THE TABLES TURNED

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

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

But Chub shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, where’s he going?” he called.

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

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

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

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

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

“So do I. Shall we go now?”

“Yes, come along.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You had Fido,” said Dick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Ewing’s jaw dropped comically.

“Wh-wh-what–” he stammered.

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

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

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

Mr. Ewing “got.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chub put his lips to the speaking-tube.

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

“Yes,” was the answer.

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

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

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

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

“I wonder if he’s had enough?” pondered Roy.

“I’ll bet he hasn’t. I’ll bet if we came back here fifty years from
now we’d find him sitting on the fence outside his gate with that old
popgun in his lap, waiting for us. You don’t know the–the indomitable
will of our dear friend, Job Ewing.”

“Jim,” corrected Roy.

“Pardon me; I meant to say James. No, Jim won’t forget us in a hurry,
and I think it will be wiser to keep on this side of the river for a
while. That’s Westchester County over there and this is Rockland. I
don’t know much about such things, I’m pleased to say, but it seems to
me that if that old farmer gets out a warrant for us we’ll be better
off in some other county.”

“What are you going to do about your coat and things, though?” Roy
asked.

“Get ’em this evening,” answered Chub, “when the shades of night have
fallen over hill and vale. Let’s put in around that point there and
stay until then, shall we? I don’t believe they can see us from the
other shore.”

Dick joined them and they talked it over and finally agreed to Chub’s
plan. The _Slow Poke_ was steered around the point and anchored–since
a shallow beach made it inadvisable to stretch lines ashore–near a
little village. The railroad ran along within a few yards and a tiny
station was in sight. But the point of land cut them off from sight of
Farmer Ewing’s neighborhood and they believed that they could spend the
day there safely. They went ashore and made a few purchases and learned
that the nearest ferry was four miles up the river.

“That would mean a good five miles upstream and four miles back if they
tried to get us that way,” said Chub. “And I don’t believe they’d go to
that trouble. Besides, it’s safe that they think we’re still going down
the river.”

“Just the same,” said Dick, “one of us had better keep a lookout all
the time so that if they did try to get us we could skip out.”

“Right you are, Dickums. Yours is the wisdom of the owl and the cunning
of the serpent.”

They spent a quiet day. They would have liked to go ashore and tramp,
but didn’t dare leave the boat lest the relentless Mr. Ewing should
descend upon it in their absence. So, instead, they read and wrote
letters on the upper deck under the awning, which was stretched for
the first time. To be sure, they had been away from home only two
days, but, as Roy pointed out, more had happened to write about during
those two days than was likely to happen in the next two weeks, and
they might as well make the most of it. The quiet lasted until about
four o’clock when Whiting’s thunder-storm, which had been growling
menacingly for an hour or more, descended upon them in full fury. There
was a busy time getting the awning down again, and then, somewhat
damp, they retreated to the forward cabin and watched the rain lash the
river and listened to the roaring of the storm. It was all over in half
an hour, leaving the air cool and refreshing. They had a good supper
and afterward, at about eight, pulled up anchor and headed the _Slow
Poke_ diagonally down the river until it was opposite the place where
Chub had undressed and left his coat. There Chub jumped into the tender
and rowed ashore. The others watched anxiously while the _Slow Poke_
sauntered along with the current but in five minutes Chub was back
again, his clothes in a bundle in the bottom of the tender.

“Didn’t see a soul,” he answered in response to the questions of the
others. “Start her up, Dick, and we’ll go back.”

It wasn’t so easy to sleep that night, for the trains went rushing by
on an average of every half hour, shrieking and clattering. But they
managed to doze off at intervals until well toward morning when, having
become inured to the racket, they slept soundly until the alarm-clock
in Chub’s bedroom went off.

“I move you,” said Chub at breakfast, “that we get out of this
vicinity as soon as we can. I’ve had enough excitement to last me for a
month. I’m for the silent reaches and the simple life!”

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