UNDER THE AWNING

Three idyllic days followed during which the _Slow Poke_, her white
paint freshly gleaming in the sunlight, bobbed and courtesied her way
up the long reaches of the river. It was wonderful weather for July,
pleasantly cool in the mornings and evenings and languorously hot in
the middle of the day. Chub still remained nominally master of the
ship, but to all intents and purposes the management of affairs had
passed into the small, sun-browned hands of Miss Harriet Emery. It was
Harry who ordered the lines cast off as soon as breakfast was finished
in the morning and who refused to allow them to remain at anchor
for more than the barest two hours at dinner-time. Chub predicted
sunstrokes for the whole party, but Harry was without mercy. She was
on a cruise and her idea of cruising was to keep going. On the second
evening she even insisted that they should leave a very comfortable
berth and put in two hours of sailing by moonlight. It proved a very
pleasant experience, and every one enjoyed it until it became necessary
to find a place to spend the night. Then, as the shore was in deep
shadow, they had their own troubles with jutting rocks and submerged
tree-trunks.

Doctor Emery spent most of his time on the upper deck, reading in the
numerous books he had brought; writing on square sheets of paper, and,
sometimes, sitting idly in his chair and watching the shore slip by.
But he always had a ready smile for whoever happened by, and, on the
whole, was quite the cheeriest and most contented of any. The upper
deck was a mighty comfortable place in the middle of the day when,
moored or anchored by the river bank, they ate dinner and indulged
afterward in what they called a “siesta.” The table was set up there,
and, while it was somewhat of a trouble to bring the things up the
stairs, it made a fine dining-room. The striped awning fluttered in the
breeze, the geraniums were masses of scarlet bloom and the gaily-hued
rugs added their quota of color. There were wicker chairs for all,
although Dick preferred to lie stretched out on the deck with a
cushion under his head. Sometimes during siesta the Doctor fell frankly
asleep and snored gently, and the others talked in whispers for fear of
awaking him. But Harry was impatient of idleness, and as soon as the
two hours were up she insisted on weighing anchor.

Snip would scamper ashore whenever they touched the bank and he had the
most wonderfully exciting times of his life. He explored every foot
of the ground, pursued real and imaginary scents, and treed mythical
bears. Those three days were jolly ones, even if nothing really
happened. There was so much to talk about, so many things to relate,
that the conversation never languished for a minute. Harry learned to
steer after a fashion, learned to tell time by the ship’s clock in the
wheel-house, and helped Dick prepare the meals. She made the beds, too,
and went religiously around the rooms with a dustcloth every morning in
a vain endeavor to find dust.

But on the fourth day Harry’s mania for progress palled. It was a gray
morning, foggy and damp. Oddly enough it was the Doctor who first
voiced a desire for change.

“I wonder,” he remarked, looking at the unbroken margin of forest which
stretched along the shore, “if there is any fishing to be found about
here?”

“I think we could catch something from the tender, sir,” replied Roy.

“I was thinking of trout,” murmured the Doctor. Chub went into the
wheel-house and consulted his map.

“There’s a good-sized stream about a mile up,” he announced. “Let’s go
and try it.”

“Oh, let’s!” cried Harry. “I never caught a trout.”

“You should have seen the one I caught,” said Chub. “It was a regular
whopper. It was as long–”

Roy and Dick groaned.

“I’ve got a picture of it somewhere. I’ll find it.”

“Never mind it now,” said Roy gently. “Try to think of something
else, Chub. You see, sir,” addressing the Doctor, “he’s a little
bit–er–daffy on the subject of that fish. As a matter of fact, it
weighed about ten ounces and–”

“Ten ounces!” howled Chub. “It weighed two pounds! Why, it was the
biggest trout you ever saw! I thought first it was a salmon.”

“Suppose we see if we can find another,” said the Doctor with a smile.
“I haven’t fished for trout in years. Could I borrow a line from some
one?”

“Yes, sir: I’ve lots of them,” said Chub. “And an extra pole. And Dick
has a pole Harry can use. Let’s take luncheon with us and make a day of
it.”

They did. The stream, which evaded them for the better part of an
hour, held plenty of small trout and the Doctor was as excited as a
boy over his first catch. Harry didn’t make a good fisherman, for she
was too impatient. But they had a good time, even when it drizzled for
awhile, and ate their luncheon at noon huddled together in the lee of a
big boulder. They returned to the boat in the middle of the afternoon
with seventeen small trout. The sun came out soon afterward and made
a glorious ending to the day. They fried the fish for supper and the
Doctor, who pretended to have personally caught all the largest of the
trout, declared that he had never tasted anything finer.

“We might try again some day,” he said tentatively.

The result was that the next morning they chugged four miles further
up the river, crossed to the west bank and made a mooring in a
particularly attractive little cove. The stream which they had come to
fish in flowed into the cove under a wooden bridge, and a few hundred
yards below was a small settlement consisting of a village store and a
half-dozen houses. Between the road and the river was a small stretch
of meadow on one side and a grove of trees on the other.

“What an ideal place!” exclaimed Harry, as she stepped ashore.

Strange to say, however, they appeared to have alighted in a locality
quite bare of streams and lakes and nothing on the map looked enticing
nearer than a good-sized lake half a day’s journey upstream and several
miles back from the river. They held a council and decided to try their
luck there, the Doctor declaring with enthusiasm that a lake like that
ought to have plenty of black bass in it. Chub and Dick had never
fished for bass, and that was enough incentive for them. The _Slow
Poke_ was put at her best pace and they reached their destination
that afternoon. After supper the Doctor regaled them with stories of
bass fishing that made their hearts beat high in anticipation of the
morrow’s sport.

They were up early to secure a full morning’s fishing. Everyone
went, Snip showing more true enthusiasm than any other member of the
expedition. The lake proved a long way off, the road was very hot and
very dusty, and after the first mile Harry was trailing along in the
rear, with Chub gallantly bearing her company. They were all tired out
when they reached the lake and the sight which greeted them there was
far from cheering. The lake was large enough, but for fully half a mile
around where they stood it was so shallow that rushes grew for hundreds
of feet out into the water. The Doctor shook his head dubiously.

“It doesn’t look much like a bass lake,” he muttered, “but we’ll walk
along around that point and see what’s there.”

They walked around that point and two more before they found a
semblance of deep water. There was nothing in sight in the way of a
boat or raft, and at last they tried a few casts from a bank and in
the course of half an hour caught five small fish which the Doctor said
were crappies. Whatever they were they were not worth carrying home.
The only catch of any importance was made by Snip. He found a turtle on
the bank and worried it until it closed on his paw. His yelps brought
prompt assistance from Chub who pried the turtle’s jaws apart and threw
it into the lake. Snip stood in the mud and barked for fully five
minutes at the place where the turtle had disappeared. At noon they
reeled in their lines, packed their poles and went back to the boat,
reaching it just before two o’clock, too warm and tired and disgusted
to be hungry. They had a cold luncheon instead of a dinner, and Harry
made some iced tea for which they sacrificed the last piece of ice on
board. After luncheon Chub strode to the wheel-house and seized his
chart with an air of determination.

“I don’t like this place,” he said. “Let’s get out of here as soon as
we can.”

That evening they tied up to a little deserted wharf a few miles below
Albany, and in the morning chugged on to the capital. They spent that
day ashore, shopping and sightseeing, and had dinner at a hotel.
They bought gasolene and ice and fresh meat and fruit and vegetables
and what Chub called “real milk.” They spent a very hot night there,
anchored in the river, and in the morning went on northward until noon.

“I don’t think much of the river up here,” said Dick.

“Well, it isn’t anything to boast of,” Chub replied. “If every one else
is willing I say let’s turn and go back.”

Everyone was quite willing and so after dinner was over the boat was
headed down-stream. The next day found them moored at the foot of a
sloping pasture which ran back and up to a thick forest. The pasture
looked as though it might contain berries, and Harry mentioned the
fact. Chub pointed out that whether there were berries there or not
there were certainly cows. But Harry declared that she wasn’t afraid of
any number of cows and so, leaving the Doctor to keep house, they took
pails and buckets and set forth. Harry had guessed right and they had
no difficulty in filling their pails with blackberries. There were a
few blueberries, too, and Roy had a brilliant idea.

“Harry!” he called, “would you like to distinguish yourself? I’ve
enough blueberries here for a nice big pie. What do you say?”

“She says yes!” cried Chub.

“I haven’t said anything,” Harry demurred.




“But you’re going to, aren’t you?” he asked anxiously.

“Do you really want a pie?”

“Want it! My soul craves a blueberry pie, Harry!”

“All right; but if I’m to make it in time for dinner we must go back
at once. I do hope it will be a success. I never tried baking in a tin
oven,” she added loftily.

“That’s all right,” said Dick. “After you’ve tried it once you’ll use
no other. Isn’t it lucky dinner is our midday meal!”

So they had blueberry pie that day, a good big fat one it was, too.
After a short siesta they walked over to the pasture which afforded
a fairly good place for kicking and catching, and the boys found the
foot-ball which Chub had brought along and had a good hour of fun with
it. Snip, too, enjoyed it, chasing the pigskin like a veteran and
trying to bite holes in it when he had run it down.

Harry’s pie was such a success that there was a loud and insistent
demand for more. So she tried one of blackberries and, while it wasn’t
quite as good as the blueberry, it didn’t go begging.

Two days of rain tried their patience, for the upper deck was quite
uninhabitable, and staying indoors became dull work after the first few
hours. The evenings weren’t so bad, for Harry took things in hand then.
They had dancing to music supplied by the talking-machine, they played
games and told stories, the Doctor proving a veritable mine of romance.
The _Slow Poke_ made a few miles each day, but most of the time it
remained huddled against a bank as much as possible out of the way of
the storm.

[Illustration: Before noon camp was made at the edge of the grove]

The next day the storm passed over, but the weather remained gloomy and
chill. The _Slow Poke_ put thirty miles behind her between breakfast
and supper and life became more cheerful. Just before sunset the clouds
broke and a vivid red glow in the northwest promised a fair day on
the morrow. That evening the Doctor began to talk of trout again, and
Chub brought his map down to the table in the forward cabin and they
searched it for likely fishing places. The result was that in the
morning they chugged four miles down stream, crossed over to the west
shore, and found a mooring in a charming little sandy cove. The sky
was blue again, the river like a great mirror, and the sun shone hot
and comforting. The _Slow Poke_ lay nestled right up to the bank and a
few yards away the stream which they had come to fish in flowed into
the cove under an old rickety wooden bridge. Between the road and the
water was a grove of trees and a little clearing in which the grass
grew knee-deep. Some four hundred yards down-stream huddled a small
settlement consisting of a store and a half-dozen white and drab houses
under a group of giant elms.

“What a lovely place for a camp,” mused Harry, as the boat was made
fast.

“Great!” Chub agreed. “Let’s pitch the tent, fellows, and live ashore
for a day or two. Doctor Emery and Harry can stay aboard at night and
guard the boat.”

The proposition was received with enthusiasm, and before noon camp was
made at the edge of the grove and Dick was cooking dinner over an open
fire. They ate the last of the doughnuts at that meal and Chub was
inconsolable until Harry promised to make some more as soon as she
could secure the necessary ingredients and a kettle big enough in which
to fry them.

“Maybe we can get things at the store down there,” said Chub. “I’ll go
and see presently.”

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