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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