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.

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

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