned tragically.

“No eggs! no irons! Ye gods! haven’t we any of the necessities of life
on this ship? What have we got, Dick?”

“Beans, bacon, potatoes, bread, condensed milk, coffee, tea, butter,
canned peas and tomatoes, stewed apricots--”

Chub groaned.

“No more, I beg of you! I’m going to look at the map, fellows, and if
there’s a place we can reach by seven o’clock where we can buy a good
meal, we’ll go there, rain or no rain! What my soul demands is a course
dinner, with clams, soup, fish, roast, game, salad--” The rest was
lost, for he had disappeared up the iron stairway to the wheel-house.
Dick laid down his book again.

“I think I could stand a few of those things myself,” he said wistfully.

“So could I,” said Roy. “You’ve done mighty well, old chap, with what
you’ve had to cook, but there’s nothing like an occasional change. It
would be jolly if we could find a hotel, wouldn’t it? One of those
swell summer resort places where they have ten courses and four kinds
of dessert. What about it, Chub?”

“All aboard for The Overlook,” answered Chub gayly as he came down the
steps. “It’s only seven miles up on the other shore. Shall we start
now?”

“What is it, a hotel?” asked Dick.

“Yes, a big one, too. I’ve heard of it often. It’s where the swells go
in summer.”

“That’s the place for me, then,” replied Roy. “I don’t think it’s
raining as hard as it was. Let’s go out and have a look.”

Not only had the rain somewhat abated, but there were signs of
clearing. Twenty minutes later the _Slow Poke_ was on her way again.

That evening the captain and crew of the _Slow Poke_ “re-entered
society,” as Chub put it. They made a landing before six, finding a
convenient place a few hundred yards from a big hotel which stood on
a bluff almost overhanging the river, and at seven were seated at a
table in the great dining-room, fairly reveling in the feast. They had
dressed in their best clothes, and made a very presentable appearance.

“This,” observed Chub, as he spread a yard-square napkin over his knees
and looked at the menu, “is about what the doctor ordered. Shall we
dally with a little of the caviar, Roy, or descend at once upon the
cherrystone clams. Let us bear in mind that we have all the evening to
do justice to this meal, and not be hasty. The French, Dickums, draw
a fine distinction between a _gourmand_ and a _gourmet_. The former is
merely a glutton, while the latter is a connoisseur, an epicure. For
me, a few of the clams, a little of the consommé--with radishes and
cucumbers, some of the bluefish, a wee portion of the boiled fowl, a
slice of beef, some potatoes, cauliflower, beets, and--yes, macaroni
_au gratin_, a taste of the raspberry sherbet, a bit of the salad--”

“Oh, let up, for goodness’ sake!” begged Roy. “You make me feel as
though I had already had a big dinner. Let’s cut the clams out and get
down to business; I’m hungry. I want soup and lots of it. Pass the
bread, Dick.”

“You talk like a _gourmand_,” said Chub sorrowfully. “I beg of you not
to spoil your appetite with bread. Just cast your eye over the list of
things to come, Roy, and hesitate.”

“Don’t you worry,” answered Roy, his mouth full of bread and butter, “I
won’t let much get by me!”

An hour later, they were sipping their after-dinner coffee and dallying
with cheese and crackers. Then Chub settled a little lower in his chair
with a sigh of blissful satisfaction, and gazed benevolently about him.

[Illustration: They had dressed in their best clothes]

“I feel better,” he murmured, “much better.”

Dick took a long and careful breath.

“I’m not sure,” he said cautiously, “that I feel actually better, but
I’m sure I feel _different_. And I’d rather die of indigestion than
starvation any day!” Roy looked speculatively at the dining-room door.

“If you think we can walk that far,” he suggested, “let’s get out of
here.”

On the broad piazza they ran into a group of college friends of Roy
and Chub’s, and the rest of the evening was hilarious enough. By ten
o’clock, at which time they went back to the _Slow Poke_, they had
enlarged their circle of acquaintances until it included most of the
young folks at the hotel. The next morning they had breakfast aboard,
but didn’t linger long over it, for all sorts of delightful things
had been arranged. In the first place, there was tennis on the smooth
clay courts, Roy and Chub engaging in doubles with a pair of ambitious
friends who rather prided themselves on their prowess with racket and
ball. After four sets, Roy and Chub had induced a certain amount of
modesty in their opponents, having won three out of the four. Dick,
meanwhile, went down in defeat before a curly-haired sub-freshman. They
had luncheon at the hotel and went sailing afterward in some one’s
sloop. (It was at no time apparent whose boat it was, for out of the
sixteen fellows who had crowded aboard, only one hesitated to give
orders, and that one only because he became seasick as soon as the
yacht left her moorings.) There was more tennis after the cruise was
completed, in which Dick found a foe he could triumph over. Then they
went back to the neglected _Slow Poke_ and “brushed up” for dinner.

“This social life is truly exciting,” observed Chub, strolling into the
forward cabin with a whisk broom in his hand. “Has anyone a nice red
tie to lend me?”

No one had, it seemed. Dick ventured the opinion that a red tie was
not a proper adjunct to a dinner costume, and that precipitated a
discussion that lasted until they were ready to climb the hill to the
hotel, Chub asserting that with a blue serge suit nothing was more
chaste and recherché than a nice bright red scarf.

“And, anyway, you wild Westerner,” he shouted from across the passage,
“it’s not for the likes of you to be setting up as an authority on
masculine attire. If you had your way you’d go to dinner in chaps and a
sombrero!” When they had reached the table, Chub glanced over the menu
with a disappointed expression, and shook his head. “That’s the trouble
with these hotels,” he said. “There’s no variety. This bill’s just
about the same as last night’s. The only difference is that they’ve
called the soups by different names and substituted flounder--which
they call sole--for bluefish.”

“The ice-cream’s different,” said Dick cheerfully. But Chub refused to
be placated.

“It has another name,” he said darkly, “but you wait until you try it.
It will taste the same as last night’s!”

But he recovered his equanimity as the meal progressed. He heroically
denied himself a second helping of cream pie, recalling the fact that
there was to be a hop that evening. “It’s hard enough for me to hop
anyway,” he said, “and if I ate any more pie, I wouldn’t be able to
move out of my chair.” But thanks to his self-denial Chub was able to
do his full duty on the ball-room floor, and was ably assisted by Roy.
Dick, however, preferred to sit on the piazza and swap yarns with the
curly-haired sub-freshman, and it was not until he had been forcibly
assisted through a window onto the dancing floor, that he consented to
uphold the honor of the _Slow Poke_, as Chub eloquently put it.

The next day, the second of their stay, they gave a luncheon on board
the house-boat. Dick cooked the viands and they were served under the
awning on the upper deck. The menu was neither varied nor extensive,
but each of the invited guests vowed that they had never tasted
anything better. And, of course, it was lots of fun. Even when Dick
spilled the chops all up and down the steps and had to wipe them off
before he could serve them no one grumbled. In fact you’d have thought
that the party preferred their chops that way! After luncheon the _Slow
Poke_ was persuaded to sidle out into the stream, and for an hour she
waddled up or down the river. Every one of the guests insisted on
signing articles with Captain Chub at once, and it required all of the
latter’s tact and diplomacy to ward them off.

“I wish you fellows could come along,” he said, “but you see how it
is. We’ve got to go on up to Ferry Hill and get Doctor Emery and his
daughter, so there won’t be much room.”

Whereupon one of the more enthusiastic fellows declared that he’d ask
nothing better than to sleep on deck, and the other seven echoed him.
It required a deal of argument to persuade them of the impracticability
of the plan. There was another jolly evening at the big hotel, and then
the three bade good-by to their old friends and new, for the _Slow
Poke_ was to go on her way again in the morning. But when morning came,
they found that they were not to leave unattended, for half a dozen of
the fellows had gathered on the landing to see them off and wish them
good luck.

“See you in September,” they shouted as the _Slow Poke_ ambled away.
“Don’t get arrested for exceeding the speed limit.”

“Stop when you come back, fellows! Don’t forget!”

“I’m going to practise serving, Somes! I’ll beat you this Fall!” (This
from the curly-haired sub-freshman.)

Chub tooted the whistle frenziedly, there was much waving of caps, and
the landing fell away astern.

The _Slow Poke_ made good time that day. They stopped above Poughkeepsie
for dinner and in the afternoon went on up against a stiff tide as far
as Kingston. It was a day of alternate sun and cloud and the scenery on
both sides of the broad stream merited all the attention they gave it.
For the most part, when not busy with navigation, they sat under the
awning and were beautifully lazy. Just before sunset, they tied up to
the bank and prepared supper. Their three days of hotel living had quite
restored their appetite for the plainer fare which Dick provided, and
they went at their meals with keen appreciation. They went early to bed,
for it was the evening of the eighteenth and they were due at Ferry Hill
on the twenty-first, and there remained a full forty miles to be covered.
There was an early start the next morning, and that day and the next the
_Slow Poke_ attended strictly to business, and climbed the river slowly
but surely. The only incident of moment occurred on the twentieth when,
having stopped for dinner at a little village and moored to the side of
a ferry slip, the sign on a neighboring building caught Roy’s eye.

“Paint, Varnish, Wall Paper,” announced the sign. He pointed it out to
the others, and after dinner they delayed the voyage for the better
part of an hour while the name on the bow of the boat was changed
from _Jolly Roger_ to _Slow Poke_. Dick did the new lettering, and if
it wasn’t exactly perfect it, at least, answered its purpose. In the
course of the afternoon they were forced to stop and take on gasolene,
and Dick improved the opportunity to lay in a new store of cylinder
oil. For the rest of that day, whenever he disappeared they had only
to peek in at the door of the engine-room to find him spattering oil
lovingly and enthusiastically over the engine and adjacent territory.

“It isn’t that I mind the expense so much,” muttered Chub, “but I hate
to think what would happen if any one carelessly dropped a match in
this part of the boat. She’s so saturated with that smelly oil that
she’d simply go up in a burst of flame.”

“No engine will run smoothly without plenty of oil,” grumbled Dick.

“I don’t expect it to, Dickums, but there’s such a thing as being
overkind. Some morning you’ll wake up and find that poor engine
floating lifelessly on a sea of cylinder oil. You’re simply drowning
it!”

The morning of the twenty-first found them still some twenty miles
below Ferry Hill and the _Slow Poke_ was put at her best pace in the
hope of reaching her destination by luncheon-time. And she responded
nobly to the demand, nosing her way up to the boat-house landing at
Ferry Hill shortly before one o’clock.



CHAPTER XV

HARRY GOES TO SEA


“Back to the old home,” murmured Chub, as he leaned over the railing
of the upper deck and let his gaze travel over the scene before him.
Beside the landing at the right was the boat-house; to the left, the
little stretch of white beach; before him, the winding path leading
upward through a thick grove of rustling trees. Afar up on the hill,
the tower of School Hall showed above the tree-tops. Roy, on the float,
took a final hitch in the bow line, straightened himself, and looked
about.

“Things haven’t changed much, have they?” he asked.

“Can’t expect them to, in less than a year,” answered Chub.

“There’s Hammond over there,” muttered Roy, shading his eyes and
looking across the glittering river.

“Well, that’s just where we left it,” laughed Chub. “And Harry’s Island
is in the same place, too, strange as it may seem. And the river still
flows to the south, and--”

“Oh, yes,” said Roy. “But I don’t think much of the welcome they’ve
provided, do you?”

“I do not,” answered Chub, with emphasis. “I expected at least a brass
band and a collation.”

“Bother the brass band,” said Dick, appearing from the engine-room
wiping his oil-stained hands on a piece of waste. “But a collation has
a cheerful sound.”

“I thought surely that Harry would be here,” said Roy, with a trace of
disappointment. “I wonder if she’s back.” He looked up the path.

“Maybe she didn’t get that letter,” suggested Dick. “If she didn’t she
wouldn’t know when to look for us. And here we have invited ourselves
to luncheon!”

“Let me see,” inquired Chub, “we posted that letter at the hotel,
didn’t we?”

“Of course,” answered Dick. “Roy wrote it that afternoon; don’t you
remember?”

“I remember his writing it,” said Chub, “but I never saw it afterward.
Did you mail it at the office, Roy?”

“Yes--er--I guess so. I put it in my pocket when we went to dinner.”

“Ten to one, you didn’t mail it!” exclaimed Dick.

“Suppose you look in your pocket,” Chub suggested. Roy walked into the
forward cabin with a frown on his face. Chub and Dick grinned across at
each other. In a moment Roy returned with the letter in his hand and
looking very sheepish.

“It was in the pocket of my blue serge,” he announced. The others
looked disgusted.

“You’re a nice one!” exclaimed Chub. “Here we are with nothing on board
for luncheon and no one to invite us to the Cottage.”

“I’m awfully sorry,” muttered Roy. “I don’t know how I came to forget
it.”

“Well, there’s bacon and potatoes, isn’t there?” he added with an
attempt at cheerfulness.

“Bacon and potatoes!” growled Chub. “I’m sick of bacon and potatoes!”

“And I’m sick of cooking ’em!” added Dick. “I thought we were going to
get a good luncheon at the Cottage.”

“Well, why not go up and call on the Doctor and Mrs. Emery?” asked
Chub. “They’ll be certain to ask us to lunch.”

“It looks too cheeky,” said Roy.

“Think of your minding that!” murmured Chub. Then, “I know!” he
exclaimed. “We’ll blow the whistle and maybe some one will come!”

“Good idea!” Dick cried. He darted into the wheel-house and in a moment
the whistle was screeching loudly. “That ought to fetch some one,” said
he.

_Toot-toot-! Toot-toot-toot!_ said the whistle. Dick kept up the racket
for a full minute, and then they awaited results. Several more minutes
passed.

“What time is it?” asked Dick. Chub looked at his watch.

“Almost a quarter past one,” he replied. “And they have luncheon at
one.”

Dick groaned.

“Listen!” exclaimed Roy. From up the hill came a faint shrill cry.

“It’s Harry!” Chub exclaimed. He scrambled down to the landing just as
a white-clad figure came into sight up the path.

“Ship ahoy!” she called, gleefully, using her hands as a megaphone, and
there was an answering shout of joy in chorus from the boat. The next
moment they were all shaking hands on the landing, laughing and talking
together in a babel of sound.

“I thought you weren’t coming!” cried Harry. “You promised to write and
you never did it!”

Harriet Emery, or Harry, as she preferred to be called, was the
daughter of Doctor Emery, the Principal of Ferry Hill School. She
was sixteen years of age, or would be very shortly, and a charming
girl. She had pronouncedly red hair of a very pretty shade, a pair of
sparkling blue eyes, a somewhat pert, little, uptilted nose, and a
complexion which, in spite of the coat of tan which was beginning to
overspread it was very attractive.

“Well, you certainly have grown!” exclaimed Chub, backing off that he
might get the full effect of the graceful figure in its white dress.
“Skirts down and hair up,” he added with a shake of his head. “Harry,
you must come to Class Day next year. Will you?”

“Do you really think I’ve grown?” she asked, eagerly.

“Grown!” echoed Roy. “You look a whole foot taller!”

“That’s because she wears her hair that way,” said Dick.

“Dick Somes, it is not!” Harry turned upon him indignantly.

“Dick Somes, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” mimicked Chub.
“Don’t you mind him, Harry. He never did have any manners in spite
of my careful training. We were beginning to think you weren’t here,
Harry.”

“I didn’t know when you were coming, silly! Why didn’t you write? I’ve
been awfully anxious.”

“Write? Oh, but we _did_ write,” said Chub. “Didn’t you get Roy’s
letter?”

“Of course I didn’t,” replied Harry, suspiciously, glancing around her
at the preternaturally sober countenances. “I don’t believe you wrote.”

[Illustration: The next moment they were all shaking hands]

“How passing strange!” murmured Chub. “Roy, hand the lady her letter.
She appears to doubt my word.”

Roy laughed, and fished the missive from his pocket.

“You didn’t send it!” Harry exclaimed. Chub shook his head.

“No, we feared it might alarm you. We thought it better to bring it
along with us. You will see that we agreed to be here the twenty-first.
It is now the twenty-first. And here we are, right on time. Punctuality
is one of our principal virtues. Tell her some of the others, Dick.”

“The fact is,” owned Roy, “that I forgot to mail it, Harry. I’m awfully
sorry, really.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now that you’re here, does it?” asked Harry,
beamingly. “And doesn’t the _Jolly Roger_ look beautiful?”

“She is no longer the _Jolly Roger_,” corrected Chub. “We have changed
the name to _Slow Poke_. After you’ve been on her awhile you’ll know
why. But she does pretty well. I take very good care of her. Of course,
if I had a capable, intelligent crew, I might do much better, but--”

“Chub, you’re just as silly as ever!” said Harry, severely. “I should
think that going to college would make you more sensible.”

“It will take more than a year to affect him that way,” said Dick.

“Oh, I’m so glad to see you all!” exclaimed Harry, beaming from one to
another of the trio. “But we must hurry back because luncheon is on the
table and I told mama I’d bring you right up.”

The boys gazed at each other and smiled covertly. Chub shook his head
regretfully.

“It’s very nice of you, Miss Emery, and we appreciate your
thoughtfulness, but the fact is that Dick had just announced dinner
when you appeared. So I think we had better decline your invitation.”

“Now that’s perfectly horrid!” cried Harry in disappointment. “_Please_
come, Chub!”

Chub hesitated, frowning tensely. Dick and Roy grinned. At length--

“Very well, if you put it that way,” acceded Chub. “I never could
refuse a lady. We will go, even against our inclinations. Dick, clear
the viands from the board.”

Dick and Roy burst into laughter, while Harry looked perplexedly from
them to Chub’s grave countenance.

“There aren’t any viands,” blurted Dick. “We haven’t anything but bacon
and potatoes.”

“Oh!” said Harry. “Chub Eaton, you’re a dreadful fibber! It would just
serve you right if I--if I recalled my invitation.”

“Jehoshaphat!” shrieked Chub, leaping up the path. “I won’t give you
a chance! I’ll tell your mother you’ll be right up.” They heard him
scrambling up through the grove ahead of them. But when they reached
the gate in the hedge which divided the school grounds from the woods
Chub was awaiting them. “We will all go in together,” he announced with
dignity. “It will look much better.”

So they went across to the doctor’s residence, mounted the steps, and
found themselves in the little parlor shaking hands with Doctor and
Mrs. Emery and the latter’s sister, who was to remain at the Cottage
during the absence of Harry and her father.

Chub and Roy and Dick had been quite intimate with the doctor and
his wife during their school years, and the latter were unmistakably
glad to see them again. Luncheon was ready and they all trooped into
the dining-room. Of course, there was much to tell and the doctor
asked a good many questions of Chub and Roy regarding their college
experience. Afterward the conversation worked around to the cruise,
and Chub recounted their adventures up to date, winning more than one
hearty laugh from his audience. Mrs. Emery wanted them to bring their
luggage ashore and occupy beds in one of the dormitories during their
stay at Ferry Hill, but they declined the invitation, electing to stand
by their ship. It was agreed that the _Slow Poke_ was to remain at
Ferry Hill two days. Then the Doctor and Harry were to go aboard, and
the cruise was to continue up the river. There was only one dissenting
voice, and that was Dick’s.

“Seems to me,” he said, “we ought to turn around and go down stream a
while. The _Slow Poke’s_ been tussling with the current ever since we
started. We ought to give her a rest and let her float with the tide
for a while.”

“Oh, shucks,” Chub objected, “put some more oil on the engine, Dickums.
What’s the good of going over the same ground--I mean the same
water--twice? Let’s discover new worlds.”

So the majority had its way, as it usually does, and the _Slow Poke_
was slated for a fortnight’s trip up the river and back again.

After dinner every one went down to the landing and inspected the
house-boat, Roy murmuring excuses for the untidiness of the rooms. Mrs.
Emery, however, declared that everything looked very neat, and that she
rather wished she were going, too. Whereupon Chub gallantly offered to
sleep on deck.

“What a dear little room!” Harry exclaimed when her room on the boat
was shown her. “It’s perfectly lovely!” Her father’s room adjoined it
and he, too, was delighted. The three boys “bunked” together in the
rear room.

Roy hurried in to summon Dick to his duties as engineer, as the ladies
wanted to go for a sail. The _Slow Poke_ meandered up the river for a
couple of miles and the guests sat on the upper deck and said all sorts
of nice things about her and her crew. Harry was allowed to take the
wheel for a while, under Chub’s tutelage, and was highly pleased.

The boys remained at the school two days, during which time they
went to all their old haunts, played a good deal of tennis, and had a
thoroughly enjoyable time of it. They spent an afternoon on Harry’s
Island, which lay in the river just above the school, and talked over
the fun they had had the summer before while camping out there. The
island had been a birthday present to Harry from her father, and she
was very proud of it.

“When I get through college,” she declared, “I’m going to build a house
here and live in it all my days. Won’t that be jolly?”

“Pshaw,” said Dick, “you’ll get married and maybe live a thousand miles
from here.”

“I shan’t,” answered Harry, seriously. “I’ve decided not to be married,
ever. I told Aunt Harriet so the other day and she said I was very
sensible.”

They visited Harry’s menagerie in the barn and renewed acquaintances
with Methuselah, the parrot, several Angora cats and kittens,
squirrels, guinea-pigs, rabbits, white mice and pigeons. [Snip, Harry’s
fox-terrier had long since welcomed them.] Methuselah looked not a whit
different from what he did when they had last seen him, and, although
it is doubtful if he remembered even Dick, he acted quite cordially
and nipped Roy’s finger in quite an intimate manner.

“Do you think,” asked Harry, anxiously, “that Snip would be in the way
on the boat?”

“Of course not,” answered Chub. “We’re going to take him along,
aren’t we, Snip?” And Snip wagged his stump of a tail in enthusiastic
affirmation.

They were to leave in the morning, and Harry spent most of that
afternoon in the kitchen making pies and doughnuts, Mrs. Emery
assisting. Chub, being missed from the tennis court, was discovered
sitting on the kitchen doorsteps sampling the baking.

“How many has he had, Mrs. Emery?” Roy demanded.

“Only one or two, haven’t I, Mrs. Emery?” cried Chub.

“Well, not very many,” responded that lady smilingly.

“Chub Eaton, you’ve had four to my certain knowledge!” exclaimed Harry,
who, with a blue-checked apron tied under her chin and very flushed
cheeks, was superintending the frying of a new batch of doughnuts.

“Then you’ve had quite enough,” said Roy firmly. “And it’s back to
tennis court for you, Chub.”

However, they postponed the carrying out of the verdict long enough to
do some sampling themselves. “They’re perfect,” was Dick’s verdict,
“but I miss the almond flavor, Harry.” Whereupon Harry grew very much
redder and it was discovered that her mother had never learned of her
experiment in adding almond extract to the doughnut recipe the summer
before. So Chub told about it and Harry declared that he was too mean
for words and shouldn’t have another bite of anything.

The next morning after breakfast the luggage was taken aboard, the
doctor’s being largely composed of books and papers, and at ten o’clock
all hands were at the landing, Snip being so excited that he was
obliged to bark every instant. Doctor Emery pretended that the voyage
was to last for months at least and was very solicitous as to the
state of the larder. Mrs. Emery, her sister, and John, the gardener
and general factotum, were on hand to witness the departure and to
wave good-by as the _Slow Poke_ nosed her way free of the landing and
started off on the second stage of her voyage.

“Good-by, mama!” called Harry from the upper deck, waving a wisp of a
handkerchief frantically.

“Good-by!” called Mrs. Emery. “Don’t fall overboard!”

“I won’t,” promised Harry, earnestly.

And then caps and handkerchiefs waved busily until the _Slow Poke_
passed around the end of Harry’s Island and the landing disappeared
from view.

“And now,” cried Harry, ecstatically, “we’re really at sea!”



CHAPTER XVI

UNDER THE AWNING


Three idyllic days followed during which the _Slow Poke_, her white
paint freshly gleaming in the sunlight, bobbed and courtesied her way
up the long reaches of the river. It was wonderful weather for July,
pleasantly cool in the mornings and evenings and languorously hot in
the middle of the day. Chub still remained nominally master of the
ship, but to all intents and purposes the management of affairs had
passed into the small, sun-browned hands of Miss Harriet Emery. It was
Harry who ordered the lines cast off as soon as breakfast was finished
in the morning and who refused to allow them to remain at anchor
for more than the barest two hours at dinner-time. Chub predicted
sunstrokes for the whole party, but Harry was without mercy. She was
on a cruise and her idea of cruising was to keep going. On the second
evening she even insisted that they should leave a very comfortable
berth and put in two hours of sailing by moonlight. It proved a very
pleasant experience, and every one enjoyed it until it became necessary
to find a place to spend the night. Then, as the shore was in deep
shadow, they had their own troubles with jutting rocks and submerged
tree-trunks.

Doctor Emery spent most of his time on the upper deck, reading in the
numerous books he had brought; writing on square sheets of paper, and,
sometimes, sitting idly in his chair and watching the shore slip by.
But he always had a ready smile for whoever happened by, and, on the
whole, was quite the cheeriest and most contented of any. The upper
deck was a mighty comfortable place in the middle of the day when,
moored or anchored by the river bank, they ate dinner and indulged
afterward in what they called a “siesta.” The table was set up there,
and, while it was somewhat of a trouble to bring the things up the
stairs, it made a fine dining-room. The striped awning fluttered in the
breeze, the geraniums were masses of scarlet bloom and the gaily-hued
rugs added their quota of color. There were wicker chairs for all,
although Dick preferred to lie stretched out on the deck with a
cushion under his head. Sometimes during siesta the Doctor fell frankly
asleep and snored gently, and the others talked in whispers for fear of
awaking him. But Harry was impatient of idleness, and as soon as the
two hours were up she insisted on weighing anchor.

Snip would scamper ashore whenever they touched the bank and he had the
most wonderfully exciting times of his life. He explored every foot
of the ground, pursued real and imaginary scents, and treed mythical
bears. Those three days were jolly ones, even if nothing really
happened. There was so much to talk about, so many things to relate,
that the conversation never languished for a minute. Harry learned to
steer after a fashion, learned to tell time by the ship’s clock in the
wheel-house, and helped Dick prepare the meals. She made the beds, too,
and went religiously around the rooms with a dustcloth every morning in
a vain endeavor to find dust.

But on the fourth day Harry’s mania for progress palled. It was a gray
morning, foggy and damp. Oddly enough it was the Doctor who first
voiced a desire for change.

“I wonder,” he remarked, looking at the unbroken margin of forest which
stretched along the shore, “if there is any fishing to be found about
here?”

“I think we could catch something from the tender, sir,” replied Roy.

“I was thinking of trout,” murmured the Doctor. Chub went into the
wheel-house and consulted his map.

“There’s a good-sized stream about a mile up,” he announced. “Let’s go
and try it.”

“Oh, let’s!” cried Harry. “I never caught a trout.”

“You should have seen the one I caught,” said Chub. “It was a regular
whopper. It was as long--”

Roy and Dick groaned.

“I’ve got a picture of it somewhere. I’ll find it.”

“Never mind it now,” said Roy gently. “Try to think of something
else, Chub. You see, sir,” addressing the Doctor, “he’s a little
bit--er--daffy on the subject of that fish. As a matter of fact, it
weighed about ten ounces and--”

“Ten ounces!” howled Chub. “It weighed two pounds! Why, it was the
biggest trout you ever saw! I thought first it was a salmon.”

“Suppose we see if we can find another,” said the Doctor with a smile.
“I haven’t fished for trout in years. Could I borrow a line from some
one?”

“Yes, sir: I’ve lots of them,” said Chub. “And an extra pole. And Dick
has a pole Harry can use. Let’s take luncheon with us and make a day of
it.”

They did. The stream, which evaded them for the better part of an
hour, held plenty of small trout and the Doctor was as excited as a
boy over his first catch. Harry didn’t make a good fisherman, for she
was too impatient. But they had a good time, even when it drizzled for
awhile, and ate their luncheon at noon huddled together in the lee of a
big boulder. They returned to the boat in the middle of the afternoon
with seventeen small trout. The sun came out soon afterward and made
a glorious ending to the day. They fried the fish for supper and the
Doctor, who pretended to have personally caught all the largest of the
trout, declared that he had never tasted anything finer.

“We might try again some day,” he said tentatively.

The result was that the next morning they chugged four miles further
up the river, crossed to the west bank and made a mooring in a
particularly attractive little cove. The stream which they had come to
fish in flowed into the cove under a wooden bridge, and a few hundred
yards below was a small settlement consisting of a village store and a
half-dozen houses. Between the road and the river was a small stretch
of meadow on one side and a grove of trees on the other.

“What an ideal place!” exclaimed Harry, as she stepped ashore.

Strange to say, however, they appeared to have alighted in a locality
quite bare of streams and lakes and nothing on the map looked enticing
nearer than a good-sized lake half a day’s journey upstream and several
miles back from the river. They held a council and decided to try their
luck there, the Doctor declaring with enthusiasm that a lake like that
ought to have plenty of black bass in it. Chub and Dick had never
fished for bass, and that was enough incentive for them. The _Slow
Poke_ was put at her best pace and they reached their destination
that afternoon. After supper the Doctor regaled them with stories of
bass fishing that made their hearts beat high in anticipation of the
morrow’s sport.

They were up early to secure a full morning’s fishing. Everyone
went, Snip showing more true enthusiasm than any other member of the
expedition. The lake proved a long way off, the road was very hot and
very dusty, and after the first mile Harry was trailing along in the
rear, with Chub gallantly bearing her company. They were all tired out
when they reached the lake and the sight which greeted them there was
far from cheering. The lake was large enough, but for fully half a mile
around where they stood it was so shallow that rushes grew for hundreds
of feet out into the water. The Doctor shook his head dubiously.

“It doesn’t look much like a bass lake,” he muttered, “but we’ll walk
along around that point and see what’s there.”

They walked around that point and two more before they found a
semblance of deep water. There was nothing in sight in the way of a
boat or raft, and at last they tried a few casts from a bank and in
the course of half an hour caught five small fish which the Doctor said
were crappies. Whatever they were they were not worth carrying home.
The only catch of any importance was made by Snip. He found a turtle on
the bank and worried it until it closed on his paw. His yelps brought
prompt assistance from Chub who pried the turtle’s jaws apart and threw
it into the lake. Snip stood in the mud and barked for fully five
minutes at the place where the turtle had disappeared. At noon they
reeled in their lines, packed their poles and went back to the boat,
reaching it just before two o’clock, too warm and tired and disgusted
to be hungry. They had a cold luncheon instead of a dinner, and Harry
made some iced tea for which they sacrificed the last piece of ice on
board. After luncheon Chub strode to the wheel-house and seized his
chart with an air of determination.

“I don’t like this place,” he said. “Let’s get out of here as soon as
we can.”

That evening they tied up to a little deserted wharf a few miles below
Albany, and in the morning chugged on to the capital. They spent that
day ashore, shopping and sightseeing, and had dinner at a hotel.
They bought gasolene and ice and fresh meat and fruit and vegetables
and what Chub called “real milk.” They spent a very hot night there,
anchored in the river, and in the morning went on northward until noon.

“I don’t think much of the river up here,” said Dick.

“Well, it isn’t anything to boast of,” Chub replied. “If every one else
is willing I say let’s turn and go back.”

Everyone was quite willing and so after dinner was over the boat was
headed down-stream. The next day found them moored at the foot of a
sloping pasture which ran back and up to a thick forest. The pasture
looked as though it might contain berries, and Harry mentioned the
fact. Chub pointed out that whether there were berries there or not
there were certainly cows. But Harry declared that she wasn’t afraid of
any number of cows and so, leaving the Doctor to keep house, they took
pails and buckets and set forth. Harry had guessed right and they had
no difficulty in filling their pails with blackberries. There were a
few blueberries, too, and Roy had a brilliant idea.

“Harry!” he called, “would you like to distinguish yourself? I’ve
enough blueberries here for a nice big pie. What do you say?”

“She says yes!” cried Chub.

“I haven’t said anything,” Harry demurred.

“But you’re going to, aren’t you?” he asked anxiously.

“Do you really want a pie?”

“Want it! My soul craves a blueberry pie, Harry!”

“All right; but if I’m to make it in time for dinner we must go back
at once. I do hope it will be a success. I never tried baking in a tin
oven,” she added loftily.

“That’s all right,” said Dick. “After you’ve tried it once you’ll use
no other. Isn’t it lucky dinner is our midday meal!”

So they had blueberry pie that day, a good big fat one it was, too.
After a short siesta they walked over to the pasture which afforded
a fairly good place for kicking and catching, and the boys found the
foot-ball which Chub had brought along and had a good hour of fun with
it. Snip, too, enjoyed it, chasing the pigskin like a veteran and
trying to bite holes in it when he had run it down.

Harry’s pie was such a success that there was a loud and insistent
demand for more. So she tried one of blackberries and, while it wasn’t
quite as good as the blueberry, it didn’t go begging.

Two days of rain tried their patience, for the upper deck was quite
uninhabitable, and staying indoors became dull work after the first few
hours. The evenings weren’t so bad, for Harry took things in hand then.
They had dancing to music supplied by the talking-machine, they played
games and told stories, the Doctor proving a veritable mine of romance.
The _Slow Poke_ made a few miles each day, but most of the time it
remained huddled against a bank as much as possible out of the way of
the storm.

[Illustration: Before noon camp was made at the edge of the grove]

The next day the storm passed over, but the weather remained gloomy and
chill. The _Slow Poke_ put thirty miles behind her between breakfast
and supper and life became more cheerful. Just before sunset the clouds
broke and a vivid red glow in the northwest promised a fair day on
the morrow. That evening the Doctor began to talk of trout again, and
Chub brought his map down to the table in the forward cabin and they
searched it for likely fishing places. The result was that in the
morning they chugged four miles down stream, crossed over to the west
shore, and found a mooring in a charming little sandy cove. The sky
was blue again, the river like a great mirror, and the sun shone hot
and comforting. The _Slow Poke_ lay nestled right up to the bank and a
few yards away the stream which they had come to fish in flowed into
the cove under an old rickety wooden bridge. Between the road and the
water was a grove of trees and a little clearing in which the grass
grew knee-deep. Some four hundred yards down-stream huddled a small
settlement consisting of a store and a half-dozen white and drab houses
under a group of giant elms.

“What a lovely place for a camp,” mused Harry, as the boat was made
fast.

“Great!” Chub agreed. “Let’s pitch the tent, fellows, and live ashore
for a day or two. Doctor Emery and Harry can stay aboard at night and
guard the boat.”

The proposition was received with enthusiasm, and before noon camp was
made at the edge of the grove and Dick was cooking dinner over an open
fire. They ate the last of the doughnuts at that meal and Chub was
inconsolable until Harry promised to make some more as soon as she
could secure the necessary ingredients and a kettle big enough in which
to fry them.

“Maybe we can get things at the store down there,” said Chub. “I’ll go
and see presently.”



CHAPTER XVII

MRS. URIAH PEEL


The Doctor, Roy, and Dick went up the stream in search of trout, Snip
accompanying them, but Chub and Harry elected to stay behind and go
shopping. And after the others had taken their departure with poles
and tackle they set off for the store. The road ambled across the old
wooden bridge, climbed a little hill between high thickets of sumac,
and dipped again toward the settlement. From the slope, as they trudged
along, they had a view of a wide expanse of farms and orchards with
here and there a snug farm-house nestling under its grove of trees.
The village, if it really deserved the name, consisted by actual
count of seven dwelling-houses and the store. The road they were on
continued along the river, while a second road turned from it at right
angle in front of the store and wound inland. It was a sleepy little
hamlet and the only persons in sight as they reached the corner were
an old man half asleep on the tiny porch of a neighboring house and
an elderly woman pottering about the garden of another. There was a
watering-trough at the edge of the street and three big elms threw a
grateful shade over the place.

The store was a one-story affair and at some time in its history had
been painted white. At the back a small ell with a side door was
evidently the residence of the storekeeper. A brick path led to it
between a bed of sweet-william and a row of tall lilac bushes, to which
still clung the brown and withered flower spikes. The elms bathed the
red brick sidewalk, broken and uneven, and the front of the store in
cool green shadow. Above the narrow doorway, was an ancient sign which
proclaimed that “Uriah Peel” dealt in “General Merchandise.” On each
side of the door was a shallow bay-window fitted with shelves on which
was displayed as heterogeneous a collection of articles as ever came
together: pickles, cough syrup, carpet tacks, a jar of stick candy,
flatirons, horse liniment, toys, a few paper-covered books, a box of
files, women’s shoes, a manicure set in a purple plush case, straw
hats, an assortment of ribbons, tin stew-pans and dippers, and a host
of other things.

[Illustration: She tied together the strings of a quaint little black
bonnet]

“We won’t find anything here that we want,” muttered Chub at the door.

As the door swung open there was a distant tinkling of a bell. The
store was empty when they entered, empty and dim and cool after the
sunny road; but in response to the summons of the bell a little woman
appeared at the back, entering apparently from the ell. She was one of
the tiniest women they had ever seen, and as she hurried toward them
she tied together the strings of a quaint little black bonnet.

“How do you do,” said Harry. “We want to buy an iron kettle if you have
one.”

“An iron kettle,” mused the little woman, taking her chin in her hand
and looking anxiously about her. “Did you want a very large one?”

She seemed to be about fifty years of age, with a thin comely face
and a pleasant voice. Her expression, however, was so troubled and
excited that Chub wondered, and Harry hurriedly assured her that just
a medium-sized one would do and that if she didn’t have it it didn’t
really matter one bit.

“I have some kettles somewhere,” answered the little woman in a flurry,
“only I don’t just remember--”

Then she darted behind one of the counters and disappeared from
sight while a rattling sound told of frantic search. Harry turned
bewilderedly to Chub, and the latter grinned and tapped his forehead
eloquently.

“I thought so!” The storekeeper was beaming triumphantly at them across
the counter and holding out a very dusty and somewhat rusty iron
kettle. It was just what they wanted, Harry declared.

“How much is it, please?”

The little woman turned it bottom up and squinted closely, at last
holding it out for their inspection.

“Can you see any figures there?” she asked. “I left my spectacles in
the kitchen.”

“Looks like $7.00,” replied Chub dubiously.

“Oh, then it’s seventy cents,” was the reply. “Uriah always made a cent
mark like an ought. Was there anything else, Miss?”

“Well,” said Harry, hesitatingly, “we did want some lard and flour,
but--”

“How much lard?”

“Have you a small pail of it?”

“No’m, I haven’t; but I can give you any amount you want. Three or four
pounds, Miss?”

“About five, I guess. And have you flour?”

“Yes, indeed.”

And she had sugar, too, and the purchasers began to entertain a new
respect for the dingy little store.

“I suppose you don’t live around here,” asked the storekeeper as she
bustled excitedly about.

“No, we’re on a boat,” replied Chub.

“I want to know!” was the response. “There was a man in here only last
week who came in a boat. He bought a good deal, too, but there was some
things he wanted I didn’t have. Would you mind just looking out and
seeing if there’s a buggy outside?”

Chub obeyed and reported no buggy in sight. The woman looked anxiously
at an old clock and sighed.

“I don’t quite know whether I’m on my head or my heels,” she said with
a little apologetic laugh. “I’m just upset to-day.”

They murmured inarticulate sympathy.

“I got a telegraph message from my brother-in-law down to Myersville
this morning saying that my sister is real sick and asking me to come
down there. And so I’m going to take the four o’clock train.” She
glanced again at the clock which said a few minutes before three.
“Millie never was very strong and I’m real worried about her. Seems
as though he wouldn’t have sent a telegraph message if things wasn’t
pretty bad, don’t it? I packed my bag right up and wrote a letter to my
niece over in Byers to come and look after the store while I’m gone,
but I haven’t seen sight of her yet. I thought she’d be along on that
two-twenty train and I sent the Hooper boy down to the station to meet
her, and he ain’t back yet. And if he don’t come pretty soon he won’t
be in time to take me to the station. Though I don’t know as I’d ought
to leave the store until Jennie comes.”

“Is your husband away?” ventured Chub sympathetically.

“He died a year ago last April.”

“Oh!” murmured Chub. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t know--”

“Course you didn’t. I ain’t never had the sign changed yet. Don’t know
as I ever will. If business don’t pick up pretty soon I guess I’ll have
to close up. Uriah used to do pretty well here when he was alive, but
there’s a new store opened down to Washington Hills and folks mostly
goes there to buy their things. Is that the buggy?”

“No,” Chub reported. “It hasn’t come yet.”

She looked again at the clock and heaved an audible sigh of relief.

“Well, everything’s all ready when it does come,” she said. “I suppose
you young folks travel a good deal on the trains, but I never have, and
I’m always pretty nigh scared to death at the thought of it. There’s
always so many accidents in the papers.”

“Have you far to go?” asked Harry. The purchases were all ready and
paid for by this time, but neither Harry nor Chub seemed in any hurry
to depart.

“’Bout seventy miles it is. I have to take the train to Jones Point
and then the ferry across to Peekskill. I guess I’ll find a carriage
waiting for me at the other side. Yes, it’s a good deal of a journey.
When Millie was first married it did seem like she was just going
right out of the world. But she’s been to see me plenty of times since
and I’ve been down to Myersville twice. Millie was visiting me only a
little while ago; must be two weeks since she left. Maybe the trip was
too much for her. She ain’t as strong as she used to be, and there’s a
lot of work about a farm. I guess James is a real good husband to her,
but he don’t seem to realize what a sight of work she has to do. Men
are like that--mostly. I do wonder why that trifling boy don’t come
back?”

She hurried to the front door, opened it, and looked anxiously out.

“Well, I suppose he’ll get back when he’s good and ready. I do hope
Jennie can come. If she doesn’t I’ll just have to shut up the store.
’Twon’t make much difference, though, I guess; what’s sold here in two
days wouldn’t pay Jennie’s fare across. But I got everything ready if
she should come. I marked things plain so’s she can tell how much to
ask. I spent about three hours doing it, too.”

She looked proudly about the store and Chub and Harry, their gazes
following hers, saw that almost everything in sight had been labeled
in some way with the price. Usually small paper bags had been laid upon
the article and the figures printed on the bag.

“It must have been a lot of trouble,” murmured Harry.

“So it was, but Jennie hasn’t got enough sense to look after the place
if things aren’t marked right out plain. There he is, ain’t he?”

A buggy containing a small, freckled-faced boy drew slowly up at the
edge of the sidewalk in front of the store. Mrs. Peel’s face fell.

“Jennie didn’t come!” she exclaimed. “Whatever shall I do? I ought to
be starting for the station this very instant. I suppose she’s coming
on the next train, but I can’t wait for her. I do think she might have
come when I told her, after all the things I’ve done for that girl! But
that’s the way of human nature, I suppose! Bennie Hooper, didn’t you
see anything of her?”

“No’m,” answered the boy.

“You sure she didn’t get off and you didn’t see her?”

“Didn’t nobody get off,” answered Benny resentfully.

“Well--” Mrs. Peel’s eyes wavered back and forth from the clock to the
buggy. “I suppose I’ll just have to shut up the store and leave the key
with Martha Hooper. Mrs. Benson was coming in for some onions, but I
suppose she’ll have to wait.”

“When does the next train come?” asked Harry solicitously.

“About six. She’s bound to come on that, but--”

“Then you let us watch the store until she comes,” cried Harry. “We’ll
be very careful, Mrs. Peel. That is, if you think you’d care to trust
us?”

Mrs. Peel’s face had lighted at once.

“You--you wouldn’t mind?” she faltered anxiously. “Jennie’s bound to
come on the six o’clock train and I’ll have Bennie wait over there and
bring her back. She ought to be here by half-past six. It’s a good deal
to ask, especially as you’re strangers to me.”

“We’ll be glad to,” answered Harry promptly. “Won’t we, Chub?” Chub
agreed readily.

“Well, I don’t know how to thank you,” fluttered Mrs. Peel. “I just
don’t, and that’s a fact. But I’m going to take you at your word.
All you’ll have to do is to stay here until she comes and tell her
everything’s marked with the price, and that I’ll be back just as soon
as I can and will write to-morrow and tell her how Millie is. Now I’ll
get my things. You turn that buggy around, Bennie; you know I don’t
like to be in it when it’s turned.”

Mrs. Peel shot a rapid look at the clock and hurried away to the little
door leading to the living-rooms. When she came back Chub took the old
black leather bag from her and put it in the buggy. By this time the
little woman’s excitement was intense.

“Tell Jennie the house door is locked on the inside and that she’s to
be careful to look out for sparks when she goes to bed because the
insurance has run out and I haven’t had time to renew it again. And if
Mrs. Benson comes for the onions you see that she pays for ’em, because
she owes me two dollars and eighteen cents already. I didn’t leave any
money in the till because I had to have it to buy my ticket, but I
guess she’ll have the right change. I’m very much obliged to you, young
lady, and you, sir. And I hope you’ll be here when I get back. Benny,
you’ve got your reins crossed; I do wish you’d be a little careful when
you know how nervous I am about horses. Did I get my spectacles? Yes,
here they are. Go ahead, Bennie, and drive careful. Good-by, Miss!
Good-by, sir! Tell Jennie I’ll write to-morrow surely. If you like
candy there’s some in the jars on the shelf back of the counter on the
left. Help yourself, Miss. Good-by! Bennie, I guess you’ll have to
hurry a little.”

“Got most forty minutes,” growled Bennie.

“Well, I like to be in plenty of time.”

“It don’t take but fifteen minutes,” said Bennie. “Get ap, Cæsar!”

The buggy wobbled around the corner, Mrs. Peel waving an excited
black-mittened hand to the two on the sidewalk, and disappeared. Chub
and Harry looked at each other and laughed.

“Isn’t she a dear!” gasped Harry.

“Funniest ever. Let’s go in and look around the shop.”



CHAPTER XVIII

KEEPING STORE


It was a queer little store. There was a window on each side of the
front door, a window which peeped out onto the tiny side yard and the
brick walk, and the sweet-williams, and a window directly opposite
which, had the shutters been open, would have given a view of the
houses across the road and the river beyond. At the back of the store
was a door which led into a good-sized yard extending along the backs
of the store and the living house. There were a few bedraggled shrubs
here and a row of hollyhocks nodded along a stretch of the high
board fence which inclosed the space. A door in the fence, securely
padlocked, led onto the road. For the most part the back yard was given
over to barrels and packing cases, but in one corner a tiny shed housed
two green tanks labeled respectively “Gasolene” and “Kerosine.”

From the store to the dwelling-house the way led up a step and through
a door near the back of the store. This door was open and Chub and
Harry allowed themselves a glimpse of a narrow and dim hallway with a
door at the far end. But this was not their territory and they didn’t
intrude. Besides, there was plenty to see in the shop part.

There was a wooden counter along each side on which rested here and
there funny old-fashioned show-cases with mirrors at their backs.
One case held pocket-knives sitting enticingly on their little green
boxes, fish-hooks, lead sinkers, a solitary pair of pruning-shears,
a horn-handled carving-knife and fork, scissors, thimbles, and
knitting-needles. Another case showed ribbons, lace, edgings, and
similar goods. Back of the counters there were narrow aisles, and
beyond the aisles were shelves. On these were dry goods, groceries,
patent medicines, cheap straw hats and woolen caps, overalls and
jumpers, tinware, woodenware, and crockery. Down the center of the
store, between the two counters, leaving an aisle on either side, stood
barrels and boxes, tubs and pails, plowshares and bags of fertilizer,
rakes and hoes and shovels and brooms, bristling from otherwise empty
barrels, and potatoes and onions. There were jars of striped pink and
white candy on the shelves and in the window, a few toys--paper kites,
marbles, and tops scattered around in various places and--oh, heaps of
other things besides.

“Talk about your department stores!” exclaimed Chub. “Isn’t this
palatial!”

“She said we might have some candy,” said Harry, standing on tiptoe and
looking dubiously into one of the jars, “but I don’t believe it is very
nice, do you?”

“I do not!” replied Chub decisively. “But, I think I’ll buy a pair of
these beautiful brown overalls for Dick. He’s got oil and grease on
every pair of trousers he has with him. He’d look perfectly swell in
them, wouldn’t he?” And Chub held up the garments in question. They
looked at least six feet long and correspondingly broad, and Harry
giggled as she mentally pictured Dick in them.

“Chub, you must fold them up nicely again,” she commanded, “and put
them back just where you found them.”

“Don’t you worry,” Chub responded. “I’m the neat little storekeeper, I
am.” He continued his investigations, peering into boxes and barrels
and having a thoroughly enjoyable time. “Harry, here’s some real
old-style brown sugar like grandmother used to have; remember it? It’s
great! Have some?”

Harry had some, nibbling it out of the little tin scoop.

“But we must pay for it, Chub,” she said anxiously.

“Oh, we’ll take this instead of the candy,” Chub replied. “And look
here, here’s some dried apricots. My, but I’m glad I came!”

“Chub, you mustn’t take things!” cried Harry.

“What, just a few old apricots?”

“No, not unless you pay for them.”

“How much?” asked Chub with a grin. Harry examined the end of the box.

“Well, they’re fifteen cents a pound. How many did you take?”

“Six.”

“Then I should think you ought to pay about a cent.”

“Very well.” Chub fished in his pocket and found the required sum.
“What do I do with it?”

“Put it in the till. And we’ll keep a record of everything that’s
sold.” Harry found a paper bag and a pencil and wrote:

    “Six Dried Apricots      $ .01”

“There now, that’s very businesslike, isn’t it?” she asked. “We’ll put
down everything we sell.”

“I think it won’t be much trouble,” Chub answered as he pulled open the
little till drawer under the counter and dropped his penny in. “We may
be the only ones to buy anything. I wonder if she has any prunes.”

He went on with his investigation and Harry wandered back to the front
of the store. When Chub joined her a few minutes later she was seated
in one of the two old arm-chairs which stood by the open door deeply
immersed in a book.

“What you got?” asked Chub, looking over her shoulder. “My! ‘Little
Goldie’s Vow!’ Where’d you get it? Is it good?”

“Fine! I found it in the window. There are some more there. It’s
awfully exciting.”

“I dare say,” replied Chub, “but I don’t believe I ought to let you
read such things, Harry. That’s just trash.”

“You haven’t read it,” answered Harry rebelliously.

“I don’t need to; the title’s enough. You know your mother wouldn’t
want you to read such things.”

“Well,” sighed Harry. “But please mayn’t I just finish this chapter,
Chub? It’s all about a beautiful girl named Jessica and--”

“Thought her name was Little Goldie,” sniffed Chub.

“Oh, that’s just a nickname that the hero gave her on account of her
wonderful golden tresses. And there’s another girl in it named Alice;
she’s the villain--no, villainess--and a perfectly fascinating man with
beautiful gray eyes and--”

“What’s his name? Tom?”

“Of course not!” exclaimed Harry contemptuously. “His name is Reginald
Forrest. At least, that’s what he calls himself, but of course he’s an
earl or a lord or something in disguise.”

“How do you know?” asked Chub.

“Oh, they always are.”

“Huh! Seems to me you know a good deal about novels, young lady!”

Harry looked a trifle embarrassed.

“Well, sometimes--at school--the girls would bring them to read at
recess,” she explained, “and I borrowed one once--”

“Once?” demanded Chub sternly.

“Once or twice,” laughed Harry.

“I’m afraid you have a very bad taste for literature,” said Chub
severely. “And I don’t believe I ought to let you go on. I’ll have
another look for the prunes.” But his search was unsuccessful and
presently he was back at the doorway. Harry was still deeply absorbed,
and so for awhile Chub studied the landscape. But there wasn’t much to
see until, after awhile, a woman in a brown calico dress turned the
corner and came toward him.

“Look out, Harry!” he whispered. “Here’s a customer!”

The woman, who had a very unattractive aspect, glanced at Chub
curiously and walked past him into the store.

“Where’s Mrs. Peel?” she demanded of Harry.

“She’s gone away to visit her sister, who is ill at--at somewhere down
the river. She’s left us in charge of the store until her niece comes.
Can I do anything for you?”

“Humph!” said the woman. “She always was crazy. Well, I want two quarts
of onions, but I guess I can get them myself, young lady.”

“Oh, Chub will serve you,” said Harry, sweetly. “Chub, please measure
two quarts of onions for this lady.”

“Yes, ma’am,” replied Chub. He got a paper sack and found the wooden
measure. “Two quarts, madam?”

“That’s what I said,” replied the woman, sourly. “And I don’t want all
the little runts there are, either. Mr. Benson said last week that he
never seen meaner-lookin’ onions than what I got here.”

“Oh, I think these will suit you,” said Chub, filling the measure. “Let
me see now.” Chub studied the figures on the paper bag which lay on top
of the basket. “Two quarts will be sixty cents, madam.”

“Sixty cents!” almost shrieked the woman. “You must be crazy. I never
paid more than five cents a quart in all my born days!”

Chub looked inquiringly at Harry.

“What is the price on them, Chub?” she asked.

“It says thirty cents, and two quarts at thirty cents--”

“Thirty cents a peck, you stupid!” said the woman.

“It doesn’t say so,” Chub demurred doubtfully.

“It doesn’t say whether they’re thirty cents a pint or thirty cents a
bushel,” answered the customer, acidly, “but onions are always sold by
the peck.”

“Well, maybe you’re right,” said Chub. “So if you’ll take a peck we’ll
call it thirty cents--”

“I don’t want a peck. Who ever heard of any one buying a whole peck of
onions at once?”

“But you just said that they are always sold by the peck, and if that’s
so--”

“I meant they were always _priced_ by the peck, and if you had the
sense of a goose you’d know something about it!”

“I think she must be right, Chub,” observed Harry. “Thirty cents
sounds an awful lot for onions.”

“Well, all right,” answered Chub, cheerfully. “Thirty cents a peck it
is, Mrs. Bronson.”

“My name’s Benson,” replied the woman, tartly. “I hope for Mrs. Peel’s
sake that her niece will come soon.” She held out her hand for the
onions. “These go down to my account.”

“Sorry,” returned Chub, “but Mrs. Peel told us explicitly to sell only
for cash.”

“But I tell you I have my things charged!” said the customer, warmly.

“I don’t doubt it, madam, but as Mrs. Peel would prefer to have the
money, I’ll have to do it.”

“Well, I never heard of anything so idiotic! You give me those onions,
or I’ll send Mr. Benson over here to talk to you, you young jackanapes.”

“I shall be very glad to hear Mr. Benson if he talks interestingly,”
replied Chub, sweetly. “But if he wants the onions he will have to
bring eight cents with him.”

Mrs. Benson looked wrathfully from Chub to the bag of onions and
wrathfully from the bag of onions to Harry.

“You ain’t going to let me have them?” she demanded.

“I shall be glad to, if you’ll pay cash,” replied Chub. “But Mrs. Peel,
I am sure--”

“She’ll rue the day she left you young ninnies in charge here,”
interrupted Mrs. Benson, as she flung herself out of the store. “I was
never so insulted in all my born days! You wait until Mr. Benson hears
of this! You just wait!”

“Phew!” breathed Chub, as he set the bag of onions down. “She has a
horrid disposition, hasn’t she?”

“Maybe,” said Harry, uneasily, “we ought to have let her have them. We
wouldn’t want Mrs. Peel to lose a customer, would we?”

“The loss of that sort of a customer wouldn’t hurt much,” returned
Chub. “Too bad we couldn’t make a sale, though. That cash drawer looks
mighty empty. Hello! there goes an automobile. Did you see it?”

“Yes. Do you--do you suppose she’ll send her husband over?”

“Can’t say,” answered Chub, carelessly.

“But he might be angry and make trouble.”

“Let him try it,” said Chub, grimly. “I’ll take care of him if he tries
to make a fuss.”

At that moment a form appeared at the door.

“Maybe it’s Mr. Benson,” muttered Chub, as he strolled to meet him.

The newcomer was a little wisp of a man, with a nervous smile and a
diffident manner and a thin, high-pitched voice.

“Good afternoon,” said Chub, affably.

“Good afternoon, sir, good afternoon,” squeaked Mr. Benson. “Nice
weather for the time of year.”

“Some of the best,” answered Chub, cheerfully. “Can I do anything for
you, sir?”

“Er--if you please. My wife sent me over for--for two quarts of onions.
She--she was over awhile back and didn’t have the money with her.” He
placed eight cents on the counter and smiled ingratiatingly, rubbing
his hands nervously together.

“Right here,” said Chub, handing him the bag. “Eight cents; quite
correct, thank you. Nothing else to-day?”

“N-nothing else, thank you. Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Benson.”

When he had gone, Chub sank into a chair and burst out laughing.

“He leads a merry life, Harry,” he gasped. “Wouldn’t I just love to be
Mrs. Benson’s husband!”

“It’s too bad to laugh at him,” replied Harry, suppressing her own
smiles. “He looked like a very nice old man.”

“Yes, but I wouldn’t be in his boots for a fortune. Let’s put the money
away. That’s sale number two. At this rate we’ll make Mrs. Peel rich
before Jennie comes.”

Harry deposited the coins in the till and made another entry on her
record:

    2 quarts of onions      .08

Then she went back to her book, and Chub took the chair at the other
side of the open door and watched her a while. Presently, “I say,
Harry,” he asked, “what’s the price of that book?”

“Ten cents,” she answered, glancing at the cover.

“Are you going to read it through?”

“I--I don’t know. Do you think I oughtn’t to, Chub?”

“Suit yourself,” answered Chub, with a shrug of his shoulders. “I was
just wondering whether you could afford to read it.”

“Afford to?” asked Harry. “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s a ten-cent book, isn’t it?”

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Do you think I ought to pay for it?”

“Why not? You’re getting the use of it, aren’t you? It’s just the same
as though you took it away with you.”

“Why, no, because I’ll put it back in the window and Mrs. Peel can sell
it again.”

“Yes, but if you took it you’d throw it away after you were through
with it. It isn’t any good to you after you’ve read it, you see. How
much have you read so far?”

“Pretty nearly a third.”

“Well, we will call it three cents’ worth if you stop now.”

“But--but I haven’t any money with me, Chub!”

“That’s all right. I’ll lend it to you.”

“Well, couldn’t you--couldn’t you lend me ten cents just as well?”

“No.” Chub shook his head. “I couldn’t trust you for so much. If you
read any more you’ll have to go and get the money before Jennie comes.”

“Chub, I think you’re just horrid!” cried Harry, vexedly.

Chub only grinned. Harry looked hesitatingly at the book for a moment,
and then closed it regretfully and placed it back in the window. Chub
counted out three coppers and dropped them into her hand, and she
placed them in the till. Then she made another entry on the paper bag
as follows:

    One third of “Little Goldie’s Vow”      .03

After that they drew their chairs to the doorway and sat and looked out
across the quiet, shaded street.

There wasn’t much of interest to look at--a cat washing its face on the
side porch of the little white house opposite, a sparkle of blue where
the river was visible between the branches of a tree and the corner of
a house on the other street, a couple of pigeons parading about in
the road. Twice an old man went by trundling a wheelbarrow, and twice
automobiles flashed along northward on the river road.

“Wonder what time it is,” murmured Chub after a while, as he drew his
watch out. “Hello, almost six! I wonder if one of us hadn’t better go
back to the boat and tell the rest what’s happened to us. Maybe they’ll
be worried.”

“I’ll go,” said Harry. “And I’ll tell them we can’t be back until
half-past six, so that they will keep supper for us.”

“All right,” answered Chub, “if you don’t mind. I’ll keep store. When
did she say that train was due?”

“About six, I think. She said Jennie would surely be here by half-past.”

“Well, only three-quarters of an hour more, then. Run along and tell
them. And you don’t have to come back, Harry, unless you want to.”

“Oh, but I do! I won’t be more than ten minutes, Chub.”

“Take your time,” answered Chub, magnanimously. “I sha’n’t be
overworked, I guess.” He settled down comfortably in his chair and
watched Harry disappear around the corner. “My, but this is an exciting
town!” he muttered. “I wish that cat would fall off the porch, or
something else would happen.” But nothing did, and presently Harry was
back again, and the clock at the back of the store struck six in wheezy
tones. The sun was getting low, and long shafts of amber light swept
down the road that wound up the hill toward the west. A train whistled
in the distance.

“That’s Jennie,” said Chub. “Bennie will be along pretty soon now;
Cæsar and Bennie and Jennie. I’m getting awfully hungry. Do you
remember any of the messages Mrs. Peel left for Jennie?”

Harry did, and to prove it she enumerated them. Chub applauded her
memory.

“All I remember,” he said, “was something about sparks.”

It was almost twenty minutes later when the white horse and the
dilapidated buggy rattled around the corner and pulled up for a moment
in front of the watering-trough. In the buggy sat Bennie and no one
else. He grinned joyously.

“She didn’t come,” he announced. “Get ap!”

“Hold on!” cried Chub, hurrying to the curb. “Are you sure she wasn’t
on the train?”

“Course I am.”

“Didn’t she send any--any message or anything?”

“No, not that I know of.”

“When is the next train?”

“’Bout ’leven o’clock, I guess. Get ap.”

“Well, now what are we going to do?” demanded Chub, as the white horse
ambled away again. Harry shook her head.

“I’d like to tell Jennie what I think of her,” said Chub aggrievedly.
“Nice way for her to act. We can’t sit here until eleven o’clock and
wait for her. We’ll just have to shut up shop.”

“But how will she get into the house?” asked Harry.

“I don’t know.” Chub frowned thoughtfully at the crumbling bricks.

“I suppose we might leave the key across the street and pin a note on
the door telling her to go there and get it. I guess that’s all we can
do, eh?”

Harry agreed that it was. So they saw to the fastenings of the window,
took their iron kettle into which were packed their other purchases,
wrote a line on a paper bag, and locked the door behind them. Then
Harry supplied a pin, and Chub posted the note, which read:

    JENNIE: The key to the store is at the white house right across
    the street.

At the white house they had some difficulty in explaining their errand
to an elderly woman who was very deaf and very suspicious, but finally
they accomplished it and went off, leaving the key in her hands.

“There’s a chance that Jennie won’t be able to make that old woman
understand what she wants,” growled Chub. “Jennie may have to sleep on
the sidewalk to-night. Well, we’ve done what we could.”

“And then maybe she won’t come at all,” said Harry, hopefully.

“What good will that do?” Chub asked.

“Why, then we can keep store again to-morrow. Wouldn’t you just love
to?”

“H’m,” said Chub, doubtfully.



CHAPTER XIX

A MIDNIGHT ALARM


When they reached camp and the _Slow Poke_, Dick and Roy were busy
about the fire, while Dr. Emery, in a pair of old gray knicker-bockers
and a blue flannel shirt, was cleaning fish on a stone at the edge of
the water.

“Look here at this one, Chub!” called the doctor, proudly, as he held
one of his trophies up by its tail.

Chub examined it with interest and had to acknowledge that it was
pretty nearly as big as his own famous fish.

“You didn’t get so very many, though, did you?” he asked.

“No,” answered the doctor, “we didn’t. I don’t believe it’s a very good
stream any longer. About fished out, I think. There’s a large summer
boarding-house up there, about a mile in, and then we came across
a good-sized camp of Gypsies. They’re fond of fishing and pretty
skilful, too. But Roy says the map shows another stream to the north
that we might try. That is, if we cared to stay here another day.”

“Oh, I think we’d better stay a day or two longer,” Chub replied. “It’s
such a dandy camping-site, doctor, don’t you think?”

The doctor decapitated a trout deftly and replied with enthusiasm that
he did. Chub smiled as he watched him and remembered when even to
have stood in such close proximity with the doctor would have filled
him with vast uneasiness. The doctor had been a good deal in the sun
to-day, and the end of his nose was scarlet, while other little patches
of the same shade were spread above his eyes and on his cheeks.

“You’ll be needing some cold cream to-night, sir,” Chub said. “You’re
burned.”

The doctor felt of his nose gingerly. “It--it’s quite tender to the
touch,” he said wonderingly. “I had no idea the sun was so hot. There,
that’s the last one. All ready, Dick. Will you bring the pan over here,
or shall I--”

“I’ll get it, sir,” said Chub.

Twenty minutes later they were seated around the table--just a
yard-square piece of white oil-cloth spread over the grass between the
river bank and the tent. It wasn’t the most even table in the world,
and Dick unfortunately set the coffee-pot down on a place where it
managed to topple over when no one was watching it. That necessitated a
new brew. But they were all hungry and happy, as one generally is out
of doors under the trees and the sky, and the fiasco was only a matter
for laughter.

“See that hump, Dick?” asked Chub, gravely.

There was much to talk about. Dr. Emery and Roy and Dick had their
fishing adventures to narrate, and Harry and Chub must tell about Mrs.
Peel and the store, and Bennie, and Mrs. Benson and her awe-inspiring
husband. Dick was especially eloquent on the subject of the Gypsies
whose camp they had passed in returning from the fishing-site.

“There were dozens of them, Chub, and they had the dandiest wagons you
ever saw. Painted up like circus wagons, they were. And there were
about ten horses there. We saw the queen, too, Harry. She was sitting
in the door of her tent, the biggest one of all, it was, and braiding
sweet-grass; making baskets, I guess; there were a lot of them hanging
around camp.”

“I thought the queens never did any work,” Chub objected.

“I don’t know. I never saw but one band of Gypsies before; we don’t
have ’em out West much.”

“There was one young fellow,” said Roy, “that wasn’t any darker than I
am. Dick insists that he is a white person and was stolen when a child.”

“Well, he might have been,” said Dick. “You read about such things.”

“In books,” added Chub--“books like ‘Little Goldie’s Vow,’ you know.”

“What’s that?” asked Roy.

Chub darted a glance at Harry’s disturbed countenance and shook his
head.

“Nothing that you should know about, Roy. It’s a novel. When you’re a
few years older--”

But Roy threatened him with the contents of his tin cup, and Chub
ceased. After supper was over and the things cleaned up they went
back to the boat and climbed to the upper deck. The breeze, which had
mitigated the heat during the day, had died down, and it was cooler
here than on shore. It was dark by the time they settled down, and
Dick brought up a half-dozen Japanese lanterns and strung them along
the awning rods. When the candles were lighted they threw quite a
radiance over the scene.

“It’s just like a party,” said Harry. “Let’s play games!”

“Anything but ‘going to Jerusalem,’” said Chub, drowsily, from where he
was stretched out in his chair. “I don’t feel that I am able to walk
that far to-night.”

“We’ll play ‘fish, flesh, or fowl,’” said Harry, “and I’m ‘it.’”

“You always are ‘it,’” said Chub gallantly.

“Papa, you draw your chair over that way more,” said Harry, ignoring
Chub’s compliment. “We must sit in a circle. Come, Chub.”

“I’ll try,” Chub murmured. “It sounds a bit difficult, though, sitting
in a circle. How’s this, Harry?”

“Oh, Chub, don’t be so silly,” Harry laughed. “Put your feet down and
behave. Now I’ll begin. The first one that doesn’t answer correctly
must take my place.” The deck was soon ringing with laughter, for, of
course, some funny things happened. As when Harry, suddenly poising in
front of Chub, exclaimed:

“Fowl! One, two, three--”

“_What?_” exclaimed Chub, with a jump.

“Four, five, six--”

“Er--er--”

“Seven, eight, nine--”

“Bullfrog!”

“You’re ‘it’!” cried Harry. “A bullfrog isn’t a fowl.”

Chub strove to temporize.

“Did you say fowl? Are you sure?”

“Go ahead, Chub, she caught you,” said Roy “Be game!”

“That isn’t fair,” grumbled Chub. “Of course a bullfrog isn’t exactly
a fowl, but everybody knows that frog legs taste just exactly like
chicken, and so--”

“Get up, get up, you lazy duffer!” cried Dick.

Chub got up and fixed Dick with a malevolent scowl. Then he walked over
to him and remarked conversationally:

“Fish! One, two, three, four, seven, ten!”

“Here! You didn’t count right!” objected Dick.

“Here, now!” said Chub, contemptuously. “That’s right, try to get out
of it!”

But Dick got up and immediately caught the doctor, who gazed blankly
at him while he counted the fateful ten. Harry clapped her hands
delightedly.

“Papa’s ‘it’!” she cried. “Now we’ll have some fun!”

The doctor got up and surveyed the four laughing faces anxiously.

“Let me see, now; what is it I say?” They explained it to him, and he
made for Harry.

“I’m a fish!” he cried. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve thirteen, fourteen--”

He might have been counting yet had not they stopped him, for Harry had
gone off into a gale of laughter and was quite incapable of words.

“You mustn’t say ‘I’m a fish,’” she explained finally. “You just say
‘fish.’ And you must only count to ten, papa.”

“Oh! Then I’ll try again,” answered the doctor, cheerfully. He fixed
Harry with a stern look and said:

“Fish! One, two--”

“Flounder!” cried Harry.

“Three, four, five, six--”

“But I said it!” Harry cried. “You mustn’t count any more.”

“Oh, then what must I do now?”

“You must try again until you catch some one. Try Dick.”

So the doctor tried Dick with no better result, and then Roy and
finally Chub.

“You mustn’t say ‘fish’ every time,” Harry explained. “If you do, we
know what to expect. Try ‘fowl’ or ‘flesh.’” But the doctor shook his
head.

“I guess I’d better stick to fish,” he replied. “I can remember that.
Besides, I’m fond of fish.”

Finally Chub took pity on him and allowed himself to be caught, and the
doctor sank gratefully into his chair, sighing with relief and mopping
his face with his handkerchief. They tried other games after that and
kept up the fun until the clock in the wheel-house warned them that
it was past bedtime. The doctor and Harry slept on the boat, but the
boys sought the tent on shore. The moon came up while they were getting
ready for bed, and with it came a fresh breeze out of the southwest,
which, according to Chub, “just filled the bill.” At all events, it
made the tent a much more comfortable sleeping-place, and it wasn’t
very long before they were all slumbering.

If Chub was first asleep, he was likewise the first of the three to
awake. He sat bolt upright, staring through the gray door of the tent.
The sky had clouded over, and the moonlight no longer made the night
radiant. Chub wondered what had awakened him, and even as he wondered
the answer came to him in a shrill, frightened cry from the house-boat:

“_Papa! Chub! Help!_”

It was Harry’s voice, and Chub was out of the tent in an instant, with
a whoop of reassurance. The world was gray-black, and objects were only
dimly discernible. But he knew the way to the boat well enough, and
went hurrying, stumbling over the grass and through the little bushes.
As he went, a light sprang into view somewhere aboard, Snip barked
loudly, and at the same moment he collided with a figure on the bank.

“Who’s that?” called Chub. “What’s the matter?”

[Illustration: The figure disappeared noiselessly into the night]

There was no response, and the figure disappeared noiselessly into the
night. Then a white-clad figure appeared at the edge of the boat, and
the doctor’s voice said:

“Dick! Chub! Are you there?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Chub, scrambling aboard. “What’s up?”

“Harry had a fright,” replied the doctor, calmly. “I fancy she was only
dreaming, but she says she awoke and saw some one at her window on the
other side of the boat. But I heard no one until you came.”

“I did,” answered Chub, looking regretfully back. “I ran into some one
just before you called. I asked who it was, and got no answer.”

By that time Dick and Roy, who had hastily put on some clothes, though
still half asleep, had joined them, questioning excitedly.

“Let’s get something on and have a look around,” suggested Roy when the
doctor had told his story again. So they hurried back to the tent and
drew on coats and trousers, while the doctor returned to Harry again.

When they returned to the boat, Harry had joined the doctor in the
forward cabin. She had slipped on a blue kimono and was seated on the
window-seat, with her feet tucked under her, still rather pale of face,
but trying to smile.

“I don’t know what waked me up,” she said. “But suddenly I was sitting
up in bed and looking at the little window. At first I didn’t see
anything, and then a man’s head and shoulders appeared. I could see
him against the gray sky; just for a minute, for I let out an awful
screech, and the man disappeared just like that!” And Harry snapped her
small fingers. “Papa says I dreamed it, but I didn’t, really; I was
wide awake!”

The doctor shot a warning glance at the boys, and Chub, who had opened
his mouth, shut it again quickly.

“Well, dreams seem very real sometimes,” said the doctor, soothingly.
“And even if there was any one there, I guess he was just looking
around. I don’t believe he stole anything.”

“We’ll soon see,” said Chub, as he moved toward the door. “Anyhow,
don’t you worry about it now, Harry. He’s gone by this time. I
shouldn’t be surprised if he was as scared as you were when you
screamed! Whew! it brought me up in bed like a shock of electricity!”

Harry laughed nervously.

“I--I think I’ll sleep in here with you, papa,” she said. The doctor
smiled and looked at his watch.

“Well, I think we won’t have to do much more sleeping,” said the
doctor. “It’s after four o’clock. You lie down, Harry, and try to go to
sleep again. The boys and I will look around a little and see if we can
see any hoof-marks from your nightmare.”

“You won’t go far?” asked Harry, anxiously.

“No, no, I won’t leave the boat,” he answered.

“I’m awfully sorry I woke everybody up,” said Harry, apologetically. “I
suppose it was terribly silly of me, but I was so--so startled--”

“Shucks,” said Roy, “we don’t mind. It’s rather a lark.”

“Yes,” said Chub, “it’s what is known as rising with the lark.”

Harry laughed quite naturally at that, and they left her to go over the
boat and see if the early morning marauder had taken anything off with
him. They found signs of his presence as soon as they reached the after
cabin, for burnt matches were scattered about the floor, and three cans
of peaches had been moved from the galley to Dick’s bed.

“Evidently meant to take these with him and got scared off,” said Dick.

“Maybe he meant to take bed and all,” Chub suggested. “Let’s look in
the engine-room and see if he’s left the engine.”

They poked around for a while longer with their lanterns, but found
no further evidences. By that time the sky was brightening in the
east, and Roy suggested that, instead of going back to bed, they have
an early breakfast and go fishing before it got hot. Even the doctor
agreed enthusiastically to the proposition, and, still discussing
and conjecturing, they returned to the tent. They had breakfast at a
quarter to six. Harry was not on hand. She had fallen asleep again, and
they didn’t disturb her. Roy volunteered to stay behind and keep her
company, and at half-past six the others set out merrily to try the new
stream. Roy cleaned up the breakfast things, keeping Harry’s repast
warm at the back of the fire. Then adding fresh fuel, he climbed
to the upper deck of the boat and made himself comfortable with a
magazine. Harry appeared at half-past seven, looking none the worse for
her interrupted slumbers.

“Well, any more nightmares?” asked Roy, cheerfully. Harry shook her
head smilingly.

“No, but I don’t think it was a nightmare, Roy,” she answered. She
seemed, however, less certain about it than before. Perhaps she
wanted to believe in the dream theory as much as any one. Roy served
breakfast to her and stood by attentively with a dish-towel over his
arm, suggesting respectfully, “A little more of the hegg, ma’am?” or
“Another cup of coffee, ma’am?” Then, when Harry had finished, they
washed the rest of the dishes very merrily and tidied up the camp and
the boat. Harry wanted very much to walk over to the store and find
out whether Jennie had arrived, but, as it had been agreed that the
boat was not to be left unguarded, Roy couldn’t accompany her, and she
preferred not to go alone. Roy was all for returning to his chair on
deck and his magazine, but Harry wouldn’t allow it. The flower-boxes,
she declared, were greatly in need of water; and so Roy worked hard
for a time with a pail and a dipper, Harry superintending his labors.
When the last dipperful had been distributed, Roy set down the pail
with a sigh of relief and looked ingratiatingly at Harry. But the
spirit of unrest still possessed that young lady, and after a moment of
thought her brow cleared, and she cried:

“Now we’ll make some doughnuts!”

“Will we?” asked Roy, without enthusiasm.

“Yes; Chub and I got everything yesterday. It’ll be lots of fun, and
the others will be so surprised when they come home and find doughnuts
for dinner. Chub is so fond of them!”

“Yes, and that’s what makes it seem kind of mean of me to help,” said
Roy, earnestly. “He’d love to be here, you know. Suppose we wait until
he can help?”

“Oh, he won’t mind,” answered Harry lightly. “He’d much rather eat them
than make them.”

[Illustration: “A little more of the hegg, ma’am?”]

“So would I,” thought Roy. But he didn’t say so. Instead, he followed
Harry down to the galley with a sigh which this time didn’t suggest
relief. For the next two hours there were great doings. Harry, with
numerous towels pinned about her in lieu of an apron, and Roy, with his
coat off and his sleeves tucked above his elbows, measured and mixed
and beat; at least, Harry did; Roy stood by and did what he was told,
but the tasks which fell to him were menial in the extreme. In spite of
the limitations of space and utensils, the frying was a big success,
and, as Roy was allowed to help himself to the sizzling, hot doughnuts
as soon as they were sugared, he regained some degree of happiness.

“There!” exclaimed Harry, when the last batch was being powdered
with sugar from an improvised shaker which Roy had fashioned from a
baking-powder tin by punching holes in the lid. “That makes eight dozen
and three. And then you ate--how many, Roy?”

“Five,” answered Roy, promptly and unblushingly.

“Roy Porter! You won’t have any appetite for dinner!”

“Don’t worry,” Roy laughed. “As long as you’re around I guess I’ll
manage to work up an appetite. I suppose we’d better dust the river
next or trim the trees.”

“You’re just too lazy for anything,” laughed Harry. “For goodness’ sake
go and sit down.”

“Not for worlds!” he said indignantly. “I can’t bear to be idle. I
shall fish from the tender. Want to come along?”

Harry did, so they scrambled into the little boat with a few worms and
a couple of lines, and rowed a little way into the stream.

“We mustn’t go very far away,” said Harry, “in case--”

“Your nightmare came back,” teased Roy.

“Do you think it was that?” she asked anxiously.

“Don’t you?” he answered evasively.

“I don’t know. Maybe. But it didn’t seem like a dream.”

“Lots of dreams don’t. Hand me the bait-can, please.”

They fished for nearly an hour without having even a nibble, and then
rowed disgustedly back to the boat. Shortly before noon the rest of the
party returned almost empty-handed. The doctor had landed three small
trout, Chub two, and Dick none.

“The stream’s too small,” said the doctor. “To-morrow--” he
hesitated--“if we’re still here, we’ll try the first stream and go
higher up.”

“Did you see our friends the Gypsies?” asked Roy.

“All over the shop,” answered Chub. “We met two fishing and passed a
couple more about ten minutes ago. They had two gunny-sacks on their
backs, and I’ll bet they’d been stealing things. Get busy with dinner,
Dick; I’m almost dead, I’m so hungry. This early breakfast business
won’t do.”

When the meal was ready, Chub let out a howl of delight.

“Doughnuts!” he shouted. “Hooray! Where’d you get ’em?”

“Made them, of course,” replied Roy, loftily. “Harry assisted me. She’s
real handy about the kitchen. I don’t know what I’d have done without
her.”

“Huh!” said Chub. “She could have done without you, Roy. You ate more
than she made.”

“Roy did beautifully,” Harry said. “I couldn’t have got along without
him.”

Roy bowed impressively, and Chub grunted in derision. But the latter
had to acknowledge that the doughnuts couldn’t have been better even
without Roy’s interference.

Dinner over, Harry declared that they must go to the store and make
certain that Jennie had arrived.

“We’ll all go,” said Dick. “I want to see your old store.”

The doctor elected to stay at home and do some work, and they left him
on the upper deck, immersed in his books, with a fountain pen clasped
tightly between his teeth, and his pad of paper on his knee.

“I think,” laughed Roy, “that any one could come along and steal
everything out of the boat without the doctor knowing anything about
it.”

“Sure they could,” Chub agreed. “But no one will come around when they
see him there.”

When they came in sight of the store, Harry gave out a cry of distress.

“There’s nobody there!” she exclaimed. “It’s all closed up! She never
came.”

“Well,” murmured Chub, sorrowfully, “I never did have much faith in
Jennie.”

“I guess we might as well go back, then,” said Dick.

“Nothing of the sort!” returned Harry, determinedly. “We’ll get the key
and open the store. Mrs. Peel left us in charge, and it’s our duty
to do it. Why, just think of all the money we may have missed already
to-day! It’s a perfect shame, Chub.”

“I know; thousands of dollars, likely.” Chub shook his head gloomily.
“Maybe we’ll have to go into bankruptcy. You run over and get the key,
Harry.” But Harry shook her head in distress.

“Oh, I couldn’t, Chub. I never could make her hear me. You go.”

“Well,” answered Chub, “I’ll do my best, but my voice isn’t very strong
to-day.” He crossed the road toward the little cottage.



CHAPTER XX

“GASOLINE AND SUPPLIES”


Chub mounted the porch and tapped with the iron knocker, while the rest
waited and watched on the other side of the empty street. After a while
he tapped again, and after a longer while the door opened and the same
old lady peered out, her spectacles astride the tip of her nose. Harry
and Roy and Dick heard the conversation begin, saw the old lady lean
forward and place a hand behind one ear, and saw Chub nerve himself for
a new effort. After that they heard every word beautifully.

“I called for the key of the store,” said Chub, loudly.

“Nothing to-day,” replied the old lady, starting to close the door.
Chub deftly introduced one knee between the door and the frame.

“You don’t understand! I want the key of the store!” He pointed across
the street. “Mrs. Peel’s store!”

The old lady shaded her eyes and peered across at the waiting group.

“Feels sore, does he? Which one is it? How’d he do it?”

“He didn’t! I mean--Look here, ma’am, I want the key we left here last
night! The key! _Key!_”

“Key?” asked the old lady mildly.

“Yes’m.” They could almost hear Chub’s sigh of relief. “We’re going to
open the store. Mrs. Peel’s niece didn’t come.”

“You want the key?”

“Yes’m, please.”

“Are you the gentleman who left it here?”

“Yes’m.”

“What say?”

“_Yes, ma’am!_”

“Well, don’t yell so. I’m a little deaf, but I don’t have to be yelled
at, young man.”

“No’m.”

“Eh? What say?”

“_It’s a nice day!_” bawled Chub, desperately.

“Yes, yes, I’m a-going for it. Ain’t any sense being so impatient. Sit
down and wait a minute. I don’t remember just where I put it.”

Chub retired to the railing and wiped his brow, while the old lady
carefully closed and locked the door. Across the street the others were
struggling with their laughter.

“Did you make her hear?” asked Dick, softly. Chub made a gesture of
despair and felt of his throat gingerly. Presently the door opened
again and the old lady held out the key.

“When’s she coming back?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” replied Chub. “I haven’t heard.”

“Third? Not till then? You going to keep store for her?”

“Just for to-day, I guess,” answered Chub, wearily.

“Eh? I can’t hear you. You don’t talk plain. She ain’t sold out, has
she?”

“_No, ma’am, she hasn’t!_” shouted Chub. Then he plunged across the
porch and made his escape. The old lady remained at her front door,
watching and muttering, long after they had opened the store and
disappeared inside.

[Illustration: “I want the key of the store”]

“Here’s a couple of letters,” said Dick, as Chub raised the
window-curtains. They were lying on the floor just over the threshold,
and he picked them up and examined them. “One for Miss Jennie Frost and
one for Mrs. Amanda Peel. Strange I didn’t get anything.”

He handed them to Harry, and she looked them over critically.

“This one’s from Mrs. Peel to her niece,” she said. “And the
other--Chub, where did you say Jennie lived?”

“Byers, or something like that. Why?”

“Because this other letter is postmarked Byers. It just means, I
suppose, that Jennie can’t come.”

“Probably.”

“I wish we could open the other letter, the one from Mrs. Peel, and see
when she’s coming back.”

“Yes, but of course we can’t,” said Roy. “Besides, what does it matter?”

“Well, it seems too bad to have the store shut up, doesn’t it? I’m sure
Mrs. Peel needs money badly. I’ll put these letters in the cash drawer.”

“Come and look at the pocket-knives, Roy,” called Dick. “I’m going to
have one. There’s a _dandy_ here for seventy-five cents. Look.”

“Oh, do buy one, Dick,” called Harry. “We ought all to buy something
and help her out. I’ve got fifty cents, and I’m going to see what I
want.”

Eventually Harry proudly added the following items to her record of
sales:

    One Pocket-knife            .75
    One       ”                 .75
    One pair Canvas Shoes       .60
    One yard Blue Ribbon        .08
    One package of Raisins      .15
    ½ pound Crackers            .08
    ¼   ”   Cheese              .10

Harry frowned and figured for a while and then announced exultantly
that they had already sold two dollars and thirty-three cents’ worth of
goods. “Isn’t that fine?” she asked.

“The old lady hasn’t sold that much before in a week,” said Chub. “Who
wants some crackers and cheese? Or some raisins? The cheese is fine,
but the crackers are a little bit stale.”

They perched themselves on the counter and partook of Chub’s
hospitality, Dick suggested craftily that if they all ate as much as
they could now it wouldn’t be necessary to prepare so much supper when
they went back to camp.

“And there’s something in that, too,” Dick continued, “for our stores
are getting pretty low. We’ll have to have some fresh meat about
to-morrow, and some eggs, and--let me see; what else was it I thought
of? I know; kerosene. And the ice-chest has been empty for nearly a
week.”

“Oh, we don’t need ice,” said Chub.

“We do in this sort of weather if we’re going to keep meat fresh. And
I’d like mighty well to see a little fresh milk and not have to use
that canned stuff. And we’re about out of that, too.”

“We can get condensed milk here,” said Roy. “I saw some over there on
the shelf.”

“Oh, let’s!” said Harry.

“I tell you what,” Chub said. “To-night we’ll look over the boat and
make a list of what we need. Then if we can get any of the things here
we’ll do it. What do you say?”

“Good scheme,” replied Roy. “It’ll put some money in Mrs. Peel’s
pocket.”

They were still discussing it when there was the sound of a wagon
stopping in front of the store. The arrivals proved to be a farmer and
his wife, and for the next quarter of an hour all hands were busy. The
farmer wanted axle-grease, horse liniment, five-pounds of red ocher,
five gallons of kerosene, a bag of flour, and ten pounds of sugar.
While the boys were hunting these things up, Harry was following the
farmer’s wife all around the store, from one show-case to another,
explaining the absence of Mrs. Peel and exhibiting the goods.

“Well, now, I call it right down kind of you young folks to keep store
for her,” declared the woman. “I hope her sister ain’t very sick, but
she didn’t look real strong when she was here awhile back. How much is
that wide yellow ribbon?”

“Fifteen cents a yard,” replied Harry promptly, having thoroughly
investigated the contents of the ribbon-case and the prices earlier in
the afternoon.

“My, ain’t that a lot? Still, I always was partial to yellow; it seems
so sort of cheerful, don’t it? You can cut me a yard and a quarter,
I guess. And I want a dozen sheets of writing-paper, the kind that’s
ruled, you know, and a package of envelopes to fit.”

When the customers departed, Harry reckoned up the sales and announced
gleefully that four dollars and twelve cents had been added to the
treasury.

“I haven’t had so much fun since I had the measles,” said Chub. “Did
you observe the artistic way in which I did up that bundle?”

“And did you see me handle the sugar-scoop?” asked Dick. “I believe I
was cut out for a storekeeper, fellows.”

“We’ll have to order some more kerosene soon,” remarked Roy. “I pumped
the tank almost dry filling the old farmer’s can for him. Where do we
buy our kerosene?”

“Standard Oil Company,” answered Chub, promptly. “I’ll drop a note to
Mr. Rockefeller this evening. I wonder what she keeps gasolene for?”

“Maybe for automobiles,” suggested Harry.

“I don’t believe an automobile ever stopped in this village,” Chub
replied.

“Plenty of them go by, though,” Dick said. “I’ve seen four this
afternoon. I think this is the main road along here, isn’t it?”

“What we ought to do,” announced Chub, “is to let them know that we
keep it. We ought to put a sign out. Wait a minute.”

He went out into the back yard and rummaged around until he found a
board some four feet long by ten inches wide. He brought it in and
pulled a marking-pot and brush from under the counter.

“Now then,” he said as he dipped the brush and began to print, “here
goes for the automobile trade!” Five minutes later the sign was done
and they were nailing it to the corner of the store, where it was
visible for a hundred yards up the road. Chub had lettered it as
follows:

                    HEADQUARTERS FOR AUTOMOBILISTS
                         GASOLENE AND SUPPLIES

But Chub wasn’t yet satisfied. On the back of a piece of cardboard
he printed “Midsummer Sale!” This he placed in one of the windows,
saying, “I’m pretty certain that Mrs. Peel is asking a heap less than
her husband did. You see, there’s a store some place near here that’s
getting her trade away from her, and it’s safe to say she’s marked
things pretty low.”

“How about your automobile supplies?” asked Roy. “What do you mean?”

“I didn’t say ‘automobile supplies,’” answered Chub. “I said ‘gasolene
and supplies’. We’ve got all sorts of supplies, haven’t we? ‘Supplies’
means crackers and cheese and such things just as much as it does
carburetors, doesn’t it?”

“I suppose so, but it sounds sort of misleading.”

“Well, if you come right down to it, we’ve got plenty of things
automobilists use. We’ve got grease and wrenches and files and
pliers--and water--”

“That’s right,” agreed Dick. “We don’t claim to have a full line of
supplies. We’re short on goggles, pink veils, spark-plugs, and extra
tires.”

“Wouldn’t it be lovely,” asked Harry, “if a big automobile should stop
and buy a whole lot of things?”

“Yes, say about fifty gallons of gasolene, a dozen files, half a dozen
wrenches, and a pail of water!” laughed Chub.

“Well, they might buy something,” replied Harry, cheerfully. “And if
any one should ask for a pink veil I’d show them the mosquito netting.”

“Harry, you’ve missed your vocation,” Roy laughed. “You should have
been a shopkeeper. Hello, what’s that?”

There was a loud grinding of brakes outside, and a big red touring-car
which had coasted noiselessly down the hill came to a sudden stop at
the corner almost under the new sign. Before they could reach the door
a man in a yellow duster, evidently a chauffeur, hurried in.

“I want some gasolene,” he announced brusquely. “Where do you keep it?”

“In the back yard,” replied Chub, promptly. “Come on. How much do you
want?”

“Five gallons will do. Is it any good?”

“Best made,” answered Chub. “We get it direct. Come on.”

The chauffeur followed him with a growl.

“Bet it’s low-test stuff,” he muttered.

Roy went out with them, while Harry and Dick sauntered out on the
sidewalk, where they could see the car and its occupants. There were
two ladies and a gentleman in the back of the car, and a second
gentleman was seated in front. They all wore dust-coats, and from the
appearance of the car it was evident that they were touring. One of the
ladies glanced around and caught sight of Harry and said something
to the gentleman beside her. He, too, turned, and in a moment they
were all looking. Harry colored and drew back around the corner. Dick,
however, held his ground.

“Got anything to eat in there?” asked the man in front.

“Yes,” Dick answered. “Crackers, cheese, canned things, raisins, dried
apricots--”

There was a burst of laughter from the car.

“Let’s get out and see what we can find,” said one of the ladies. In
a moment the store was invaded. They bought crackers, cheese, canned
peaches, potted ham, and sardines, and did it so merrily that Harry and
Dick had to laugh with them. The party bore their purchases back to the
car, Dick assisting, and immediately began their luncheon or, as one of
the ladies laughingly called it, “afternoon tea.”

“But we haven’t paid for it” she said suddenly. “How much do we owe
you?”

“Let me see,” said Dick, “there was a pound of crackers--”

“Never mind,” said one of the men, taking a bill from his purse.
“Here’s five dollars. I guess that will pay for the gasolene and
everything. You keep the rest.”

“It won’t come to anything like that,” Dick protested. “The crackers
are--”

“We don’t want to hear how much they are,” laughed the second lady.
“They might not taste so well, and when you haven’t had a mouthful to
eat since eleven o’clock--”

“Never mind about counting it up,” said the man to Dick, genially.
“That five dollar bill will cover it all.”

“Thank you,” replied Dick, gravely.

The chauffeur appeared with the gasolene poured it into the tank, and
tossed the can to Dick.

“Poorest stuff I ever saw,” he muttered savagely as he climbed to his
seat. “All right, sir?”

“Go ahead,” replied the gentleman beside him. The car sprang forward
and in a moment had disappeared in a cloud of dust. Dick went back to
the store.

“Did they pay you?” asked Harry, eagerly.

“I should say they did.” Dick exhibited the five-dollar bill. “He said
this would pay for the gasolene and the other stuff, and I was to keep
the change. I kept it.”

“But the chauffeur paid for the gasolene!” cried Roy. “Call them back!”

“You go out and call,” said Dick, dryly. “They’re a mile away by this
time. If they want their money, they’ll come back for it. Meanwhile
it goes to Mrs. Peel.” He deposited the five-dollar note in the till.
Harry clapped her hands ecstatically.

“Six dollars more!” she cried. “You must all help me put it down. How
much were the sardines, Dick?”

Half an hour later a small boy appeared and bought a bottle of
peppermint and two sticks of candy, and that completed the day’s sales.
At six o’clock they closed the store. Chub locked the door into the
living-rooms and put the key on a nearby shelf.

“There’s no use having that open,” he said, “since Jennie isn’t coming.”

On the sidewalk they paused irresolutely.

“You take it over to her,” said Chub to Dick, holding forth the key.
But Dick shrank away from it.

“Not me!” he cried. “I never could make her hear!”

“Look here,” said Roy, “why not keep the key ourselves? It isn’t likely
that Mrs. Peel will be back before to-morrow. We can come over early in
the morning and open up again.”

“Of course,” Harry agreed. “And we’ll leave a note on the door in case
she should come.”

So the note was written and pinned up, and they started back to the
boat.

“Do you think,” asked Harry, uneasily, when they were climbing the
hill, “that it’s quite safe to leave all that money in the store over
night? There’s over twenty dollars.”

Chub waved the key under her nose.

“But some one might break in,” she insisted.

“Shucks! Don’t you worry, Harry; I’ll wager there hasn’t been a robbery
around here since the place was started.”

“You don’t know, Chub. Does he?” she appealed to the others. “If that
money should be stolen, you’ll have to make it good.”

“Me?” asked Chub. “Certainly. I’ll make it good. That’s one of the easy
things I do. I hereby place myself under a thirteen-dollar bond.”



CHAPTER XXI

THE BURGLARY


“Kerosene, potatoes, condensed milk, cheese, and bacon,” said Dick,
writing the items on a slip of paper.

Chub groaned.

“More bacon?” he asked dismally.

“Well, we’ve got to have some sort of meat,” answered Dick, “and we
can’t get fresh meat here. All those things we can get at the store
to-morrow. But we’ll have to reach a real town pretty soon. We ought to
have meat and fresh vegetables and fruit.”

“Look here,” said Roy, “there are plenty of farms around here. Why not
see if we can’t get some vegetables and fruit at one of them to-morrow?
And some milk too?”

“Good idea,” said Chub. “I delegate you and Dick to buy those things.”

“I don’t mind,” said Dick. “There’s a farm, a big old farm a little
way beyond the village; you can see it from the road. And seems to me
it’s almost time for corn, isn’t it?”

“Sure,” said Roy. “And don’t we need more eggs?”

“Yes,” answered Dick. “I forgot eggs. And, I say, maybe they will sell
us a couple of nice young chickens. We’ll start right after breakfast.
Want to come along, Harry?”

But Harry shook her head. “Chub and I have to look after the store,”
she replied importantly.

“That’s so, I’d forgotten the store. Well, you take this list along,
Chub, and bring those things back with you at noon. I’ll put down the
quantities we need. Who’s got any money?”

“Money!” exclaimed Chub. “Where’s that large sum we intrusted to you a
week ago?”

“Large sum!” responded Dick indignantly. “It was two dollars! How long
do you think two dollars is going to last? I’m down to my last cent,
and I don’t suppose I can get a check cashed around here.”

“Scarcely,” said Chub. “I’ve some money, though. Here’s two dollars to
spend on vegetables, and I’ll pay for what we get at the store. Are
you keeping the account straight, Roy?”

“I guess so, I put down whatever any one tells me to. It’s hot down
here. Let’s get back on deck.”

The doctor was sitting in one of the willow chairs, his gaze on the
opposite shore of the river, where a few faint lights twinkled through
the darkness. Chub lighted the lamp in the wheel-house, and Harry
stopped behind her father and rumpled his hair playfully.

“Asleep, papa?” she asked.

“Asleep? By no means, my dear. The fact is, I was--” he paused and
laughed amusedly--“I was occupied in rather a funny way. I was making
up a riddle.”

“A riddle!” said Harry. “That’s nice. What is it, papa?”

“Well, see if you can guess it, any of you.”

“That means me,” said Chub, perching himself on the rail and hugging a
stanchion. “If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s elucidating
riddles. Elucidator’s my middle name.”

“Well, tell me what it is that

    ‘Flies through the air without wings,
     Swims through the sea without fins,
         Has nails but no toes,
         Sheets but no clothes,
     On each of its fingers wears rings.’”

“Why, it’s poetry!” declared Harry.

“Well, I don’t claim much for the rhymes,” answered the doctor,
modestly. “Got it, Chub?”

“Er--well, you see, sir, being in rhyme makes it more difficult.”

The others jeered.

“Of course I don’t mean that I can’t guess it, only that it requires
more effort. Now let me see: ‘Flies through the air without wings;’
that’s a balloon. ‘Swims through the sea without fins;’ that’s--that’s
an eel. Er--what was the rest, doctor?”

     “‘Has nails but no toes,
        Sheets but no clothes,
    On each of its fingers wears rings.’”

replied the doctor.

Chub was silent a moment. Then, “I--I think it’s an ichthyosaurus,” he
said.

“You’ll have to guess again,” laughed the doctor. “How about you,
Dick?”

“I give it up,” answered Dick.

“So do I,” said Roy and Harry in unison.

“And you, Chub?”

“Well, of course I could get it in time, but as the others are
impatient, I won’t stand in their way, sir.”

“Very kind of you, sir,” said the doctor. “It’s a ship.”

Every one said “Oh!”--every one save Chub.

“I should have guessed that next,” he remarked easily.

“Oh, what a fib, Chub!” said Harry. “You’d never have guessed it, and
you know it.”

“I don’t quite see what you mean about ‘nails and no toes,’” said Dick.

“Don’t you? Why, a ship’s put together with nails, Dick.”

“Sure,” murmured Dick, while the rest laughed. “And--and how about the
rest of it, sir?”

“A sheet is a rope that hoists a sail, as you doubtless know,”
explained the doctor. “As for the fingers and rings, why, the masts
are the fingers, and the rings are the wooden rings that the sails are
attached to. There you are, sir.”

“To think of you making that up yourself!” sighed Harry. “You did make
it up yourself, papa?”

“Yes, it’s quite home-made,” was the reply. “Suppose the rest of you
try it.”

“I couldn’t make mine rhyme,” said Harry. “I never could make things
rhyme.”

“I will make up the first one,” said Chub. “Are you all ready?” They
told him they were, and Chub cleared his throat portentously.

“Well--er--why am I like a young pig with a pink nose?”

“There’s so many reasons,” said Dick, “but, to keep you in good humor,
I speak for all when I say we give it up.”

“Because I’m always Eaton: see? _Eaton--eating!_”

“What’s the pink nose got to do with it?” asked Roy.

“Oh, I just put that in to make it harder.”

“That’s a rank conundrum!” jeered Dick.

“There speaks envy,” returned Chub, sadly. “Let’s hear you give a
better one.”

“All right. Why did the animals go into the ark?”

“Because there was Noah else!” shouted Harry. “That’s an old one,
Dick, and you didn’t make it up at all.”

“Didn’t say I did. Chub challenged me to give a better one, and I did
it.”

“Here’s one,” said Roy. “I think it’s original, but I won’t vouch for
it. When is a wagon not a wagon?”

“When it’s a cart?” asked the doctor.

“No, sir.”

“When it’s awheel,” cried Harry, eagerly.

“N-no, but that isn’t so bad. Give it up?”

“Yes.”

“When it turns into a road.”

“That’s lovely!” said Harry. “I must remember that. ‘When is a wagon
not a wagon? When it’s a road;’ no, no, ‘when it turns _into_ a road.’
I know one, but it’s not original.”

“Out with it,” said Chub. “The answer’s on the tip of my tongue.”

“Well, then, what’s the best age for a small house?”

“Cott-age,” answered Dick, to Harry’s disappointment.

“You knew it,” she objected. “You ought to have let Chub try.”

“Pshaw! he’d never have guessed it. He hasn’t guessed one yet.”

“Just wanted to give the rest of you a show,” replied Chub, amiably.
“Don’t you know any more, doctor?”

“Let me see,” said the doctor. “I used to know some. Here’s one;
perhaps you all know it, however.”

“Do I know it, papa?” asked Harry.

“If you do you mustn’t tell. Now then: What throat trouble did George
Washington have when he chopped down the cherry-tree?”

Nobody knew, and the doctor had to dispel their ignorance.

“Why, a hacking cough, to be sure. And what remedy did his father give
him?”

“A licking,” said Chub. “Hand me the prize, please.”

“Oh, no; this was a remedy for throat trouble. He gave him cherry
_bawl-some_.”

“That’s great,” laughed Chub.

The conundrums continued until Dick asked one that broke up the
meeting. That was: “How long will it take to get Chub up in the morning
if we don’t go to bed right away?”

“That’s the easiest yet,” said Roy. “The answer’s half an hour.”

“Wait, please!” cried Harry. “I’ve just thought of a lovely one. You
know this, papa, and so you mustn’t guess. What’s the difference
between a spiritualist and a sailor?”

“I’ve heard that,” said Dick. “It’s something about ghosts, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but you mustn’t tell,” warned Harry. “Do you know it, Chub?”

“What, that? Huh, that was the first conundrum I ever made up! I got a
prize for that!”

“Then what’s the answer, smarty?”

“Why--er--one goes to sea in the day and the other goes to see in the
dark. Come on, fellows.”

“That’s not right, Chub! Do you all give it up? Well, the answer is,
one sees to ghosts and the other goes to sea.”

“Wasn’t that what I said?” demanded Chub from the steps. “Hasn’t she
simply taken the words from my mouth, Dick?”

“No, she hasn’t,” laughed Dick.

“Anyhow,” said Chub aggrievedly, “it isn’t as nice as one I know about
a chestnut.”

“Huh, I guess that’s what it is--about a chestnut!”

“Listen, Dickums!” Chub pulled Dick after him down the steps and held
him against the side of the boat. “I’ll tell you, Dickums, and no one
else. You’ve been a good friend to me. Don’t squirm so! Give me your
full attention. Now: What’s the difference between a good chestnut and
a bad chestnut? Answer: A worm. Cute, isn’t it? Laugh, Dickums, laugh,
or I’ll drop you overboard!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning after breakfast Roy and Dick set out in search of
vegetables and eggs, milk and chickens, the doctor trudged off with his
fishing-rod, and Chub and Harry went to the store. When they arrived,
the curtains in the windows were still down, and the note still hung on
the door.

“She didn’t get back last night, I guess,” said Chub, as he unlocked
the door and threw it wide open.

[Illustration: The till was empty]

“I do wonder when she will come,” murmured Harry. “Of course we can’t
stay here much longer. Papa said at breakfast that he thought we ought
to try a new fishing-place.”

“My, but he loves to fish, doesn’t he?” laughed Chub, as he raised the
curtains and let the sunlight in. “Any mail this morning?”

“Not a bit,” answered Harry. “Let’s take that list, Chub, and get the
things together we’re to take back to the boat.”

“All right. I wonder what I did with it. If I’ve gone and lost it--no,
here it is. Kerosene--hello!”

“What?” cried Harry.

Chub pointed to the counter half-way down the store. One glance
was sufficient for Harry. With a cry of alarm, she darted to the
money-drawer and pulled it open.

“Oh, Chub!” she wailed despairingly.

The till was empty.



CHAPTER XXII

CLUES


The money was gone from the drawer; boxes, tins, and packages had been
pulled from the shelves, examined, and either tossed helter-skelter
back or left upon the counters, and on every side lay evidence of the
burglar’s depredations.

“I said we oughtn’t to leave the money here,” wailed Harry.

Chub didn’t reply. He had seated himself on a box and was frowning
dejectedly about him.

“Who do you suppose did it?” asked Harry.

“I don’t know _who_ did it, but I know how it was _done_,” answered
Chub. He pointed to the door into the back yard. The panel nearest the
lock had been splintered in, and the marauder had evidently thrust his
hand through and turned the key from the inside.

“What shall we say when Mrs. Peel comes?” asked Harry, miserably.

“Tell her the store’s been broken into and burglarized,” answered Chub,
stolidly. “I’ll make up the money they stole, but I don’t think I ought
to pay for the goods taken. And I imagine, from the looks of things,
that the robbers took more than twelve dollars’ worth of stuff with
them.”

“That’s the worst of it,” mourned Harry. “We can make up the money
between us, for you know very well, Chub, we aren’t going to let you
pay it all, but we can’t pay for the groceries and things.”

“We haven’t even any way of finding out how much they are worth,”
replied Chub. “I suppose I’d better report the robbery to some one. I
wonder where the nearest police station is.”

He got up and walked to the back door, Harry following him, and
examined it.

“Looks as though some one had just kicked his foot through it, doesn’t
it?” he asked. “And here he goes--hello, there must have been two of
them! You can see the footprints, Harry. They just climbed the fence
here, walked across to the door, and smashed it in so that one of them
could put his hand through and turn the key. And here’s a match.”
He picked it up, examined it, and dropped it into his pocket. “They
lighted a candle or something--”

“There’s a candle over there beside the barrel,” said Harry. Chub
picked it up.

“If it was a new one when they lighted it,” he said, “they must have
been in here a good long time. I don’t believe a candle burns down that
much in less than twenty minutes or half an hour. I wonder--”

He broke off and walked to one of the shelves. A new box of tallow
candles had been dragged from its place, and one candle was missing
from the top layer. Between the counter and the door he picked up four
more matches and added them to the one in his pocket.

“I don’t suppose,” he said thoughtfully, “that they’ve got any police
around here who could catch these fellows in a hundred years. So I
guess it doesn’t make much difference whether we report the robbery
to-day or next week.”

“Oh, but we ought to tell some one right away, Chub,” exclaimed Harry.

“Well, I’m going to look around first, anyway. We ought to get some
idea of what’s been taken. I’m glad I locked the door into the
living-rooms. Here’s the key just where I put it.”

He started around the store, looking into displaced boxes and cans and
returning them to their places. Presently Harry got a piece of paper
and began to put down a list of the things which they believed had been
taken.

“There were more sides of bacon than this,” said Chub.

“There were seven,” said Harry. “I noticed yesterday. They’ve stolen
four.”

“Put it down,” said Chub. “And they’ve made a big hole here in the
canned things. Looks to me as though they’d taken about two dozen cans.
You can see where they took peaches and green-gage plums. Let’s see;
put down six of each, Harry, and about a dozen more assorted--tomatoes,
beans, and other truck. And sardines, I guess; I don’t know how many;
say three or four. That’s all they took here, I think.”

He worked around the store, examining, tidying, and replacing,
Harry following anxiously with her paper and pencil. When they had
finished they breathed easier. It seemed that the robbers had confined
themselves entirely to bacon and canned goods, although, as Chub
allowed, they might have helped themselves to other things in small
quantities for all they knew. But at most the value of the things taken
would foot up well under ten dollars.

“Don’t see why they didn’t take more,” mused Chub. “They had all the
time they wanted, apparently.”

“Maybe they had to carry the things a long way,” Harry suggested. Chub
shot a questioning glance at her.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Why, they might live a long way off,” Harry explained. “I don’t
believe it was any one who lives here, do you?”

“No, I don’t. It might have been a couple of tramps. The railroad isn’t
more than a quarter of a mile from here, and they may have been walking
along the track and got hungry and came over to see what they could
find. Only, how’d they know there was no one at home here?”

“That’s so,” murmured Harry. “It looks as though it must have been some
one who knew that Mrs. Peel was away, doesn’t it?”

“Yes,” answered Chub, thoughtfully. “Well, whoever they were, they
cleaned up the cash-drawer.” He walked over to it and stared into it,
hands in pocket. “There ought to have been a lock on it, though I
don’t suppose that would have kept them out.” He turned away, and as
he did so something white on the floor under the counter caught his
eye. Picking it up, he bore it to the light. It proved to be a crumpled
wad of papers. Chub smoothed them out, revealing Harry’s memoranda
of sales, the letter to Jennie, and the letter to Mrs. Peel. Both
envelopes had been torn open.

“Guess they thought there might be money in them,” said Chub.
Then--“Look here, Harry,” he said, “I’m going to read this one to
Jennie and see if Mrs. Peel says when she’s coming back. Under the
circumstances I think it’s allowable, don’t you?”

“Yes,” answered Harry. “I do. Because she ought to know what’s
happened, and if she isn’t coming to-day or to-morrow we must write to
her.”

So Chub opened the letter and read it aloud:

    “DEAR JENNIE:--I found Millie was very much better when I got
    here, and there wasn’t any real need of my coming, except
    James was worried and upset and afraid she was going to be real
    sick. The doctor was here about half an hour ago and says she
    is doing nicely. It was just a touch of heat, but James thought
    it was a fever. She was doing a heavy washing, and the weather
    was terribly hot, and she just gave out like a flash. I tell
    James he must have a woman to come in Mondays and help Millie,
    and he agrees. Unless something unlooked-for happens, I will be
    home day after to-morrow afternoon, and if you have your bag
    packed you can go right home the minute I get there, if you
    want to. Your aunt Millie sends her love, and so does James.”

                                                “Your aff. aunt,

                                                   “AMANDA PEEL.”

“When was it written?” asked Harry.

“Day before yesterday,” Chub answered. “That means that she will be
back to-day. Well, all the better. I’ve had about all the storekeeping
I want.”

“So have I,” said Harry, dolefully. “And it was such good fun until
this morning, wasn’t it?”

“It wasn’t bad. You stay here, and I’ll see if I can find out where the
nearest station is. You aren’t afraid, are you?”

“N--no,” answered Harry, “I’ll stay near the door.”

She had no chance to be lonesome, for ten minutes after Chub left,
almost the entire population of the village had appeared on the scene,
eager for details of the robbery, anxious to see the broken door, and
highly curious about Harry. Meanwhile Chub, seated behind Cæsar and
beside Bennie Hooper, was being taken to Washington Hills and the
sheriff. Chub found the sheriff in the middle of a horse trade in front
of the livery-stable. When, however, he had stated his errand the horse
trade was adjourned, and the sheriff followed Chub and Bennie back to
the scene of the robbery in his side-bar buggy.

The sheriff was a young, alert man, and Chub had to own that he seemed
quite intelligent. But he didn’t offer them much hope.

“I reckon,” he said, after he had looked over the premises and heard
all the particulars they could give him, “that whoever done this job
has got away before this. Tramps, likely as not. It looks like their
sort of work; bungly, you see; took no pains to hide their tracks. They
was hungry and couldn’t find any place that looked more promising.
Probably had a gunny-sack and filled it, and then went back to the
railroad. The old lady was lucky they didn’t take more.”

“But doesn’t it seem funny,” asked Chub, “that they should know the
place was empty?”

“Well, you left a note on the door, didn’t you? Maybe they prowled
around, found that, didn’t see any lights, and concluded they’d take a
chance. Probably they tried the windows and couldn’t open ’em without
breaking the glass, and then went around back. Well, I’ll see what can
be done. But I guess it’s a hopeless job. Like as not they’re ten miles
or even twenty miles away by now. Maybe they caught a freight. But I’ll
telegraph up and down the road. You leave it to me, sir. Tell Mrs. Peel
I’ll let her know if anything comes up.”

He climbed into his buggy and was off again. They watched him go and
then locked the store and went back to the boat. It was almost noon,
and Dick and Roy had just returned after a fruitful journey to the
neighboring farm.

“We got eggs and chickens and corn and beets and peas and a whole
half-gallon of milk!” called Dick, jubilantly. “And some little round
squashes that you fry in bread-crumbs.”

“Didn’t you bring the things from the store?” asked Roy.

“No,” Chub answered.

“Why not?”

“Well, I guess we sort of forgot them. Some one broke into the store
last night and stole the money and a lot of groceries.”

Presently, when Roy and Dick had heard all there was to hear, Chub
decoyed Roy to the tent, out of hearing of Harry.

“I say, Roy,” he began, “do you remember the other night when we found
those cans of peaches on the bed?”

“Sure,” answered Roy.

“Remember we found a lot of matches on the floor?”

“Yes.”

“Remember what sort they were?”

“What sort? No, just matches, weren’t they?”

“Parlor matches?”

“Um--no, they were what we used to call ‘all-day matches,’ the kind
that come in cards and have to be broken off.”

“Exactly, sulphur matches,” agreed Chub. “Well, look at these.” He drew
five burnt matches from his pocket and held them out.

“Yes, I see,” said Roy. “Look like the same kind, don’t they? You
think, then, that the fellow that Harry saw at her window is the same
fellow that robbed the store?”

“I think he was one of them,” answered Chub, decidedly. “Besides, he
tried to steal canned fruit from us, and they took about two dozen cans
of it last night.”

“That’s so. Who do you think did it?”

“I don’t know, but--I’ve been wondering--I say, how far do you think it
is to where those Gipsies are?”

“About two miles, I should say. Now, that’s it, Chub! I’ll wager they
did it!”

“Well, that’s what I think,” said Chub. “Now, look here. After dinner
you and Dick had better go back to the store with Harry and be there
when Mrs. Peel comes. I’ll give you a check to replace the stolen
money. She won’t lose that, anyway.”

“Oh, we’ll all contribute to that,” said Roy. “I don’t know that we’re
bound to replace it, though. We didn’t steal it.”

“No, but I’d feel better if we did. You fellows needn’t help, though;
I’ve got enough to pay for it all.”

“Nonsense; we’ll go thirds on it. But what are you going to do?”

“Go fishing,” answered Chub, with a grin.

“Fishing?”

“Yes, up near where the Gipsies are camped.”

“Pshaw, you can’t find anything, Chub!”

“I don’t suppose I can,” replied Chub, musingly, “but--well, it won’t
do any harm to have a look around.”

“Let me go with you,” said Roy, eagerly. But Chub shook his head.

“No, I’ll go alone. I want to look around the camp a bit, and they
won’t think much of it if I stumble in there alone.”

“Don’t think they’ll act badly, do you?” asked Roy, uneasily.

“No; why should they? They won’t know what I’m up to. Maybe they won’t
see me. We’d better not let Harry know anything about it, though,
because she still thinks she may have dreamed that chap at her window.
If she knows it really was a man, she’ll be scared to death all the
rest of the time we’re here.”

“I don’t see what we want to stay here for, anyhow,” said Roy,
disgustedly. “The fishing’s absolutely no good.”

“Well, I think we’ll move on to-morrow. It would have saved us money if
we’d gone before. There’s the doctor coming back. I’ll tell him about
it now, so Harry won’t know.”

“Too bad, too bad!” said the doctor, when Chub had told his story. “But
I wouldn’t let it worry me much. As for the money, why, we can fix that
up easily enough among ourselves. I don’t believe I’d run any risks,
Chub, by poking my head into that Gipsy camp. They’re an evil-looking
lot. I came by there this morning again after I’d caught these.” He
looked down ruefully at the string of five small trout which he carried.

“I don’t think there’s any danger, sir,” answered Chub. “Don’t worry;
I’ll be back long before supper-time.”

But Chub was mistaken there.



CHAPTER XXIII

IN THE GIPSY CAMP


After luncheon Dr. Emery remained in charge of the boat, Harry and
Roy and Dick returned to the store, and Chub wandered nonchalantly
away with his fishing-pole. Harry declared that he was as mean as he
could be to desert them now, just when Mrs. Peel was coming back,
but Chub was quite heartless and went off whistling. At the parting
of the roads he waved them good-by, but Harry refused to notice him.
With a resentful toss of her head she walked straight on, her little
tip-tilted nose held high in air.

Chub smiled as he turned and took up his journey. It was the hottest
sort of a hot day, and the road wound on without a speck of shade for
the better part of a mile. He crossed the railroad and after a while
found himself at the summit of a hill, with the river valley stretching
along beneath him north and south for as far as the eye could reach.
There was a small group of sumac-bushes beside the road here, and he
threw himself down in the scanty shade it afforded and rested for a
few minutes. Then he climbed a stone wall, crossed an upland meadow,
and so came to a stream. It was rather a good-sized affair and very
noisy, for it was hurrying down-hill over a bed of boulders. Pools
were few and far between here, but he followed the stream up as it
wound around the side of the hill, and eventually found a place where
a big lichen-covered rock backed the water up into a shallow basin.
The place didn’t look as though it held many trout, but he selected a
fly and made his cast. At the end of ten minutes or so he had landed
a miserable little fish, not much more than a fingerling, which
under ordinary circumstances he would have disdained to keep. But it
was already approaching mid-afternoon, and he couldn’t afford to be
particular. Two more youngsters were added to his string during the
next quarter of an hour, and then Chub decided that he had enough for
his purpose, for he only wanted to convince the Gipsies that he was a
bona fide trout-fisher and not an emissary of the sheriff’s office.
Stringing his catch on a willow twig, he disjointed his rod and slipped
it back into its case, dropped his fly-book into his pocket, and took
up his journey again.

He kept on around the side of the hill and presently was back on the
road, which had begun to dip into a narrow valley which divided it
from the higher range of hills to the westward. He proceeded slowly
and cautiously now, for he didn’t know how near the Gipsy encampment
might be, and he wanted to look it over before he decided on a course
of action. He met no one on the road save a farmer jogging along half
asleep on top of a load of hay. Presently a speck of grayish white
caught his eye. Surmising it to be one of the Gipsy tents, he left the
road and plunged into the woods to the right. It was very still and
warm. Once he thought he heard voices in the direction of the tent, and
presently, as he went softly through the trees and undergrowth, the
gurgling of a stream reached him. He kept on until he had found it, and
then followed along the bank, feeling pretty certain that it would lead
him to the encampment. Nor was he mistaken, for fifty yards farther on
the tents came into view between the trees. He dropped to his hands
and knees and worked cautiously forward until the undergrowth stopped.
There, lying behind a bush, he reconnoitered.

The spot which the Gipsies had selected for their camp was an ideal
one. On one side lay the road, on the other the brook. It is probable
that the band had camped there each summer for a number of years and
that their occupancy of the spot had denuded it of underbrush. At all
events, it was quite clear of bushes and was just such a place as one
would have picked out for a picnic. The trees were scattered, but gave
plenty of shade; there was a fine turf underfoot; the road was at their
front door and water at their back.

There were two big, gaily painted vans and five tents, the latter
scattered about apparently at haphazard. One tent, a circular one and
the largest of the lot, was set in the center of the grove, and this
Chub guessed to be the queen’s apartment. Here and there clothes hung
drying or airing from the branches, some bales of hay were piled beside
one of the wagons, there was a pungent odor of smoke from a smoldering
fire. Chub counted eight horses tethered about where they could crop
the grass. Outside one of the tents hung a string of baskets, and in
the air, mingling with the odor of the wood-smoke, was a faint perfume
of sweet-grass. Each tent appeared to have its own fireplace and
commissary. Kettles and pans littered the ground about the piles of
ashes, and here and there dried branches were heaped for fuel. It was
all rather interesting, and for a moment Chub quite forgot his errand.

There were three men, perhaps twice as many women, and several
children, the children ranging in age all the way from that of the
baby, who kicked and crowed in his mother’s arms, to that of the lad of
apparently twelve, who was lazily breaking up fire-wood with an ax at
the far side of the camp. The men were frankly idle, sitting with pipes
in mouth outside one of the tents.

The women, all save the one with the baby, were busy. One was mixing
something for supper in a flat tin pan, others were weaving baskets,
and another was sewing. Chub had always imagined Gipsies to be rather
picturesque folks, with earrings and brightly hued costumes. But there
was little of the picturesque about these. The women wore calico
dresses of blue or brown, the men were clad in things that would have
disgraced a tramp, and the children came into, apparently, whatever was
left. Chub, looking them over, decided that the doctor was quite right;
they certainly were an evil-looking lot, and he wondered what their
course would be if they suddenly discovered him lying here behind the
bush. They looked as though they would hesitate at nothing. And just
when he had reached that decision, one of the men broke into laughter,
the others joined him, and the women smiled in sympathy, the swarthy
faces falling into soft lines and the dark eyes glinting merrily.
Perhaps, Chub reflected, they were human, after all. This, under the
circumstances in which he found himself, was an encouraging thought.

He had come there with the idea that possibly he might catch sight of
something which would prove that the burglary had been performed by
one of their number. He had scarcely expected to find them seated in
a circle dividing the spoils, but it had not seemed impossible that
he might discover a telltale can of peaches or a side of bacon. But
now, search as he did, not one speck of incriminating evidence could he
see. The only course remaining, then, was to retrace his steps through
the woods and approach the camp openly by the road. Perhaps, if he
made believe that he had lost his way and asked them to set him right,
he might get an opportunity to look around the camp and possibly see
inside one or two of the tents. He might even buy a basket or two. But,
on the point of creeping away, a new plan occurred to him, a plan which
engaged his ardor because of its sheer recklessness.

The nearest tent was about thirty feet from where he lay, its back
toward him. No sounds came from it, but he couldn’t be sure that it
was unoccupied, for all of that. Yet, somehow, he believed that it
was. It seemed fair to assume that the three men in sight were the
only ones left in camp; that the others were away, peddling, dickering
for horses, fishing. Surely no one would remain in a stuffy tent a
hot day like this, he thought. By creeping a few yards to the left he
would have the tent between him and the Gipsies, unless some of the
children, who were fairly quiet under the effects of the heat, should
take it into their heads to roam his way. But that was a risk he could
afford to take, he decided. Once at the back of the tent, he could
easily raise the canvas and look in. It might be that he would discover
nothing for his pains, but, on the other hand, he might find a good
deal.

Leaving his rod and the fish under the bush and mentally locating
it so that he could recover them later on, he crept back and made a
detour of a dozen yards toward the road. When he again reached the
edge of the clearing, the tent was in front of him and the Gipsies out
of sight. Pausing a moment to rest, for creeping on hands and knees
is breath-taking work, he slid stealthily from cover and crept toward
the tent. He didn’t pause to listen, for the sooner he was behind the
tent the sooner he would be well hidden. But when he crouched against
the soiled canvas he paused and harkened intently, his heart pounding
against his ribs like a hammer. Only the murmuring of voices reached
him, however, and he breathed easier.

Putting his head down, he peered under the edge of the canvas, and his
heart gave a throb of triumph, for there, not a foot from his nose,
were a dozen or more of the stolen cans!

They were piled on the ground at the back of the tent, the corner of
a yellow horse-blanket half covering them. Chub squirmed until his
head and shoulders were inside the tent, and reached forward. Beyond
the cans were two of the strips of bacon, wedged in between them and a
bale of hay. Not a sound came from the tent. Noiselessly Chub drew the
rest of his body inside and peered around the corner of the bale. The
tent was empty. Three beds composed of narrow straw-filled ticks were
in sight, a small old-fashioned trunk, cooking utensils, some clothes
swinging from the ridge-pole, a couple of empty boxes on top of one of
which lay a pack of dirty playing-cards and a pile of harness. Chub
smiled his satisfaction and then pondered his next step. If the stolen
groceries were here it was plausible to suppose that the money was
here, too. Of course it might be in the thief’s pocket, but Chub didn’t
believe that Gipsies were in the habit of carrying much money around
with them. If only he knew where to look!

The flap of the tent was open, and through the opening he could see
the woman with the baby, and two of the children rolling about on the
grass. If, he thought, he could only close the flap! Then he saw a way
of accomplishing that result. By keeping close to the side of the tent
on the right he would be out of sight of the Gipsies and could creep
around and loosen the flap. So he dodged back behind the bale of hay to
the farther wall of the tent, and crept along it until he could reach
the flap. It fell into place, cutting off the shaft of hot sunlight
that had flooded the front of the tent. As it fell, he dropped to the
ground and peeked out under the bottom to see if it had been noticed.
But, save that one of the men had got to his feet and was standing
yawning and stretching, the inhabitants of the camp were much as he
had seen them last. He waited and watched until the yawning man had
stretched himself out in the shade and pillowed his face in his arms.

[Illustration: Two men entered the tent]

Then he began his search. As rapidly and as quietly as he could he
began at one corner of the tent and worked around to it again, lifting
blankets, boxes, beds, cooking-utensils, and whatever else he found.
He searched the ticking of the mattresses for slits through which the
money might have been thrust, and he tipped the bale of hay up and
looked under it. But when he had completed the circuit of the tent
he was forced to acknowledge defeat, for not a penny of money had
he found. It was hot and stifling since he had closed the flap, and
the perspiration was pouring from his face, when he finally paused
nonplussed and sought about in vain for some hiding-place he had
overlooked. At that moment footsteps sounded close beside the tent,
shadows passed across the sloping canvas, and Chub’s heart jumped into
his mouth. With a bound he reached the bale of hay and tumbled himself
behind it just as the flap was lifted and two men entered the tent.



CHAPTER XXIV

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE APPEARS


When Roy and Dick and Harry reached the store they found, to their
satisfaction, that the village inhabitants had gazed their fill and
gone. Roy and Dick amused themselves for a while in discovering clues
and evolving theories, but that amusement finally palled, and they
joined Harry at the front of the store and awaited the advent of Mrs.
Peel. With the doors open front and back it was fairly cool, although
outside the sun was baking hot. Two hours wore themselves away to the
slow ticking of the old clock, and Dick became restless.

“My!” he exclaimed, “I wish the old lady would come if she’s coming!”

“So do I,” said Roy, heartily. “And I wish I could get a drink of cold
water somewhere.”

“Why not use the watering-trough?” asked Dick. “Come on. I’m thirsty,
too. Have some, Harry?”

But Harry declined, and the boys went out and held their mouths to the
little iron pipe. And while they were drinking a two-seated carriage
turned the corner and drew up in front of the store. On the back seat
were Mrs. Peel and a tall man who, in spite of the heat, wore a long
black frock-coat buttoned tightly about his lank form.

“That’s Mrs. Peel!” whispered Roy. “Come on!”

Mrs. Peel climbed nimbly out of the carriage and entered the store,
while her companion remained to haggle with the driver over the amount
to be paid for the drive from the station. Roy and Dick entered close
behind Mrs. Peel.

“How do you do?” asked Harry, in a small voice.

“Why, bless me, my dear,” exclaimed Mrs. Peel, “I didn’t think to find
you here!” She looked about the store. “Where’s Jennie?”

“She didn’t come,” answered Harry, gaining courage, “and so we’ve
been keeping store for you. And we sold over twelve dollars’ worth of
things--”

“I want to know!” said Mrs. Peel, beamingly.

“Yes’m, but last night some one broke into the store and stole the
money and a lot of things!”

The little woman paled and glanced apprehensively about her.

“Burglars!” she whispered. “But who--”

“I guess we don’t have to look very far for ’em,” said a voice at the
doorway. Roy and Dick started and looked up. It was the man in the
black frock-coat.

“Thunder!” muttered Roy, softly. “_It’s Jim Ewing!_”

“This is my brother-in-law, Mr. Ewing,” faltered Mrs. Peel. “This
young lady is the one I was telling you about, James, and these
gentlemen--they are friends of yours, my dear?”

“Yes,” answered Harry, “we’re all together with my father and Chub--you
saw him the other day--on a house-boat.”

Roy and Dick were gazing fascinatedly at the farmer, and Mr. Ewing was
staring malevolently back at them.

“James, there’s been thieves here,” said Mrs. Peel, “and they
stole--how much did they take, Miss?”

“They took all the money in the drawer,” said Harry, “and we reckoned
up that they’d taken about nine dollars’ worth of bacon and canned
goods. They broke in the back door--”

“Up to your old tricks again, are ye?” asked Mr. Ewing, harshly. “Ain’t
content with robbing farms, eh? Have to take the bread out of the
mouths of the widows and orphans, too, do ye?”

“Why, James!” ejaculated Mrs. Peel, bewilderedly. “You don’t
understand! These aren’t the thieves! These gentlemen are--”

“Don’t need to tell me anything about ’em,” grunted the farmer. “We’ve
met before, ain’t we?”

“We have,” replied Roy, dryly.

“Didn’t think you’d dare deny it,” was the triumphant response. “Well,
I guess we’ve met once too frequent for your good, you young rascals! I
guess--”

“Why, what do you mean, James?” cried Mrs. Peel, nervously.

“Mean? Mean that these folks is a parcel of thieves, that’s what
I mean, Amanda! Travel around country, they do, in some sort of a
floatin’ robbers’ den. They broke into my house early in the spring
and stole more’n thirty dollars worth of silverware. And then here a
while ago, when Millie was up visiting you, they come around again, and
I found ’em at their tricks and pretty nigh got ’em. But this time I’ll
wager they’ll get what they deserve. You go out, Amanda, and send some
one for the constable.”

But Mrs. Peel was beyond running errands. She subsided into a chair and
fanned herself with her bonnet, looking dazed and frightened.

“You said they was friends of yours,” she whispered weakly to Harry.

“They are,” replied Harry, stoutly and indignantly, “and this gentleman
is quite mistaken. The store was robbed last night, while we were all
asleep on the boat or in the tent.”

“Of course, of course,” chuckled the farmer. “You didn’t know anything
about it, young lady; I don’t say _you_ did. But I guess these fellers
here can pretty nigh put their hands on the things if they want to.
Where’s the other chap?” he demanded of Roy.

“He’s--he’s fishing,” answered Roy.

“Fishin’, eh? Carried a bag along with him, didn’t he? To bring
the fish home in, eh? Yes, he’s fishin’, I’ll be bound--fishin’ in
hen-coops, likely! Got a room where we can lock ’em in, Amanda, till
the constable comes?”

“Why, James, I--I--don’t know what to think! I’m sure these young
gentlemen wouldn’t do such a thing! And--and even if there is a few
things missing,” she continued, nervously, “I--I wouldn’t want to make
any trouble, James.”

“You don’t need to,” he replied, grimly. “I’ll make the trouble. Now
you get up and march into the house, right through that side door
there.” This to Roy and Dick.

“Look here, Mr. Ewing,” said Roy, calmly, “you’ve made a fool of
yourself once before, and it’s time to quit. We weren’t robbing your
house that other time, and we don’t know any more about this affair
than we’ve told you. And if you think we’re going to let you lock us up
in a stuffy old room just so you can make a goose of yourself, you’re
mightily mistaken. Come on, Harry, and leave this crazy man to himself.”

“No, you don’t!” cried the farmer. “You stay where you are! I’m going
to have the law on you, I say! Don’t you defy the law now! Don’t you
do it! If you do it’ll go hard with you, I tell you that! I’ve warned
ye!”

“James,” gasped Mrs. Peel, “don’t be violent! Just--just let’s hear
what they have to say. You tell me, my dear, all about it.”

“Then he mustn’t call Roy and Dick thieves,” answered Harry, angrily.
“He’s a horrid old man, whoever he is.”

“Tell Mrs. Peel all about it, Harry,” said Roy, in a bored tone. “See
if you can make her understand.”

“Well,” said Harry, pausing a moment to collect her thoughts, “it was
like this.” And she told the story of the burglary from the time of
Mrs. Peel’s departure to the station to her return. Mr. Ewing sniffed
and snorted at intervals, and Dick looked several times as though he
was having hard work to refrain from pitching into him, but Mrs. Peel
listened attentively to every word, and when the narrative was finished
turned in triumph to her brother-in-law.

“There, James,” she said. “I told you you were mistaken. And these
young gentlemen have put the money back in the drawer--which I’m sure
they aren’t beholden to do--and it’s there now.”

[Illustration: “You stay where you are!”]

“A check!” scoffed the farmer. “I reckon I wouldn’t count too much on
any piece of paper they give you.” But it was to be seen, nevertheless,
that Mr. Ewing was somewhat shaken in mind, for it would have been very
difficult for any one to have disbelieved Harry’s story.

“Oh, if that’s all that’s troubling you,” said Roy, “we’ll give you the
cash instead.”

“And how about the other things you stole?”

“We didn’t steal them. And I guess you’ll have to look for them
yourself,” said Roy, wearily.

“And how about my silverware?”

“Oh, bother your silverware!” exploded Dick. “I don’t believe you ever
owned any! Anyhow, I’m sick of hearing about it. Come on, Roy, let’s
mosey along.”

But the farmer strode to the door, closed it, turned the key in the
lock, and dropped the key into his pocket.

“You’ll stay where you are a bit longer,” he snarled. “I ain’t decided
yet what to do with you.” Then, before either Roy or Dick remembered
the back door, he had headed them off in that direction as well, and,
with both keys in his pocket, was master of the situation.



CHAPTER XXV

MR. EWING IS SUSPICIOUS


Dick looked eagerly at Roy, but Roy shook his head. So far they had
done nothing to merit punishment, but if they set on the farmer he
would have good cause for complaint against them. Besides, as Roy
realized, it was doubtful if they could overcome Mr. Ewing in a tussle.
Roy perched himself on the counter again and shrugged his shoulders.

“You’re making a fool of yourself,” he said, “just as I begged you not
to do.” The farmer paid no heed to him.

“You get your things off, Amanda,” he said, “and look around and see
just what’s gone. I reckon if these fellers own up to nine dollars’
worth you’ll find a heap more than that missing!”

“You’re a horrid, ugly, suspicious old man!” cried Harry, hotly. “And
just as soon as I get back to the boat I’m going to tell my father on
you!”

Mr. Ewing regarded her thoughtfully.

“Father’s with you, is he?”

“Yes, he is!”

“Guess you and your father wasn’t with these fellers a while back, was
you? When they stopped and paid me a visit?”

“No, but we know all about it. The boys only stopped at your place to
buy some milk, and your dog got after them and drove them into the
house.”

“Well, I ain’t saying you’ve got anything to do with this,” said the
farmer, quite kindly. “And if you want to run along home I ain’t got no
objections, Miss.”

“I sha’n’t go until you let Roy and Dick go,” replied Harry,
spiritedly. “You haven’t any right to keep us here.”

“I ain’t keeping you, Miss. I offered to let you out. You run along,
Amanda, and do as I tell you to. The sooner we find out what’s missing,
the better.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Peel, arising with a sigh, “I don’t know what to
say, James. It don’t seem to me as you’re doing right.”

“Don’t you worry about me, Amanda. I’ll stand good for my actions.”

With another sigh and a troubled, doubtful look about her, the little
woman went toward the door into the living-rooms.

“You’ll find the key on the third shelf at the right,” said Harry. “We
locked the door yesterday.”

“Might as well have a look around in there, too,” advised Mr. Ewing.
“Maybe they’ve been collectin’ silverware again.”

Dick groaned loudly, and the farmer cast a baleful look at him as
Mrs. Peel disappeared. Harry joined the boys, and they discussed the
situation in whispers, while Mr. Ewing stood guard near the front door.

“What’s the good of being huffy?” asked Roy. “It’s nothing but a lark,
anyway.”

“But look at the time,” said Dick. “Six o’clock already, and I’m as
hungry as a bear. And the doctor will wonder what’s become of us.”

“That’s so. I say, Harry, you’d better run along to the boat and bring
the doctor and Chub with you. There’s no use in missing our supper just
to please this old galoot.”

“Well, I will,” answered Harry. “I guess when papa comes he will
have something to say to this man!” She shot a vindictive look at
the unperturbed Mr. Ewing. “If you’ll kindly unlock the door,” she
announced, haughtily, “I’ll go.”

“Very well,” said the farmer, “but you fellers just stay where you be;
understand?”

“Yes, we understand,” replied Roy. “We won’t try to rush you. Don’t you
suppose we could get out of here if we wanted to try?”

“Maybe; maybe not,” answered Mr. Ewing, as he unlocked the door.
“Anyhow, you’d better not try it.”

“Good-by,” called Harry. “I’ll bring papa right back.”

“Oh, take your time,” replied Roy, with a wave of his hand. “We’re
quite comfortable. Besides, we have the inestimable pleasure of Mr.
Ewing’s society.”

The door closed again, and the farmer returned the key grimly to his
pocket. After a few minutes Mrs. Peel returned.

“Not a thing’s gone from the house, James,” she announced.

“Are you certain sure?” asked Mr. Ewing.

“Of course I am,” she replied, tartly.

“Well, now you take a look around the store.”

Mrs. Peel proceeded to do so. When she came to the money-drawer she
found the check which Harry had placed there. She brought it to Mr.
Ewing, and the latter looked it all over carefully.

“It looks perfectly good, don’t it, James?” she asked, anxiously.

“Yes, it _looks_ all right,” he acknowledged, grudgingly, “but it’s the
best-lookin’ checks that’s the worthlessest. Horace Collins, over to
Highwood, took a check like this from a stranger once, and it wa’n’t a
bit of good. Came back to him marked right across the face of it, ‘No
funds.’ You can’t ever tell by _lookin’_ at a check what it’s _worth_,
Amanda.”

Roy and Dick sat on the edge of the counter and swung their heels and
grinned.

Mrs. Peel continued her investigation, and when she was through she
did some figuring, dipping the little stump of a pencil at frequent
intervals into the corner of her mouth. Finally:

“It’s just as they said, James,” she announced. “I can’t see as
anything’s missing except the canned things and the bacon. And that
foots up to just eight dollars and forty cents.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Mr. Ewing, in tones which belied his assertion.
“It might have been a heap worse.” He turned to the boys. “If Amanda’s
willing to take that money in cash instead of paper and let you off,
I ain’t got anything more to say. If I was her I’d have ye all put in
jail, but women-folks are soft-hearted and easy-goin’, and it’s for her
to say.”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Peel, hurriedly, “this check may be all right. I
don’t get many of them, you see, and don’t pretend to be able to tell
the good ones from the bad. But James says it’s risky, and so if you
gentlemen wouldn’t mind just giving me the money instead--”

“We’d do it in a minute for you, ma’am,” Roy answered, “but this
gentleman here has got on my nerves. So I guess that, seeing we aren’t
liable for that money anyway, it’ll have to be the check or nothing.”

“Didn’t you agree--” began the farmer, angrily.

“There, there, James,” Mrs. Peel soothed. “There ain’t any cause to
pursue the subject. They’re right, I guess; they ain’t bound to pay
back what the burglars took, and I don’t know as I ought to take the
money from them.” She laid the check on the edge of the counter and
observed it dubiously.

“That’s all right, ma’am,” said Dick. “We want you to have it. We’ve
made it up between us. It wasn’t our fault that the store was broken
into, but still we were left in charge, after a fashion, and we’d feel
better about it if you let us pay.”

Farmer Ewing laughed sarcastically.

“Gettin’ out of it pretty cheap at that, I guess,” he sneered. “If it
was my store--”

“Oh, see here, now, if it was your store you’d have had no customers!”
broke out Roy.

Further hostilities were interrupted by a knock at the door. Mr. Ewing
turned the key and looked out. Then the door swung open, and the
doctor and Harry appeared.

“Well,” said the doctor, gravely and quietly, “what’s going on here,
pray?”

“Is he your father?” asked the farmer of Harry. She nodded.

“Then I’ll explain to him,” said Mr. Ewing. He started in and had
reached the robbery of his farm in June, when his silverware had been
taken, when the doctor smiled and held up his hand.

“One moment, sir,” said the doctor. “I happen to know exactly where all
three of these young gentlemen were during the first three weeks of
June, and it is quite impossible that they could have had anything to
do with taking your silver. As for the time they visited your farm and
were found by you in your house, their explanation is quite truthful.
I’ve known them all for periods of from three to five years, sir, and I
assure you that you can believe what they tell you. As for attempting
to connect them with the recent burglary here, why, that is quite
absurd. I think, Mr. Ewing, that you have allowed your imagination to
run away with you.”

“Sounds mighty fine,” growled Mr. Ewing, “but how do I know who you
are?”

“My name is Emery, sir, and I’m principal of the Ferry Hill School at
Ferry Hill, which, as you probably know, is only a short distance down
the river from here. These boys have all been my pupils, and this young
lady is my daughter. Now, boys, I guess we’d better get back to supper.”

Dick and Roy followed the doctor to the door, Mr. Ewing offering no
objection. At that moment there was the sound of an automobile horn,
and a big gray car swept down the road and stopped with a jarring
of brakes in front of the store. In the front seat sat Chub and Joe
Whiting; in the back of the car were the sheriff and three chaps of
about Whiting’s age.

“Hello, there!” cried Chub, cheerily. “Mrs. Peel in? Tell her we’ve got
pretty nearly all her stuff, and what we couldn’t find we’ve brought
the money for!”



CHAPTER XXVI

CHUB’S ADVENTURE


It was after eight o’clock, and they were back at camp, eating a
much-delayed supper and listening to the story of Chub’s adventures.

“I just had time to get behind that bale of hay with the horse-blanket
over it when they came into the tent. I thought sure they’d seen me! I
made myself as small as possible and felt around for the bottom of the
canvas, thinking every minute they’d reach down and pull me out.”

“Oh, but you were scared!” laughed Roy.

“I was,” acknowledged Chub. “You’d have been scared, too.”

“Then what happened?” asked Harry, eagerly.

“Now, if Dickums will cut a few more slices of bread I’ll proceed with
the narrative. I’m as hungry as a bear!”

“Well,” Chub proceeded, as he buttered another slice of bread and
helped himself to the stewed apricots, “I got my feet through under
the bottom of the tent and squirmed out until I just had my head
inside. I wasn’t going to leave that there, but just then the two
Gipsies began shouting and quarreling with each other, and I was pretty
certain that they didn’t know I was around. So I stayed still a moment
and listened. I couldn’t understand more than one word in three, for
they used the funniest language I ever heard, but I didn’t have any
trouble making out that one chap wanted money and the other didn’t want
to give it to him. I thought every minute they were going to fight, but
they didn’t; just romped around and called each other things in Gipsy
language--and sometimes in English--and raised all sorts of a rumpus.
I thought you could have heard them a quarter of a mile away, and I
wondered why the other folks didn’t come over to see what was up. But
I suppose they’re used to it. Presently I got my head outside, too,
but in such a position that I could see in under the canvas and hear
everything.

“Pretty soon they calmed down, and I heard one of them saying something
about a dollar, and the other fellow saying ‘Two dollars! Two
dollars!’ over and over. And finally one of them hove in sight, and I
ducked quick. I heard him fussing around back of the bale of hay, and
thought he was getting some of the canned things for supper. I lifted
the canvas a little way and saw that he wasn’t looking toward me at
all. He was leaning over the bale and pulling a piece of brown paper
out between the layers of hay. When he had it out he opened it, and I
felt like kicking myself. For there were bills and silver and coppers
wrapped up in it, and I knew it was the money I’d been looking for. But
I kept still and watched. He took a two-dollar bill out of the bunch,
did the rest up, and put it back where it had been before, shoving his
hand ’way into the hay. Then he went off, and I heard them squabbling
again, only they weren’t so peevish now.

“Then, thinks I, it’s my time. So I squirmed back until I had my head
and shoulders in the tent again. By stretching I could reach the bale,
and in the shake of a lamb’s tail I had that little bundle of money in
my pocket. Then I thought it would be a good scheme to have a look at
the chaps so I could tell them again. That’s where I made my mistake,
for, just as I got my head around the corner, one of the fellows got
up off the box he’d been sitting on and looked my way. I saw him all
right, and the other fellow too, but he saw me, which wasn’t down on
the program. I saw his eyes get big and his hand shoot out toward
me, pointing, and I heard him break into song, but I didn’t wait any
longer. I sneaked. I got tangled up in backing out, and lost some time
that way, but I got out before they reached me, and was up and running
like the dickens for the woods.

“Well, you never heard such a row as there was! I hadn’t got half-way
to cover when the whole place was in an uproar and everybody in that
camp was coming after me. The fellows in the tent came, too; one
through the back and the other by way of the door. It was a merry
chase, fellows! I made for the deep woods and then circled around
toward the road, thinking I could outrun any of them if I had a good
track. But I was off my reckoning. I reached the road all right and
had a few yards’ start, when the chap who had seen me broke out of the
woods and came after me like a house afire. And he can run, that Gipsy!
If we had him at college we’d win the sprints easily! I put on every
ounce of steam I had, but he kept gaining on me, and I saw that it was
no use. Then I made a dive for the woods again, thinking I might manage
to give him the slip. But instead of that I gave myself the slip. I
tumbled over a root or something, and before I could get my feet again
he had me.”

“Oh, Chub!” gasped Harry. “Did he hurt you?”

“Cut his head off,” said Dick. “Look for yourself, Harry.”

“No, he didn’t hurt me, that is, not to mean it. He pretty nearly broke
my back when he landed on me, but that was unintentional, I suppose. By
the time I’d got up, about six more of the Indians were on the scene,
all talking and jabbering away like mad. No one seemed to know what the
trouble was, and the chap who had me couldn’t get them to keep still
long enough to let him tell them. I never heard such a lot of noise in
my life. Sounded like a meeting of the Football Rules Committee. Well,
they held on to me and shouted and yelled, and I got my breath back and
tried to put on a front.

“‘What do you mean by chasing me like this?’ said I. ‘Let me go
immediately’--or words to that effect. ‘What you do in my tent?’
asks the pasty-faced gentleman who had caught me. ‘What tent?’ says
I, looking as innocent as anything. Then they all broke out again,
and pointed, and began to lug me back to their old camp. I went
unwillingly, but I went; that is, I went part way. Because, just as we
were getting back to it, along comes a cloud of dust with an automobile
in it. So I began to yell like anything: ‘_Help! Murder! Fire!
Thieves!_’ And, being a human sort of an automobile, it stopped quick
to see what was up. When the dust had blown away I looked up to find
Joe Whiting grinning down at me in surprise.

“‘Well, what the dickens are you doing here, Eaton?’ he asked.

“‘Having my fortune told,’ said I. ‘And I don’t like the way it’s
turning out.’

“Well, Whiting had three friends with him--they were touring, it
seemed--and it wasn’t more than half a minute until I was in the car
with them. The Gipsies didn’t want to let me go. They said I’d been
caught stealing; they can talk good enough English when they want to;
and they were going to have me arrested. But the fellows said I was
a particular friend of theirs, and they couldn’t spare me. Whiting
sort of wanted to get out and break up the camp, but I told him I knew
something that would be more fun than that. So we went on, and I told
him all about everything; how I’d found the stolen things and the
money, and all we had to do was to get the sheriff and go back there
and get them. Whiting said they weren’t in any particular hurry, and
they’d run over to Washington Hills and bring the sheriff back. So we
did it. Found the sheriff washing up for supper, got him into the car,
and hustled him back. The rest was easy. He just showed those Gipsies
his badge and the handle of his revolver, and they said, ‘Welcome to
our city.’ We hunted through the whole place and got everything except
a few cans of vegetables and two strips of bacon. Then the sheriff
threatened to arrest every one if they didn’t pay up for what was
missing and move out of the township before to-morrow night. And they
agreed to everything. We threw the booty into the automobile, said good
night, and kited for the store.”

“Well, you had a busy and eventful afternoon,” said the doctor, when
Chub had ended. “It was a lucky thing that your friends came just as
they did. I’m afraid you’d have fared badly otherwise.”

“I don’t believe they’d have hurt me, sir,” answered Chub. “You see,
they didn’t know I’d taken the money; they didn’t find that out until
the sheriff told them. And I don’t believe they’d have thought of it. I
think they’d have let me go after a while.”

“It did me good,” laughed Dick, “to see the expression on old Jim
Ewing’s face when you lugged the stuff into the store. He was a
picture.”

“The old ruffian!” growled Roy.

“Well, he saw the error of his way,” said Chub, cheerfully. “And he
came as near apologizing as it was possible for him to, I suppose.”

“Said he’d made a mistake; we could have told him that before,”
muttered Roy. “I hope he--” Roy glanced at the doctor and gulped. “I
hope he loses his train.” The others laughed.

“Well, Mrs. Peel apologized for him, anyway,” said Dick. “She’s a
nice old lady. She was so excited she didn’t know what was happening,
especially when Whiting bought the dozen cans of tomatoes. What did he
want with those, Chub?”

Chub chuckled.

“I asked him, and he said they were fine to set up on the fence-posts
and shoot at with revolvers. Said every time you hit one the blood
came. He’s a good chap, fellows. We must look him up when we get back
to college.”

“We sure must!” said Roy, vehemently. “Come on and let’s get these
things washed up. It’s ’most time for bed.”

“I wonder,” remarked the doctor, as he pushed Snip off his lap and
arose--“I wonder if you boys know what the date is.”

“Yes, sir, the fifth,” replied Chub, promptly.

“Sixth, isn’t it?” asked Roy, doubtfully.

“Seventh,” said Dick, as though he really knew.

“The seventh it is,” replied the doctor, “the seventh of August.
Does that suggest anything to any one?” He looked around the circle
smilingly. But every one looked utterly blank, every one save Harry;
she looked uneasy, as though she would have liked to change the subject
of conversation.

“Somebody’s birthday?” asked Roy, vaguely.

“Labor Day!” exclaimed Dick, and was promptly hooted.

“No, it’s nothing particular on the Gregorian calendar,” said the
doctor, “but it’s an important day on my calendar, I might say _our_
calendar.” And he laid his arm over Harry’s shoulders and pulled her to
him.

“Well, it isn’t Harry’s birthday,” said Chub, “because she--”

“And it isn’t the doctor’s,” Dick interrupted, “because that comes in
February. We--we observed it last time.” And Dick smiled doubtfully at
the doctor.

“You did indeed,” replied the latter, dryly, to the accompaniment of
Harry’s laughter.

“What did you do?” asked Chub, gleefully.

“They serenaded me,” said the doctor, with one of his slow smiles.
“The music was really nice, but, as it happened at half-past six in
the morning, I was obliged to interrupt it. In fact, I was obliged to
interview some half-dozen of the leaders at the office. And our friend
Dick, here, was one of them.”

“Oh, we didn’t mind, sir,” replied Dick, cheerfully. “You see,” he
explained, turning to Chub with a reminiscent grin, “we got up early,
about twenty of us, and went to the cottage. There were about eight
of us who could play things, and we had two violins, three banjos, a
concertina, and--and--”

“A clarionet!” prompted Harry, her eyes dancing.

“Yes, and we made pretty good music. We played ‘Boola’ and ‘Dixie’ and
something else. They weren’t especially appropriate, of course, but we
had to play what we all knew, or what most of us knew. We were just in
the middle of the third number on the program, with everything going
finely and the clarionet skipping every third or fourth note, when
up went a window and out popped the doctor’s head. ‘What does this
mean?’ he asked, very sternly. Then we all cheered and made noises on
the fiddles and things, and yelled, ‘Happy birthday, Doctor!’ And the
doctor told us to go back to the dormitory instantly. And we went.”

“And then you went to the office after breakfast, eh?” asked Roy.

“Oh, yes,” replied Dick, carelessly, “but the doctor didn’t really mean
half he said!”

Dr. Emery’s laughter mingled with that of the others.

“But you haven’t guessed my riddle yet,” he reminded them.

“I give it up, sir,” said Chub. “The seventh of August doesn’t mean a
thing to me.”

“Well, we wish it didn’t to us, don’t we, Harry?” Harry nodded
sorrowfully. “It’s the end of our two weeks’ cruise on the _Slow
Poke_,” said the doctor. “It’s the day we were due home.”

“O--oh!” exclaimed the boys in chorus.

“Can’t you stay a little longer, sir?” asked Chub, eagerly. But the
doctor shook his head with decision before Harry could get out the
words on her tongue.

“No, I’m afraid not, Chub. I’ve an engagement at home the day after
to-morrow and some things to look up first. I ought to have been back
to-day, I suppose, but I think one day won’t matter. Do you think you
can get us back to-morrow?”

“Easy, sir, if you really must go,” answered Chub. But Dick shook his
head dubiously.

“Why not?” challenged Roy.

“Well, you see, the engine hasn’t been working very well of late, and I
shouldn’t be a bit surprised if it just stopped entirely to-morrow.”

“Get out! You haven’t had it going for days!” said Roy. “How do you
know?”

“Feel it,” answered Dick, gravely. “I--I have a premonition.”

“And how long do you think it will be before the engine gets to working
again?” asked the doctor, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Probably about a week, sir,” replied Dick, slyly.

“A very intelligent engine,” said the doctor, with a smile. “You have
a talk with it to-night, Dick, and explain to it that I am obliged to
be at home to-morrow. Maybe it will decide to go on with us. You might
say, that if I can’t get home on the _Slow Poke_ I’ll have to ferry
across and take the train.”

“In that case,” said Dick, regretfully, “it--it might postpone its
breakdown until later. But I feel sure that it won’t last longer than
it takes to reach Ferry Hill.”

“Goody!” cried Harry. “Then you can stay and pay us a visit, can’t
they, papa?”

“They’re going to,” he answered. “They’re going to stay with us at
least a week, aren’t you, boys?”

The boys looked at each other questioningly. Finally:

“I’d like to,” said Chub, “if the others--”

“We’d all like to,” said Roy. “And we will if you’re sure you don’t
mind, doctor.”

“Mind! Of course I won’t mind! Why, Mrs. Emery wouldn’t forgive me if I
let you go back without a real visit.”

“If they don’t come,” said Harry, “I won’t speak to them again ever!”

“Oh, we’re coming,” said Chub. “We’ll sleep aboard the boat, doctor, so
that Mrs. Emery won’t have to bother about us much.”

“Just as you like about that, boys, but you’ll take your meals at the
cottage; that’s understood. How much longer is your cruise going to
last, Chub?”

Chub looked doubtfully at the others.

“Well,” he replied, finally, “this is the seventh, and if we stay at
the school a week that will bring it to about the middle, won’t it?
Then if we went back to New York slowly we could make the trip last to
about the twentieth. And, as far as I’m concerned, I think I’d be ready
to quit by that time.”

“That’s long enough,” said Dick.

Roy agreed with him. “We’ll have been gone over six weeks by that
time,” he said. “And there’s no use prolonging a good time till you
begin to get tired of it.”

“And there’s no use staying up all night,” said Dick, with a yawn. “I
wager you’ll dream the Gipsies have got you to-night, Chub.”

“If I do,” answered Chub, “you’ll hear me!”



CHAPTER XXVII

GIFTS AND FAREWELLS


The next morning camp was broken and the _Slow Poke_ was made ready for
the cruise to Ferry Hill. Chub and Harry left Dick to fiddle with his
beloved engine and Roy to help him, and paid a farewell visit to Mrs.
Peel. They found the little woman busily and contentedly engaged about
the store, armed with a feather duster. Chub’s gasoline sign still
challenged the passing traffic from the corner of the building.

“I’m just going to let it stay right there,” said Mrs. Peel, when
Chub offered to get it down for her. “When you can buy gasoline for
twelve or fourteen cents by the barrel and sell it for twenty cents a
gallon, I think it pays real well. And you’d be surprised the number of
automobiles go by here! I’ve been keeping track of them this morning,
and there’s been three already. Didn’t any of them want any gasoline,
I guess; leastways, they didn’t stop; but maybe the next one will;
you never can tell. I took the sign out of the window, though,” she
added, apologetically. “It didn’t seem just the thing, although it was
certainly printed just lovely. I was wondering if you’d mind doing me
another one instead. I was making up my mind to ask you, in case you
came back again, just when you crossed the street.”

“I’ll be glad to,” said Chub. “What shall I print?”

“Well,”--Mrs. Peel folded her arms and pursed her lips--“I’ve heard
folks say that down to Washington Hills it’s hard to get waited on
at that store, and that half the time they get short weight. I guess
that’s how that fellow down there can sell as cheap as he does. I
thought you might just put on the sign, ‘Prompt attention, honest
prices, full measure.’ What do you think?”

“That’s lovely,” said Harry, “and it’s all true, too!”

“Well,” said Mrs. Peel, beaming at the compliment, “I always have held
that it pays to treat folks fair and square, leastway in the long run.
That fellow down to Washington Hills is doin’ pretty well now, but I
wouldn’t be surprised if he got into trouble before many years are
gone. Folks don’t mind being cheated for awhile, but they get tired of
it in the end. There was a man came here last Fall with a lot of signs
he wanted me to buy; cards, they were, that you put in the window and
around the store. Awfully pretty, too; looked like pictures, most. But
I didn’t take to them. Mostly they was signs like ‘Our Prices can’t
be Beat’ and ‘As good as Any, Better’n Many’ and ‘Our Prices are the
Lowest in Town.’ Well, course that last was true enough, because this
is the only store here, but most of them was sort of prevaricating. I
told the man so. I said if he had any real honest signs to fetch ’em
out and I’d look at ’em. But, if you’ll believe it, he didn’t have
one! My husband used to say that you could cheat a man once, and maybe
twice, but you couldn’t cheat him the third time because he wouldn’t
give you a chance. And I guess that’s about the way it is. I’ll get a
nice big piece of cardboard, sir, and the marking pot.”

Chub took particular pains with that sign, ruling his lines and spacing
his letters with a pencil before he set to work with the brush and the
lampblack. And when it was finished it certainly looked fine.

“There,” said Chub, holding it out, “that isn’t so bad, is it? I’ve
seen signs right in the windows of our stores at home that didn’t beat
that much. That capital F looks sort of wobbly, but you wouldn’t notice
it, I think.”

“It’s perfectly splendid!” said Harry, admiringly. And Mrs. Peel, who
had watched the lettering with an almost breathless interest, fluttered
off, in quite a tremor of excited pleasure, to find her spectacles.

“Looks just like it was printed on a printing-machine,” she exclaimed,
when her glasses had been adjusted and she was alternately trying the
effects of looking through them and over them. “I’m very much obliged,
sir. I--I think I’ll put it in the window and see how it looks from
outside.”

So, with Chub assisting, she tacked it to the back of one of the window
shelves, and cleared the one below so that the inscription should not
be missed. Then she hurried out to the sidewalk and viewed it with her
head perked about like a bird’s. Chub and Harry joined her and observed
the effect with satisfaction, and Chub, to Mrs. Peel’s delight,
discovered that it could be read from the corner of the street if you
found just the right spot to stand.

They made a few modest purchases for the boat’s larder and then bade
Mrs. Peel good-by.

“Well,” she said, “I do hope you’ll come again. You’ve been most kind
and obliging, all of you. I do hope you won’t hold it against me, the
way James acted. He’s a real nice man, ’cept when he gets his tantrums,
and then he’s that set and--and pig-headed there isn’t any use trying
to argue with him.”

“I think that’s so,” murmured Chub.

“Indeed, we didn’t mind him at all, did we, Chub?” assured Harry.

“No’m, not a bit,” Chub replied. “I--I hope he got his train all right
last night?”

“He must have, I guess. If he hadn’t he’d been back again likely. He
was real ashamed of the way he’d acted and the things he’d said, but
wild horses couldn’t get him to own up to it, Miss. Some men are like
that. You have to know them, Miss. My husband used to say that there
was two ways to judge a man. One way was to watch him in public, and
the other way was to see him at home. I’ve seen James at home. Well,
must you really be going?”

“Yes,” answered Chub, “they’ll be waiting for us at the boat, I’m
afraid. Good-by.”

“Good-by, sir. Good-by, Miss. I do hope you’ll come up this way again,
and--and--” The little woman broke off vaguely and swept her gaze
quickly about the store. Then, “Just you wait a bit, please, Miss,”
she exclaimed. She trotted back to the ribbon-case, casting a backward
glance at Harry’s face, and fumbled agitatedly about there for a
moment. Then she came back with a roll of light-blue ribbon which she
put in Harry’s hand.

“To tie up your hair, my dear,” she whispered, patting the hand that
held the gift.

“Oh, but really, Mrs. Peel--”

“Now don’t you say anything, Miss! It’s just a little remembrance from
an old woman you’ve been kind to. ’Tain’t worth a row of pins.” And
while Harry was thanking her she turned to Chub.

“Ain’t there any little thing you’d like to take along, sir?” she
asked, eagerly. “I do wish you’d select something. I suppose there
isn’t much here you’d care for, but--”

“Indeed there is, Mrs. Peel,” Chub assured her heartily, “but I’m not
going to take anything. I thank you just the same.”

Mrs. Peel’s eyes were ranging the store again, and Chub nudged Harry
and moved toward the door.

“Just a minute, sir!” And Mrs. Peel hurried away to one of the farther
shelves, returning in a moment, looking highly pleased with herself.
“There,” she said, “just you take that, sir. It’s a real pretty bit of
china, ain’t it? Course that sentiment don’t mean anything. Unless,”
she added, half shyly, “you want it should, sir.”

The gift was a pale pink mustache-cup, decorated with green leaves and
purple flowers, and bearing the inscription in funny gilt lettering,
“Friendship’s Token.” Chub glanced at Harry, whose eyes were dancing
merrily and yet looked a trifle misty, and then at Mrs. Peel.
Apparently, however, that lady was quite unaware of the irony of
presenting Chub with a mustache-cup, and Chub restrained a smile and
thanked her quite gravely and earnestly. When they reached the corner
with their gifts and purchases, they turned and looked back. The little
woman was in the doorway, smiling and waving her feather duster. They
waved back to her and went on. Harry was silent until they were taking
the hill. Then:

“I don’t care,” she said, half aggressive and half apologetic. “I think
it was perfectly sweet of her, Chub!”

“Of course it was,” answered Chub, emphatically.

“And--and it shows,” continued Harry, earnestly, “that the world is
just full of nice people, and you can’t always tell who they are at--at
first.”

    “‘The world is so full of a number of things,
      I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,’”

murmured Chub, adding, with a glance at Harry’s ardent face, “Anyhow,
’most any one could be nice to you without half trying.”

[Illustration: They waved back to her and went on]

“Why?” asked Harry, opening her blue eyes very wide. Chub’s gaze
wandered off to the scenery.

“Oh, just--just because,” he answered, vaguely.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shortly before ten the _Slow Poke_ was on her way again, dropping down
the river with, for the _Slow Poke_, almost marvelous speed.

“At this rate,” sighed Harry to Chub, “we shall be home long before
supper-time.”

“Well, for my part,” answered Chub, turning the spokes of the wheel
idly back and forth, “I’m about ready to eat some one else’s cooking.
But don’t whisper it to Dick.”

“This will be our last--I mean _my_ last dinner on board,” said Harry,
regretfully. “Don’t you think we might find a real pretty place to
stop, Chub?”

“To be sure, we can; and we’ll make a farewell banquet of it and eat
everything nice we’ve got! You take the wheel a minute, and I’ll give
orders to my worthless crew.”

They made quite a ceremony of that dinner. Dick, imbued with the spirit
of the occasion, made a jelly omelet as a _pièce de résistance_, and
piled every good thing that the larder contained on the table up under
the striped awning. They had stopped the headlong career of the _Slow
Poke_ where a murmuring grove of trees came down and leaned over the
water as though to watch their green finery mirrored back to them from
the calm surface. They had snubbed the boat’s bow close to shore, so
that half the upper deck was in the cool shadow, and at that end they
had placed the table. Harry and Snip had jumped ashore and brought back
sprays of leaves for the adornment of the festal board and Roy had
ruthlessly snipped a dozen big red blooms from the geraniums in the
boxes. Dinner was late, but no one minded, not even the doctor, for
Ferry Hill was less than fifteen miles away, and three hours more would
bring them there.

[Illustration: The doctor was called on for a speech]

The doctor was called on for a speech when the dessert was brought on,
and responded eloquently, finally toasting his hosts in a brimming
glass of “vin de Cold Spring.” Chub responded, “on behalf of himself
and his crew, who, being a motley lot hailing from many countries,
were unable to speak the English.” The crew groaned loudly at this,
but later forgave the remark and responded generously with applause.
Snip ate his repast from a dish at Harry’s side and had a little of
everything, as was only proper when you consider the occasion. Harry
decreed that no one was to hurry the least little bit, and no one
did. And so it was two o’clock before the engine began its work once
more, and almost five when the _Slow Poke_ sidled up to the Ferry Hill
landing, and Snip, with a bark of sheer delight, leaped the intervening
two yards of water and capered around the float.

I might tell, at the cost of many details and much space, of the week
that followed, but the story is really finished at this moment. It was
a jolly week, the jolliest sort of a week, and every one, even Dr. and
Mrs. Emery, enjoyed it thoroughly. And every one, Dr. and Mrs. Emery
not the least, regretted the arrival of the day of departure. Good-bys
were said, promises of future meetings made, and, with the doctor
and Mrs. Emery and Harry waving from the landing, and Snip barking
farewell, the _Slow Poke_ moved away on the final stage of her journey.
The boys watched the group on the wharf until a point of land hid it
from view.

“Nice folks those,” said Dick, quietly.

“Yes, they are!” murmured Roy.

“Right, oh!” said Chub.

The voyage back to New York was taken in easy stages, for, now that the
end was in sight, no one was really anxious to reach it. They stopped
when they liked, and started when it pleased them, and had a pleasant,
lazy time of it. No incident of moment occurred worth setting down
here, unless, possibly, it is a very tiny incident that happened on the
second evening of the homeward voyage. Chub was getting ready for bed,
and Roy and Dick were standing at his door talking to him, their own
disrobement complete. Suddenly Dick pushed his way into the little room
and picked up something which was lying face down on the bed beside
Chub’s discarded garments.

“Hello!” said Dick. “Where’d you get the photograph, Chub?”

“Here! You put that down!” exclaimed Chub, making a dash for it. But
Dick was too quick for him and tossed it to Roy.

“Have a look!” he called, as Chub grappled him.

Roy had a look, and:

“It’s Harry!” he exclaimed, in surprise.

“Well, what of it?” asked Chub, defiantly.

“Oh, nothing,” murmured Roy.

“Oh, nothing,” echoed Dick, softly, and, joining arms, they marched
twice around the deck in the moonlight, whistling Mendelssohn’s
“Wedding March” badly out of tune, and grinning like a couple of
Jack-o’-lanterns when they passed the window. Chub, frowning and
muttering, stowed the photograph at the bottom of his suit-case.


THE END



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.





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