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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

“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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading