Harry's Island/Chapter 16
A MEETING OF FRIENDS
IT turned off quite cool that evening toward sunset, a stiff breeze blowing up the river, snapping the flag at the top of the pole and sending the smoke from the stove swirling away in sudden gusts. They lighted the camp-fire early and, although the “dining-room” was sometimes invaded by choking gray fumes that made them cough and set their eyes to smarting, the warmth was grateful. Scarcely had the things been cleared up when there came a mighty hail from Inner Beach:
“Hello, the camp!”
They answered, and the big form of the Floating Artist, as Chub insisted on calling him, arose into sight over the bank, looking bigger than ever against the golden haze of sunset. Jack was with him, trotting demurely at his heels. Of course Snip was thrown into a fit of terrible excitement and had to dance around and bark wildly for the ensuing minute. But at last order was restored in camp, Snip silenced, Mr. Cole installed on an empty box that creaked loudly whenever he moved, and Jack was lying at Harry’s side with his head in her lap.
“Well, you’re pretty comfortably settled here,” said Mr. Cole. “And I suppose you’re having a grand time.”
“Yes, sir,” answered Roy, “we’ve had a good deal of fun so far.”
“Got a launch, too, I see; and a rowboat and a canoe. Quite a navy at your command.”
“The launch belongs to Dick,” said Chub. “The canoe is mine and the skiff belongs to the school. The launch is named the Pup.”
“The Pup?” laughed their guest. “How’d you happen to think of that?” Dick explained and the artist was vastly amused.
“Well,” he said, “if I followed your method my boat would be called the Great Silence, I guess.”
“Won’t the engine go yet?” asked Dick solicitously.
“Oh, I haven’t tried it since morning. I don’t like to hurry it. I think, though, that I’ll stay here a day or so. I’ve found some nice bits that I’d like to try my hand at.”
“Do you paint landscapes?” asked Harry.
“Mostly, yes; figures now and then. Landscape is my line, but I’d rather do figures; I guess it’s human nature to always want to do something you can’t. And that reminds me,” he turned to Harry, “you look like an amiable young lady. Suppose, now, you should sit for me a little while to-morrow. What do you say? It won’t be difficult, you know. Just sit kind of still for—hem—an hour. I’d be awfully much obliged, really.”
“Sit for you?” stammered Harry. “Do you mean that you want to paint me!”
“Exactly. Sounds a bit alarming, does it?”
“N-no,” answered Harry, “only—”
“I know,” laughed the artist. “You haven’t anything to wear. Isn’t that it?” Harry’s silence gave assent.
“Well, now, I’d like you to wear just what you’ve got on.” He paused and eyed her critically. “Never mind a hat. I want that glorious hair of yours, Miss Emery. And—let me see—if you have a bit of blue ribbon at home you might just tie it around your waist. What do you say, now? Yes, I hope.”
Harry was much too delighted to speak, but the others mistook the emotion.
“Oh, go ahead, Harry,” said Roy. “I’d like to see a picture of you.”
“Sure,” chimed in Chub. “And maybe if it’s awfully good we’ll buy it for the camp.”
“There’ll be refreshments in case you get hungry,” said the artist smilingly. “Let me see, what do young ladies like? Candy, of course, and—hum—pickled limes and gingerbread.”
Harry giggled nervously.
“I don’t like pickled limes,” she said.
“All the better, for I haven’t any. How about gingerbread?”
Harry shook her head.
“No? Then it will have to be candy. I can manage that, I guess. It’s all settled, then, is it?”
“If you want me,” answered Harry shyly.
“Of course I do! And what time, now? Morning? Afternoon? Morning would be better for me; the light’s clearer. What do you say to ten to-morrow forenoon, Miss Emery?”
“Very well, and thank you. I’ll expect you then at ten o’clock. If you like you may bring one of these young gentlemen with you, but we don’t want a crowd, do we?”
“I guess I’d rather not have any one, if it doesn’t matter,” answered Harry.
“Isn’t she tight?” cried Chub. “She’s afraid we’ll get some of the candy! If she backs down, Mr. Cole, I’ll sit for you any time.”
“Ho, ho!” laughed the artist. “You like candy, too, do you? Well, there’ll be enough for all. The rest of you can happen around when the sitting’s over.”
There was a noise in the woods and Billy Noon appeared and joined the circle around the fire. As he came into the light the artist exclaimed:
“Well, well! Where’d you come from, Noon?”
Chub turned in time to see Billy press a finger swiftly against his lips.
“Eh?” said Mr. Cole. “Oh, yes—er—well, I didn’t expect to come across you up here on this desert island.” The two shook hands, as Billy replied:
“Guess I didn’t expect to see you, sir. In your boat, are you?”
“Yes, in the old Jolly Roger.”
“I see,” said Billy as he found a seat. “You’ve changed her name and her paint, haven’t you?”
“Oh, plenty of times since you saw her last,” was the reply. “Let’s see, she was the Ark, then, wasn’t she?”
“No, sir, the Greased Lightning.”
“To be sure, so she was. That was when she was ultramarine and sulphur yellow: Well, she’s had many names since then, and many colors. You ought to have seen her when she was Joseph’s Coat; she was striped then with six colors and very effective. At one place I stopped they wanted to arrest me for disturbing the peace.” And the artist laid back his head and laughed uproariously in his deep voice.
“I saw her lying at the island this morning,” said Billy, “and I thought that she looked something like your boat, but the difference in the name and the painting misled me.”
“Naturally, although you ought to be able to penetrate a disguise, Noon. I mean that you ought to have remembered her graceful lines. I was telling these chaps this afternoon that I wanted to get rid of her now, for I’ve tried about every combination of colors I can think of, and I’m running out of names as well.”
“How would the Keep Mum do for a name?” asked Billy carelessly.
“Eh? Oh, well, it might,” answered the artist thoughtfully, eying Billy across the firelight. “By the way, what are you doing now?”
“I’ve got a bit of a boat with a sail in it, and I’m going down the river in the interests of Billings’s ‘Wonders of the Deep,’” answered Billy. The artist chuckled.
“Let’s see,” he said, “the last time I saw you you were buying old furniture, weren’t you? Ever do any of that sort of thing now?”
“I’m doing a little on the side,” was the reply. “Had a pleasant summer, Mr. Cole?”
“So far, yes, although I’ve been pretty lazy. But then, I generally am lazy. Miss Emery here has just consented to pose for me to-morrow. I’ve got a little sketch in mind that ought to turn out well.” He half closed his eyes, cocked his head on one side and studied Harry for a moment, a proceeding which brought the color into her cheeks and caused Chub to grin maliciously. Billy asked the boys what they had been doing to-day and they gave him a history of events. Harry reminded Roy in a whisper that they were to invite the Poet and the Artist to supper Thursday, and Roy promptly issued the invitations. To Chub’s surprise Billy accepted at once, as did the artist.
“It’s some time, though,” the latter added, “since I’ve attended a birthday celebration, and I don’t know whether I’ll behave myself.”
“We’ll risk that,” laughed Dick. “It won’t be very much of an affair, sir; just some supper here in camp, you know. Harry’s going to hold her real celebration at home in the afternoon.”
“I see. Well, now, look here, boys! I don’t want to upset any plans, but the fact is that I was thinking about having you all on board the Roger some evening while I’m here. And as I don’t suppose I’ll remain here more than two or three days, why can’t we lump the thing and hold the celebration on the boat? You bring your things and I’ll supply the rest, and we can do the cooking in my galley. Now, what do you say?”
The boys hesitated, but Harry clapped her hands in delighted approval.
“That would be dandy!” she cried. “Let’s do that, Dick! Do you mind?”
“No, I think it would be very nice,” answered Dick. And so it was arranged that on Thursday afternoon Dick was to bring their share of the feast to the Jolly Roger, and as chef, was to take charge of the preparation of the feast. Presently Mr. Cole rose to leave.
“By the way, Noon,” he said, “you’re a sort of Jack-of-all-trades. Know anything about gasolene engines?”
“He knows all about them, sir,” answered Dick.
“Does, eh? Well, then supposing you walk back to the boat with me and look over mine, Noon? It hasn’t been acting quite fair lately. I don’t mind its stopping now and then for a day or so, but it’s been overdoing it recently; it’s been imposing on me.”
So the Floating Artist and the Licensed Poet took their departure, followed by Jack. When they were gone Harry turned to the boys.
“Why do you suppose he wants to paint me?” she cried breathlessly.
“Well,” answered Roy judicially, “you know you’re not half bad looking, Harry.”
“Pshaw!” exclaimed Chub. “It’s a case of love at first sight. He just wants an excuse to see her. Oh, look at Harry’s blushes, fellows!”
“I’m not blushing!” cried Harry, with a stamp of her foot.
“Oh, of course not,” answered Chub, “it’s just the light from the fire!”
“You’re terribly fickle, though,” teased Dick. “A few days ago it was the Licensed Poet, and now—”
“Harry’s a patron of the arts,” laughed Roy. “She won’t look at us pretty soon.”
“I,” declared Chub, “shall learn to sculp.”
“Learn what?” asked Roy.
“Learn to sculp; to be a sculptor, you ninny. That’s an art, isn’t it?”
“Not the way you’d do it,” answered Roy unkindly. “It would be a crime. Say, I thought you said Billy wouldn’t accept for Thursday.”
“I didn’t say he wouldn’t accept,” Chub replied. “I said I didn’t think he’d be able to.”
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked Dick jeeringly.
“If you don’t know I shan’t tell you,” answered Chub with intense dignity. “Come on and get the canoe, Roy. This young artist’s model must go home and get her beauty-sleep.”
Harry, who for several minutes had been sitting chin in hand staring into the fire, roused herself.
“I think,” she remarked dreamily, half to herself, “that I’ll wear the gold brooch Aunt Harriet gave me for Christmas.”
When they were getting ready for bed Dick said suddenly:
“I’d like to know who the dickens this Billy Noon is! Where do you suppose the painter chap got to know him?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” yawned Chub. “It was when Billy was with the circus. Mr. Cole was the elephant.”