Harry's Island/Chapter 11

Harry's Island by Ralph Henry Barbour
11. The Launch is Christened


DICK turned to Roy in dismay. Chub, stifling a chuckle, looked over toward the nearest shore.

“If she was going six miles,” he said, “things on shore would move by a heap faster. I don’t believe she’s doing better than four.”

“She’s stopped, you blamed lunatic!” cried Dick wildly. Chub stared in surprise.

“Stopped, has she? Why, I hadn’t noticed it! How can you tell?”

“Cut it out, Chub,” said Roy. Dick glared at him a moment and then turned with dark and somber looks toward the engine.

“Where’s the handle?” he asked.

“You put it in the drawer,” answered Roy.

Their troubles began again. Dick turned and Roy turned and Chub turned, and all the time the launch, having gradually swung her nose down-stream was floating gently back toward Silver Cove. They had accomplished fully three fourths of the distance between the Cove and Fox Island when the engine stopped, but it seemed now that they would soon have the trip to make over again. It was very hot with scarcely any breeze rippling the water, and it was well on toward dinner-time. Chub yielded the wheel to Dick and sat down to get his breath and wipe the perspiration from his face.

“Where’s the directions?” asked Roy.

Search failed to reveal them.

“It’s just as well,” grunted Dick. “They don’t tell you anything anyhow. Turn the rudder, Roy, and keep her off that sand-bank.”

“I tell you what we can do,” said Chub as Dick stopped to rest. “Roy and I can get in the canoe and tow her and you can stay in here and steer.”

“It’ll be an all day’s job,” said Roy dispiritedly. “Why not tow her to that landing over there and leave her until we can get some one to fix her up right?”

“You fellows get in the canoe and go on to the island,” said Dick. “I’m going to stay here and make her go. She went once and she can do it again; and she’s got to,” he added doggedly.

“Don’t give up the ship,” cried Chub cheerfully. “We’ll stand by you, Captain. Let me have another go at her.” He seized the handle and was slipping it into the wheel when there was a hail from near by and they looked across the water to where a small cat-boat was bobbing slowly toward them. The boat contained a man in the stern, but who he was they couldn’t make out because of the noonday glare on the surface of the water.

“Hello!” called Dick.

“Anything wrong?” was the query.

“Engine’s gone back on us,” answered Dick. At that moment the sail swung over and threw the occupant of the cat-boat into shadow.

“It’s the Licensed Poet,” marveled Roy.

“Billy Noon, as big as life,” added Chub.

“I’ll see what I can do for you if you want me to,” said the skipper of the sailing craft. “I’ll be there pretty soon. It’s slow going in this breeze.”

The boys sat down, nothing loth, and waited for the launch and sail-boat to draw together.

“What did he tell us he gave for that boat?” asked Roy.

“Four dollars, I think, and a set of dentist’s tools,” Dick replied.

“Well, he got stuck! Look at it!”

At some time, probably a good many years before, the Minerva had been new and trim. To-day she was a veritable apology for a boat. Some twenty feet long, she was blunt of nose, wide of beam, almost guiltless of paint. The cockpit was only large enough to hold one man and allow the tiller to swing, the rest of the deck space being occupied by a cabin. One port had been closed with a piece of tin through which a length of stove-pipe and an elbow projected. The mast had apparently not been scraped for years and the single sail was gray with age and patched from boom to gaff. Once the hull had been white and the cabin green, but time and the weather had subdued all to a neutral hue that matched the old sail and the weather-stained mast. Closer acquaintance revealed the fact that most of her seams had opened and that she was about as near falling apart as anything could be that still held together.

The Minerva dipped slowly and clumsily along, pushing the sparkling wavelets away from her blunt nose, and presently Billy Noon swung her head into the wind and brought her alongside the launch. He looked quite different to-day. He wore a suit of gray clothes which, if a little shabby, were very neat and clean, a figured shirt, turn-down collar and blue tie and a straw hat which had apparently seen more than one summer and undergone more than one cleansing at home.

Also he had dropped his extravagant manner and phraseology. This morning he was just a freckled-faced, red-haired, good-natured chap with an alert manner and a pair of blue eyes that twinkled cleverly and that seemed to take in the situation at one glance. Lowering his sail and making fast the painter of the cat-boat, Billy climbed aboard the launch and threw off his coat. Then he rolled up his shirt-sleeves, revealing a pair of very muscular brown arms.

“Had her going, did you?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Dick, “she ran all the way from Silver Cove and went finely; made six miles an hour easily.” He threw a defiant glance at Chub.

“To be exact,” amended that youth solemnly, “six miles and one eighth by the patent log.”

“Well, let’s see,” said Billy Noon. “I guess there’s nothing very wrong.” He picked up the handle, fitted it to the fly-wheel and turned her over several times without results. Then he tested the battery, an operation which the boys watched with interest, and got a good spark.

Ch 11 illus--Harry's island.jpg

“‘What did he tell us he gave for that boat?’”

“Nothing wrong there,” he mused.

“Have you ever run a launch?” asked Roy curiously.

“No, but I operated a gas-engine once for about six months and got pretty well acquainted,” answered Billy. “That was in a pottery.” He looked over the engine for a moment in silence, his sharp eyes twinkling from one part to another. “Let’s see how the gasolene is coming. Maybe—hello!”

“What?” asked Dick.

“Why, your cock under the carbureter has worked open and all your gasolene is running into the well. No wonder! Got a monkey-wrench?”

“No, we haven’t,” answered Dick.

“Well, the handle will do. All it needs is just a tap to tighten it. There! Didn’t you try to flood your carbureter?”

“No,” answered Dick a trifle sheepishly. “We forgot it the last time.”

“If you had you’d have seen where the trouble was, because she wouldn’t have flooded. Now let’s see.”

One turn and the engine started. Billy retarded the spark until he saw that the Minerva was following all right, and then pushed the lever in. The launch gathered speed and in a moment was cutting through the water in a way that brought an admiring ejaculation from even Chub. But Billy wasn’t satisfied.

“That carbureter isn’t regulated very well,” he said. So he went at that, Dick watching, and screwed and screwed until he had it to suit him. “That’s better,” he said. He wiped his hands on the piece of waste and looked over the boat. “A nice little launch,” he said. “And a good engine. You’re getting fully two and a half horse-power out of it, I guess.”

“How fast do you think she is going?” asked Dick eagerly.

Billy studied a moment. Then:

“About seven miles,” he answered. “You ought to make nine with the current and no tow.”

Dick looked triumphantly at Chub. For once Chub had nothing to say. Presently Dick observed:

“What I don’t understand is why she wouldn’t start at the wharf. We flooded the carbureter dozens of times then.”

“Maybe that was the trouble,” was the reply. “Your engine was stiff and cold and you got too much gasolene into it. That’s just as bad as getting none at all. You’ve got to have the proper mixture of air and gasolene, you know. After you’d turned her over awhile you worked the gasolene out and she started. It’s a good plan to have a small oil-can with some gasolene in it. Then if she doesn’t start with three or four turns you can open your relief-cock and squirt a few drops into the cylinder. That’ll start her all right.”

For the next few minutes Dick took a short course in gas-engine operating and by the time he had asked all the questions he wanted to they were approaching the Ferry Hill landing and a disconsolate figure in the shade of the boat-house.

“There’s Harry,” said Chub. “I’ll bet she’s mad!”

But she wasn’t; only grieved and reproachful until they told their troubles to her, and after that vastly interested and sympathetic. Harry, having just become a passenger, was by no means ready to end the cruise, demanding that the launch should go up the river for a way. The boys, however, being for the moment firm believers in punctuality as regarded meals, compromised on a voyage around the island. So they went up along the inner channel, swung around Far Island, which, as every experienced mariner knows, lies nor’-nor’-west of Point Harriet, and, navigating skilfully past the dangerous shoals which lie around The Grapes, stopped off Hood’s Hill while Billy Noon returned to the Minerva and, with the aid of a broken oar, reached the beach. The boys were properly grateful for his help, Dick thanking him profusely.

“That’s all right,” said Billy, as he pulled the nose of the Minerva onto the beach and carried the painter up to the nearest tree. “Glad I happened along. Any time you want any help you yell for me.”

“Thanks,” answered Dick. “And—and come and see us.”

“Yes, you must be neighborly,” added Harry. Billy nodded and waved his hand, and Dick, with a bit of a swagger, took up the handle and turned the wheel. The engine answered at once and the launch chugged off toward the lower end of the island.

“Isn’t he splendid?” asked Harry admiringly.

“Who do you mean?” asked Chub. “Dick?”

“No, Mr. Noon, of course.”

“Well, he was certainly Johnny-on-the-Spot to-day,” Chub replied. “He ought to be called the Licensed Engineer instead of the Licensed Poet. Say, Roy, do you believe all the yarns he tells?”

“About what?” asked Roy, drowning Harry’s indignant ejaculation.

“Why, about being a circus clown and playing in the band and being a dentist and running an engine in a pottery and—and all that. What do they want with an engine in a pottery, anyhow?”

“Well, I was never in a pottery, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t need an engine. As for the other things, why, you saw those pants of his; and if any one but a clown would wear them I miss my guess, Chub!”

“That’s so, but he can’t be more than thirty or so.”

“Bet you he’s nearer thirty-five,” said Dick from the wheel.

“Anyhow, he must have spent a pretty busy life if he’s been all the things he says he has!”

“Papa says he’s the—the—I think he said the ‘smoothest’—book agent he ever met,” said Harry eagerly. “I told him about his being a clown and a poet, and I recited the verses he made up, and papa said they were very good verses for a clown.”

“Oh, he’s all right,” said Chub. “I haven’t anything against him, only I do think he’s had a rather eventful life, so to speak. He seems a pretty decent chap, though.”

By this time the launch had passed Lookout, having practically completed the circuit of the island, and Dick turned off the switch and stopped the engine. The launch floated softly into the smooth water of Victory Cove and Dick turned its nose to the beach. Then, with a little grating sound the bow slid up on the sand and Roy, painter in hand, jumped ashore.

“That rope belongs to the fellow at the wharf, by the way,” said Dick. “I must take it back to him. I’ll have to get some rope of my own. And I need some tools, and an oil-can, and an anchor and lots of things!”

“How about an engineer?” asked Chub slyly. Dick looked hurt and made no reply, and when they were out on the beach Chub threw an arm over his shoulder and playfully squeezed his neck.

“Don’t be a chump, Dickums,” he said. “I was only fooling. You got the hang of it finely.”

Dick looked mollified.

“It takes a while to learn,” he said, “but I bet I’ll be able to run that boat to the Queen’s taste in a week.”

“Of course you will,” answered Chub heartily. Then they set about getting dinner. Chub declared that he could taste gasolene in everything, but Dick was able to prove that he had washed his hands well before beginning the cooking and so Chub’s assertion was received with contempt. From where they sat they could see the launch. Dick had shoved her off after making the painter fast to a tree and now she was floating motionless on the mirror-like surface of the cove. Dick’s glances sought her frequently during dinner, and presently he said:

“I wish they had painted her white instead of black.”

“It would have been much prettier,” agreed Harry.

“We could paint her ourselves,” said Chub. “It wouldn’t be much of a job.”

“That’s so. I’ll get some paint the next time we go to the Cove and we’ll do it. We’d have to haul her out, though, I suppose.”

“No, we wouldn’t,” answered Roy. “I’ve seen them paint boats in the water. You get a weight, like a big rock or something, and put it on one side of the boat and that raises the other side out of the water. You only have to paint to the water-line, you know. Then when you’ve done one side you change the weight over and do the other side. It’s easy.”

“All but getting the weight out there,” said Chub.

“We can find a big stone and put it in the rowboat and take it out to the launch,” said Dick.

“Yes, we could do that all right,” agreed Chub. “By the way, Dickums, what are you going to call her? I’ve thought of a dandy name!”

“I dare say,” answered Roy sarcastically. “The ‘Thomas Eaton,’ I’ll bet.”

“You wrong me,” said Chub. “Besides, I wouldn’t allow my name to be associated with such a badly-behaved boat as that.”

“I think she behaves beautifully!” exclaimed Harry.

“You saw her at her best,” said Chub. “She acted all right after the Engineer-Poet got at her.”

“What’s the name, Chub?” Dick asked.

“‘The Old Harry,’” answered Chub. “That’s the way she behaved.”

“That’s not so bad,” laughed Roy. Harry looked doubtful.

“I don’t think I’d like that,” she said finally. “People might think it was named after me.”

“Yes,” said Dick, apparently pleased to find an objection to the name. “Besides, I had about decided on a name myself.”

“What is it?” asked Chub.

“Well—have you noticed the sound she makes when she’s going?”

“No,” replied Chub, “she was going such a short time that I didn’t have a chance.”

“She says ‘puff, puff, puff!’ like that,” said Roy.

“No, she doesn’t,” answered Dick. “I thought that was it at first, but what she really says is ‘pup, pup, pup, pup, pup, pup!’ So I’m going to call her the ‘Pup.’”

“That’s all right,” said Chub admiringly. And Roy agreed. But Harry objected.

“I think it’s a perfectly horrid name,” she declared. “You’re just fooling, aren’t you, Dick?”

“Not a bit of it,” answered Dick stoutly. “I think it’s a fine name.” And in the end, despite Harry’s negative vote, the name was formally adopted.

“We’ll have a christening,” suggested Roy. “And Harry can be sponsor—if that’s what you call it—and break a bottle of—of something over her bow.”

“It’ll have to be tomato catsup, I guess,” laughed Dick. “That’s about all we’ve got.”

“I refuse to have the catsup wasted,” said Chub. “Besides, it would be terribly messy. We’ll find an empty bottle and fill it with water. They christen lots of boats with water nowadays.”

So after dinner the ceremony took place. They rowed out to the launch in the skiff, Harry tightly clasping a bottle of river water. They had found the bottle on the beach. The lettering on one side proclaimed the fact that it had at one time been filled with “Brainard’s Lucky Discovery for Coughs and Colds.” When they had all climbed aboard the launch Chub had an idea.

“Look here,” he exclaimed, “we’re not doing this right. She ought to be christened with gasolene!”

“Of course!” cried the others in chorus. So the water was poured out and the bottle was held under the carbureter and filled with gasolene. Then Roy and Dick and Chub grouped themselves as imposingly as possible on the small space of deck at the bow, maintaining their precarious positions by holding onto each other, and Harry re-embarked in the rowboat, working it around to the bow of the launch.

“The band will now play,” said Chub. “Tum, tumty, tum; Tum, tumty, tum; Tum—”

“That’s the wedding march, you idiot,” laughed Roy. So Chub struck up “Hail, Columbia” instead.

“Now,” he said, “we will listen to an address by the Honorable Roy Porter. Hear! Hear!” And he clapped his hands so strenuously that he very nearly precipitated the entire company into the water. The Honorable Roy Porter not being inclined to fulfil his portion of the program, Commodore Dickums Somes was called upon.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” began Dick. “We are met here on a memorable occasion, one which—which will long live in the—in the—”

“Memories of those present,” prompted Chub.

“We are about to christen the pride of these waters, a boat which will in future—in future—”

“Hear! Hear!” shouted Chub appreciatively.

“In future make for itself,” continued Dick, encouraged by the applause, “a name which will become famous from—from Poughkeepsie to Albany,—aye, from Long Island Sound to Lake George! We are about to place another star in the galaxy which—which has for generations upheld the supremacy of the American nation at home and abroad, by land and by sea, in peace and in war!”

The applause was almost deafening, largely due to the fact that Roy had one arm around Dick’s shoulders and was clapping his hands within three inches of his nose. On the other side Chub shouted “Bravo!” into his ear, while at his feet, so to speak, Harry had let go of the launch that she might have both hands to applaud with and was now squirming undignifiedly across the gunwale trying to reach it again. Dick warmed to his work. He threw back his head with a noble gesture and tried to thrust his right hand into the bosom of his negligée shirt. [Chub called them “neglected” shirts.] But as this would have seriously upset his audience he was forcibly restrained.

“Upon these beautiful, tranquil waters, upon the bosom of this historic river this graceful boat will add the—the finishing touch to Nature’s work. Breasting the curling waves, tossed by the singing winds—”

“Hooray!” yelled Chub. “Hip, hip, hooray!”

“Singing winds—”

“Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” Roy vociferated.

“Winds, this lovely creation of the hands of—”

“Somes! Somes! Somes! Speech! Speech!” cried Chub, and Harry, having rescued herself, joined the hilarity. Dick gave it up and with a low bow to the mythical multitude which lined the shore of Victory Cove, he joined Roy in the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Of course Chub and Harry lent what assistance they could, and for several minutes discord reigned supreme. Then, having gained the attention of the audience, Chub announced:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to present to you the Honorable Thomas H. Eaton, Secretary of the Navy. Hooray! Eaton! Eaton!” Chub bowed. “Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of Camp Torohadik: It gives me great pleasure to be with you to-day. I have traveled a long distance and feel that I am amply repaid. I thank you for your invitation, for the honor you have done me and for the evidences of your good-will. This is indeed a suspicious—I should say auspicious occasion. Never before, possibly, since the founding of our glorious Republic has so much intelligence, so much worth, so much beauty been met together as I see before me. Ladies and gentlemen, we are wonderfully privileged. Generations hence posterity will look back with reverential awe upon this—this grand occasion!”

“Oh, that’s beautiful, Chub!” cried Harry. Chub faltered.

“Er—er—and so I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, from the bottom of my heart for the honor which you have seen fit to confer upon me. I thank you, I thank you.” Chub bowed to three points of the compass and the launch rocked uncomfortably. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, according to time-honored precedent, a bottle of—er—of gasolene will be broken over the bow and the boat will be named. I take pleasure in introducing to you Miss Harriet Emery.”

Harry climbed unsteadily to her feet in the rowboat and bowed to the applause. Then she raised the bottle of gasolene and brought it down smartly against the bow of the boat.

“I name you Pup,” she cried.

There was a tinkling of glass, a series of shrill barks from Chub and the ceremony was at an end.