Harry's Island/Chapter 3

Harry's Island by Ralph Henry Barbour
3. Graduation and Good News


BY Monday afternoon Dick’s fears regarding the result of the English examination proved groundless, perhaps because he had heroically resisted Chub’s invitation to go fishing Saturday afternoon and had spent most of that period with his head close above his books and his lips moving continuously. There was only one more day of work, and Dick was heartily glad of it. He didn’t like studying, and frankly said so. His mother had died when he was fourteen, and his schooling, decidedly intermittent at best, ceased abruptly while he and his father dwelt in hotels at home and abroad as the latter’s business demanded. Dick’s recent years had been spent in the West, and when, in January last, his father had suggested another trip abroad, Dick had rebelled, professing a preference for school. That he now owed allegiance to Ferry Hill rather than to Hammond was due to a chance meeting on the ice with Harry, who had so cleverly proclaimed the merits of Ferry Hill that Dick, already domiciled at the rival academy awaiting the beginning of the new term, had coolly repacked his trunk and transferred it and himself across the river. For awhile the others had called him “the Brand from the Burning,” but the name was much too long for everyday use, and now he was just Dick—save when Chub or Roy elaborated and called him Dickums—one of the most popular fellows at Ferry Hill School, and the most promising candidate in sight for the school leadership in the autumn.

At three o’clock on Tuesday the last examination was over, and at a few minutes past that hour Dick, Roy, Chub, and Harry, the three former in a blissful state of relief, feeling as boys do feel when the last book has been flung aside for the summer, sat in the shade of the Cottage porch.

“If Cobb gives me a C in German,” said Chub hopefully, “I’m all right.”

“Well, I guess I got through,” said Dick proudly, “but it was hard work.”

“Shucks!” scoffed Chub. “Just you wait until next year!”

“Now don’t scare him to death,” Roy protested. “If you don’t look out he won’t show up in the fall at all. How are you getting on, Harry?”

“Me? Oh, I’m all right, I guess. My last exam’s to-morrow; botany. Now you needn’t laugh,” she added indignantly. “Botany’s awfully hard.”

“What’s the sense of it?” asked Chub. “What good is it going to do you to know whether a leaf’s lanceolate or—or composite?”

“Don’t display your ignorance, Chub,” laughed Roy.

“What good are lots of things they teach us?” Harry demanded. “Like—like music and drawing?”

“Come now, Harry, music’s all right,” Roy protested. “As for drawing—”

“It’s perfect nonsense! Why, I couldn’t draw one of those wooden cubes and make it look square if I was to try a whole year!”

“But you ought to like music, Harry,” said Chub. “You know you have a charming voice, a natural—er—contralto, isn’t it?”

Harry made a face at him.

“I can sing just as well as you can, Smarty, anyhow!”

“I hope so,” said Dick. “Chub sings like a coyote in distress!”

“There speaks envy,” murmured Chub sadly. “I have a very melodious voice, and the beauty of it is that I can sing bass or tenor or—what’s the other thing I sing, Roy?”

“Discord,” answered his chum unkindly.

“That is not so,” responded Chub indignantly. “To show you what a fine voice I have I will now sing for you that charming little ditty entitled—”

“Not much you won’t!” declared Dick threateningly. “If you try to sing we’ll thrash you. Look here, how about that letter? Have you heard from your folks yet?”

“No, do you think I correspond by wireless?” answered Chub. “I can’t possibly hear before Thursday morning. It doesn’t matter, anyhow, I keep telling you. Dad won’t hear of such a thing.”

“How would it do if we all wrote to him?” asked Dick, anxiously. Chub smiled grimly.

“You’d better not if you don’t want to get a scorcher of a letter in reply. My dad’s a good sort, all right, but he doesn’t let any one else run his business for him. I have inherited that quality of—er—firmness.” Roy and Dick howled impolitely.

“What are you all talking about?” asked Harry anxiously. “You’ve gone and got a secret, and I don’t think it’s very nice of you!”

“Why, it isn’t really a secret,” answered Roy, hurriedly. “If there hadn’t been so much going on we’d have told you about it. We three are trying to get our folks to let us camp out for a month or so on Fox Island after school closes; that is, if your father will let us, and I guess he will.”

“Then you won’t go home yet?” cried Harry, delightedly.

“Not if we get permission. It all depends on Chub—”

“On Chub’s father you mean,” growled that youth.

“Because I’m pretty sure of my folks,” continued Roy; “and Dick says his father won’t mind if he stays a month longer.”

“That will be fine,” said Harry; but a moment later her face fell prodigiously. “Only it won’t do me any good,” she added, sorrowfully, “because I’ll be visiting Aunt Harriet most of the time.”

“That’s too bad,” said Roy. “Can’t you fix it to go later?”

Harry shook her head. “No, she goes to the seashore in August, you see. I think it’s just too mean for anything; and I know you will just have lovely times. I—I hope papa won’t let you do it!”

“Well!” ejaculated Chub. “Of all dogs in the manger that I ever met, Harry, you take the prize!”

“Well, I just do,” muttered Harry, rebelliously; “and I’m going to tell him not to!”

Chub and Dick viewed her anxiously, but Roy only smiled.

“We’re not afraid of that, Harry,” he said.

She looked at him a moment frowningly, then sighed and smiled as she said plaintively:

“Well, I don’t care, Roy Porter, I think it’s awfully mean! Maybe I won’t ever see you and Chub again, and just when I might be with you I have to go away. And I don’t have any fun at Aunt Harriet’s, anyway; it’s too stupid for anything!”

“Well, I wouldn’t worry yet,” said Roy, “because, maybe it will all fall through. You heard what Chub said about getting permission, and, of course, if he can’t stay we won’t; it wouldn’t be any fun for just two fellows.”

“I guess you could find some one else,” said Chub.

“I guess we’re not going to try,” said Dick.

“Of course not,” Roy agreed. “If you can’t make it we’ll call it off; but we will hope for the best, eh?”

“It won’t do you any good,” muttered Chub. “It’s me for that old Water Gap place.”

“And me for Aunt Harriet Beverly’s,” sighed Harry. And then, struck by a radiant idea, she added breathlessly: “Maybe I could run away and come back here and live with you on the island!”

The boys laughed.

“When do you have to go to Aunty’s?” asked Chub.

“I don’t know exactly,” Harry replied. “She hasn’t said anything about it yet, but usually I go the first of July and stay two or three weeks; once I had to stay a month—papa and mama went to the mountains.”

“Well, we couldn’t go into camp until about the first,” said Chub; “and then, if you only stayed two weeks with Aunty, you could be here a whole fortnight before we left.”

Harry brightened perceptibly. “That’s so,” she cried. “I’ll ask mama if I’ll have to stay more than two weeks. Wouldn’t that be lovely? We could have the dandiest times, couldn’t we?”

“I don’t believe your mother would let you stay on the island at night, though,” said Roy.

“Well, but I could go over real early in the morning and have breakfast with you, and stay all day. I could do the cooking for you! I can cook real well. I can make doughnuts and vanilla cookies and cheese-straws and—”

“Can you fry eggs?” asked Chub anxiously.

“Of course, stupid! Any one can do that!”

“All right, Harry, consider yourself engaged. There’s nothing like a few eggs to begin a hard day’s work on.”

“I want mine scrambled,” said Dick. “Can you do that, Harry?”

“Yes; you just put some milk with the eggs and stir them all up nice and messy with a silver knife,” replied Harry.

“You’ll have to bring your own knife,” laughed Roy. “We’ll use tin ones, I guess. As for me, though, I have to have my eggs in an omelet, Harry. How are you at omelets?”

Harry looked troubled, failing to see the smile which quivered around the corners of Roy’s mouth.

“I—I’m afraid I can’t make an omelet, Roy,” she said dejectedly. “You see, they always get burned on the bottom; and then I never can flop them over. You know they have to be flopped over?” Roy nodded sympathetically.

“I always flop them before I cook them,” said Chub sententiously.

“How can you?” asked Harry, indignantly. “I never heard of anything so—so—”

“Why, you—er—you seize the egg between the thumb and first finger,” answered Chub, frowning intensely as though striving to recollect the process. “Then you slowly exert sufficient pressure to choke it to death. When nicely choked—”

Just here Dick pushed him off the steps.

“Isn’t he the silliest thing?” asked Harry. And then, returning to the subject of omelets: “But I could get mama to show me how, Roy.”

“What I want to know is,” said Chub as he crawled back up the steps, “is where all the eggs are coming from. I can eat three myself when I’m in camp, and you know what an appetite Dickums has!”

“We’ll hire a hen,” suggested Roy.

“We have lots of eggs,” said Harry. “I’ll bring some over every morning.”

“And a few doughnuts,” begged Chub. “That’s the ideal breakfast: three or four fried eggs, and half a dozen doughnuts, and a cup of coffee. Um-m! Gee, fellows, I wish my dad would say yes!”

“Maybe he will. Let’s throw our thought on him,” said Roy.

“You’d better not let him catch you at it,” said Chub with a grin. “Say, there goes Billy Warren. Let’s call him over and get him to show us his sunstroke.”

“Thomas Eaton, you’re too foolish for anything, to-day!” declared Harry, severely. “And it’s mean of you to make fun of Billy. He feels terribly bad about losing the race.”

“I’m not making fun of him,” denied Chub, indignantly. “The idea! Only if I had a sunstroke I’d be proud to show it around! I’d be pleased purple if fellows would ask me—”

“I’ll bet a dollar that’s what’s the matter with you,” laughed Dick. “It’s affected your brain.”

“Pretty smart sun if it found Chub’s brain,” added Roy.

“Enjoy yourselves,” said Chub, cheerfully. “Get into the game, Harry; find your little hammer! Here, there’s a monotony about this conversation that wearies me. I’m going out in the canoe. Anybody want to come along?”

“Me!” cried Harry, jumping up.

“You’d better not,” counseled Roy. “He will make you do all the work, Harry.”

“Pay no attention to him,” said Chub to Harry, confidentially. “I hate to say it about a friend, Harry, but he’s never been the same since he made that two-bagger the other day. It’s affected his brain. Let us leave them to their own foolish devices.”

He and Harry went off together along the path toward the Grove, and Roy and Dick watched them in smiling silence until they had disappeared through the hedge gate. Then,

“I wonder if his father will turn him down,” said Dick.

“I’m afraid so,” answered Roy as he arose, “but we will know all about it by Thursday. There’s time for a couple of sets of tennis before supper. Want to play? I’ll give you fifteen.”

Dick agreed, and they walked over to the dormitory to get their rackets.

Wednesday and Thursday were given over to the ceremonies of graduation. Wednesday was Class-Day, and Thursday Graduate’s Day. The school had taken on festal attire. John the gardener and general factotum had been busy for a week past raking the walks, clipping the hedges and trimming the borders until when the first influx of guests began on Wednesday morning the grounds were looking their best. The gymnasium was draped inside with flags and bunting and decorated outside with Japanese lanterns. School Hall became suddenly a bower of palms and other things in pots or tubs which looked like palms but were really something quite different with far more unpronounceable names. On Wednesday morning there was the Tennis Tournament, won by Chase of the Second Middle Class. In the afternoon the corner-stone of the new dormitory was laid with appropriate ceremonies, and there was a spread under the trees. In the evening the Silver Cove Band, much augmented for the occasion, gave a concert in front of the gymnasium.

The graduation exercises took place the next morning in School Hall before a flatteringly attentive and applausive audience. There was an oration by Augustus Prince Pryor on “Opportunity and the Man”; there was an essay by Edgar Whitcomb entitled “The Exploration of the Northwest”; there was a declamation by William Truscott Warren called “Napoleon the Man”; there was a thesis by Howard C. Glidden on “Science and Progress”; there was a narration by Thomas H. Eaton entitled “The Pilgrims,” and an oration on “Destiny” by Roy Porter. Then came the awarding of diplomas to the graduates, in number a round dozen, and the audience dispersed in search of dinner. Both Roy and Chub had graduated with honors, and if, on that one day, they held their heads a little bit higher than usual and looked a little bit more dignified, why, surely, they may be excused. Dick pretended to be much impressed, and always saluted whenever he met them. This went on until just before supper, when Chub’s patience became exhausted and he forgot his dignity and chased Dick twice around School Hall, finally capturing his quarry in a corner and administering punishment. In the evening there was a grand ball in the gymnasium to which came many Silver Cove folks and at which Harry, in a pink muslin party dress, danced to her heart’s content. And the next day came the exodus.

But Thursday morning’s mail had brought Chub his letter and the tenor of it had pleased him even more than it had surprised him; and that is saying much; for Mr. Eaton had written that the plan suggested met with his unqualified approval, and intimated broadly that it must have originated with some one other than Chub because of its reasonableness.

“Sounds like a knock,” said Roy as he read the letter.

“Oh, he always has his hammer handy,” laughed Chub. “But I don’t care; he’s given permission, and that’s what I wanted. Say, won’t it be great? Let’s find Dick and tell him.”

So they did, and Dick was overjoyed. Roy had already heard from home, and his mother had agreed, although less enthusiastically than Chub’s father, to his remaining at Ferry Hill for the month of camp life. As for Dick, well, Dick merely took permission for granted, for it would be all of two weeks before a reply could reach him from London. When the letter finally did come it was all that he had wished. In substance it told him to please himself, adding that it was quite within the possibilities that the writer would return home for a short visit about the middle of the summer, in which case it wouldn’t really be worth Dick’s while to cross to England now.

So when, Friday morning, bright and early, Chub and Roy piled into the carriage with their suit cases, Dick said good-by and watched them disappear in the direction of Silver Cove and the railroad station with perfect equanimity; for four or five days at the most would see them both back again. Naturally enough, though, Dick found existence strangely quiet at first. By Friday evening the last boy had departed homeward, and an uncanny stillness held the campus.

At Mrs. Emery’s invitation Dick moved his belongings over to the guest-room at the Cottage, for the dormitories were to be given over on the morrow to the regular summer cleaning, and then subsequently closed until fall. Harry, too, was somewhat depressed, and she and Dick made the most of each other’s society. There were walks and little trips on the river and a good deal of tennis, a game which Dick was rapidly learning. Harry was an excellent player, and by the time Roy and Chub returned Dick, under her tuition, had vastly improved his game.

Ch 3 illus--Harry's island.jpg

“In the evening there was a grand ball”

Living at the Cottage was very pleasant. Now that school was over with Doctor Emery doffed his immaculate black clothes and appeared in faded negligée shirts and patched knickerbockers. At the table he was quite often the more flippant and irresponsible of the four, and Mrs. Emery frequently remonstrated laughingly, telling him that Dick would report his actions, and that when autumn came he would find his authority departed. Whereupon the Doctor swore Dick to secrecy, and Harry naïvely remarked that she never could see why any one was afraid of her father, anyhow. One day there was a notable event on the tennis-court when Harry played against her father and Dick, and won two sets out of three. When nothing better offered Dick and Harry got into a boat or a canoe and went over to Fox Island and picked out the site for the camp. By the time that Roy and Chub got back they had speculatively pitched that camp on almost every foot of the island.

But the most exciting event that occurred was the receipt of an apologetic letter from Harry’s Aunt Harriet Beverly. It seemed that Aunt Harriet had decided almost at a moment’s notice to go abroad with a party of friends, and they were to sail on the tenth of July. Under the circumstances, she explained, it would be necessary for Harry to postpone her visit until late in the summer. She hoped that the dear child would not be very greatly disappointed. The dear child waved the letter over her head and howled with glee.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she cried. “Isn’t it perfectly dandy? Now I can go to camp with you. It’s just like things that happen in books. Mama, I may, mayn’t I?”

“Goodness, child!” exclaimed her mother. “You may what? What’s all this noise about?”

“Camp out with Roy and Chub and Dick on the island! I may, mayn’t I? You know you said—”

“Well, I’m surely not going to let you sleep on the island, my dear, if that’s what you mean. You’d catch your death of cold.”

“Not to speak of the likelihood of being devoured alive by bears,” added the Doctor as he joined them on the porch.

“Bears!” scoffed Harry. “I don’t suppose there’s even a rabbit on the island! And, mama dear, folks never catch cold in camps.”

“Well, I think it will do, Harry, if you go over and visit the boys in the daytime. Besides, maybe they had rather be alone, my dear.”

“But they wouldn’t! Would you, Dick?”

“No,” answered Dick promptly. “We’d like Harry to join us if you will let her, Mrs. Emery.”

“And I’m going to cook for them—sometimes!” exclaimed Harry, eagerly, “and you’re going to teach me how to make an omelet, mama, because Roy has to have omelet for his breakfast. And I’m going to mend their clothing for them, too. I—I don’t believe they could do without me.” And Harry gazed anxiously from Dick to her mother. Dick asserted stoutly that it would be simply impossible and Mrs. Emery consented to Harry’s joining the campers by day. After that it was all arranged very quickly by Harry. One of the boys was to row over every morning to the landing, very, very early, and get her, since she was not allowed to go in a boat by herself, and she was to take over doughnuts and cookies, and—and a great many things!

The Doctor had readily consented to the use of one of the school tents and such things as they needed, so when, late one afternoon, Roy and Chub arrived triumphant from the ordeal of preliminary examinations at college, everything was in readiness for the occupation of the island.