GIFTS AND FAREWELLS

The next morning camp was broken and the _Slow Poke_ was made ready for
the cruise to Ferry Hill. Chub and Harry left Dick to fiddle with his
beloved engine and Roy to help him, and paid a farewell visit to Mrs.
Peel. They found the little woman busily and contentedly engaged about
the store, armed with a feather duster. Chub’s gasoline sign still
challenged the passing traffic from the corner of the building.

“I’m just going to let it stay right there,” said Mrs. Peel, when
Chub offered to get it down for her. “When you can buy gasoline for
twelve or fourteen cents by the barrel and sell it for twenty cents a
gallon, I think it pays real well. And you’d be surprised the number of
automobiles go by here! I’ve been keeping track of them this morning,
and there’s been three already. Didn’t any of them want any gasoline,
I guess; leastways, they didn’t stop; but maybe the next one will;
you never can tell. I took the sign out of the window, though,” she
added, apologetically. “It didn’t seem just the thing, although it was
certainly printed just lovely. I was wondering if you’d mind doing me
another one instead. I was making up my mind to ask you, in case you
came back again, just when you crossed the street.”

“I’ll be glad to,” said Chub. “What shall I print?”

“Well,”–Mrs. Peel folded her arms and pursed her lips–“I’ve heard
folks say that down to Washington Hills it’s hard to get waited on
at that store, and that half the time they get short weight. I guess
that’s how that fellow down there can sell as cheap as he does. I
thought you might just put on the sign, ‘Prompt attention, honest
prices, full measure.’ What do you think?”

“That’s lovely,” said Harry, “and it’s all true, too!”

“Well,” said Mrs. Peel, beaming at the compliment, “I always have held
that it pays to treat folks fair and square, leastway in the long run.
That fellow down to Washington Hills is doin’ pretty well now, but I
wouldn’t be surprised if he got into trouble before many years are
gone. Folks don’t mind being cheated for awhile, but they get tired of
it in the end. There was a man came here last Fall with a lot of signs
he wanted me to buy; cards, they were, that you put in the window and
around the store. Awfully pretty, too; looked like pictures, most. But
I didn’t take to them. Mostly they was signs like ‘Our Prices can’t
be Beat’ and ‘As good as Any, Better’n Many’ and ‘Our Prices are the
Lowest in Town.’ Well, course that last was true enough, because this
is the only store here, but most of them was sort of prevaricating. I
told the man so. I said if he had any real honest signs to fetch ’em
out and I’d look at ’em. But, if you’ll believe it, he didn’t have
one! My husband used to say that you could cheat a man once, and maybe
twice, but you couldn’t cheat him the third time because he wouldn’t
give you a chance. And I guess that’s about the way it is. I’ll get a
nice big piece of cardboard, sir, and the marking pot.”

Chub took particular pains with that sign, ruling his lines and spacing
his letters with a pencil before he set to work with the brush and the
lampblack. And when it was finished it certainly looked fine.

“There,” said Chub, holding it out, “that isn’t so bad, is it? I’ve
seen signs right in the windows of our stores at home that didn’t beat
that much. That capital F looks sort of wobbly, but you wouldn’t notice
it, I think.”

“It’s perfectly splendid!” said Harry, admiringly. And Mrs. Peel, who
had watched the lettering with an almost breathless interest, fluttered
off, in quite a tremor of excited pleasure, to find her spectacles.

“Looks just like it was printed on a printing-machine,” she exclaimed,
when her glasses had been adjusted and she was alternately trying the
effects of looking through them and over them. “I’m very much obliged,
sir. I–I think I’ll put it in the window and see how it looks from
outside.”

So, with Chub assisting, she tacked it to the back of one of the window
shelves, and cleared the one below so that the inscription should not
be missed. Then she hurried out to the sidewalk and viewed it with her
head perked about like a bird’s. Chub and Harry joined her and observed
the effect with satisfaction, and Chub, to Mrs. Peel’s delight,
discovered that it could be read from the corner of the street if you
found just the right spot to stand.

They made a few modest purchases for the boat’s larder and then bade
Mrs. Peel good-by.

“Well,” she said, “I do hope you’ll come again. You’ve been most kind
and obliging, all of you. I do hope you won’t hold it against me, the
way James acted. He’s a real nice man, ’cept when he gets his tantrums,
and then he’s that set and–and pig-headed there isn’t any use trying
to argue with him.”

“I think that’s so,” murmured Chub.

“Indeed, we didn’t mind him at all, did we, Chub?” assured Harry.

“No’m, not a bit,” Chub replied. “I–I hope he got his train all right
last night?”

“He must have, I guess. If he hadn’t he’d been back again likely. He
was real ashamed of the way he’d acted and the things he’d said, but
wild horses couldn’t get him to own up to it, Miss. Some men are like
that. You have to know them, Miss. My husband used to say that there
was two ways to judge a man. One way was to watch him in public, and
the other way was to see him at home. I’ve seen James at home. Well,
must you really be going?”

“Yes,” answered Chub, “they’ll be waiting for us at the boat, I’m
afraid. Good-by.”

“Good-by, sir. Good-by, Miss. I do hope you’ll come up this way again,
and–and–” The little woman broke off vaguely and swept her gaze
quickly about the store. Then, “Just you wait a bit, please, Miss,”
she exclaimed. She trotted back to the ribbon-case, casting a backward
glance at Harry’s face, and fumbled agitatedly about there for a
moment. Then she came back with a roll of light-blue ribbon which she
put in Harry’s hand.

“To tie up your hair, my dear,” she whispered, patting the hand that
held the gift.

“Oh, but really, Mrs. Peel–”

“Now don’t you say anything, Miss! It’s just a little remembrance from
an old woman you’ve been kind to. ’Tain’t worth a row of pins.” And
while Harry was thanking her she turned to Chub.

“Ain’t there any little thing you’d like to take along, sir?” she
asked, eagerly. “I do wish you’d select something. I suppose there
isn’t much here you’d care for, but–”

“Indeed there is, Mrs. Peel,” Chub assured her heartily, “but I’m not
going to take anything. I thank you just the same.”

Mrs. Peel’s eyes were ranging the store again, and Chub nudged Harry
and moved toward the door.

“Just a minute, sir!” And Mrs. Peel hurried away to one of the farther
shelves, returning in a moment, looking highly pleased with herself.
“There,” she said, “just you take that, sir. It’s a real pretty bit of
china, ain’t it? Course that sentiment don’t mean anything. Unless,”
she added, half shyly, “you want it should, sir.”

The gift was a pale pink mustache-cup, decorated with green leaves and
purple flowers, and bearing the inscription in funny gilt lettering,
“Friendship’s Token.” Chub glanced at Harry, whose eyes were dancing
merrily and yet looked a trifle misty, and then at Mrs. Peel.
Apparently, however, that lady was quite unaware of the irony of
presenting Chub with a mustache-cup, and Chub restrained a smile and
thanked her quite gravely and earnestly. When they reached the corner
with their gifts and purchases, they turned and looked back. The little
woman was in the doorway, smiling and waving her feather duster. They
waved back to her and went on. Harry was silent until they were taking
the hill. Then:




“I don’t care,” she said, half aggressive and half apologetic. “I think
it was perfectly sweet of her, Chub!”

“Of course it was,” answered Chub, emphatically.

“And–and it shows,” continued Harry, earnestly, “that the world is
just full of nice people, and you can’t always tell who they are at–at
first.”

“‘The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,’”

murmured Chub, adding, with a glance at Harry’s ardent face, “Anyhow,
’most any one could be nice to you without half trying.”

[Illustration: They waved back to her and went on]

“Why?” asked Harry, opening her blue eyes very wide. Chub’s gaze
wandered off to the scenery.

“Oh, just–just because,” he answered, vaguely.

* * * * *

Shortly before ten the _Slow Poke_ was on her way again, dropping down
the river with, for the _Slow Poke_, almost marvelous speed.

“At this rate,” sighed Harry to Chub, “we shall be home long before
supper-time.”

“Well, for my part,” answered Chub, turning the spokes of the wheel
idly back and forth, “I’m about ready to eat some one else’s cooking.
But don’t whisper it to Dick.”

“This will be our last–I mean _my_ last dinner on board,” said Harry,
regretfully. “Don’t you think we might find a real pretty place to
stop, Chub?”

“To be sure, we can; and we’ll make a farewell banquet of it and eat
everything nice we’ve got! You take the wheel a minute, and I’ll give
orders to my worthless crew.”

They made quite a ceremony of that dinner. Dick, imbued with the spirit
of the occasion, made a jelly omelet as a _pièce de résistance_, and
piled every good thing that the larder contained on the table up under
the striped awning. They had stopped the headlong career of the _Slow
Poke_ where a murmuring grove of trees came down and leaned over the
water as though to watch their green finery mirrored back to them from
the calm surface. They had snubbed the boat’s bow close to shore, so
that half the upper deck was in the cool shadow, and at that end they
had placed the table. Harry and Snip had jumped ashore and brought back
sprays of leaves for the adornment of the festal board and Roy had
ruthlessly snipped a dozen big red blooms from the geraniums in the
boxes. Dinner was late, but no one minded, not even the doctor, for
Ferry Hill was less than fifteen miles away, and three hours more would
bring them there.

[Illustration: The doctor was called on for a speech]

The doctor was called on for a speech when the dessert was brought on,
and responded eloquently, finally toasting his hosts in a brimming
glass of “vin de Cold Spring.” Chub responded, “on behalf of himself
and his crew, who, being a motley lot hailing from many countries,
were unable to speak the English.” The crew groaned loudly at this,
but later forgave the remark and responded generously with applause.
Snip ate his repast from a dish at Harry’s side and had a little of
everything, as was only proper when you consider the occasion. Harry
decreed that no one was to hurry the least little bit, and no one
did. And so it was two o’clock before the engine began its work once
more, and almost five when the _Slow Poke_ sidled up to the Ferry Hill
landing, and Snip, with a bark of sheer delight, leaped the intervening
two yards of water and capered around the float.

I might tell, at the cost of many details and much space, of the week
that followed, but the story is really finished at this moment. It was
a jolly week, the jolliest sort of a week, and every one, even Dr. and
Mrs. Emery, enjoyed it thoroughly. And every one, Dr. and Mrs. Emery
not the least, regretted the arrival of the day of departure. Good-bys
were said, promises of future meetings made, and, with the doctor
and Mrs. Emery and Harry waving from the landing, and Snip barking
farewell, the _Slow Poke_ moved away on the final stage of her journey.
The boys watched the group on the wharf until a point of land hid it
from view.

“Nice folks those,” said Dick, quietly.

“Yes, they are!” murmured Roy.

“Right, oh!” said Chub.

The voyage back to New York was taken in easy stages, for, now that the
end was in sight, no one was really anxious to reach it. They stopped
when they liked, and started when it pleased them, and had a pleasant,
lazy time of it. No incident of moment occurred worth setting down
here, unless, possibly, it is a very tiny incident that happened on the
second evening of the homeward voyage. Chub was getting ready for bed,
and Roy and Dick were standing at his door talking to him, their own
disrobement complete. Suddenly Dick pushed his way into the little room
and picked up something which was lying face down on the bed beside
Chub’s discarded garments.

“Hello!” said Dick. “Where’d you get the photograph, Chub?”

“Here! You put that down!” exclaimed Chub, making a dash for it. But
Dick was too quick for him and tossed it to Roy.

“Have a look!” he called, as Chub grappled him.

Roy had a look, and:

“It’s Harry!” he exclaimed, in surprise.

“Well, what of it?” asked Chub, defiantly.

“Oh, nothing,” murmured Roy.

“Oh, nothing,” echoed Dick, softly, and, joining arms, they marched
twice around the deck in the moonlight, whistling Mendelssohn’s
“Wedding March” badly out of tune, and grinning like a couple of
Jack-o’-lanterns when they passed the window. Chub, frowning and
muttering, stowed the photograph at the bottom of his suit-case.

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