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.

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