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   Chapter 4 IN DEEP WATER

The White Crystals By Howard R. Garis Characters: 13888

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The sun was well up over the eastern hills, shining down warm and mellow on Cardiff valley when Roger awoke next morning. At first he could scarcely remember where he was, so many changes of location had he gone through lately. He looked at the old-fashioned wall paper, listened to the rustling of the wind in the trees, and wondered if he was not dreaming. Then he gradually recalled the events of the day before. He got out of bed with a jump, and was dressing when Adrian came in.

"Hello, Roger," was the greeting, "how'd you sleep?"

"Fine," answered Roger.

Then Adrian looked at the clothes his cousin was putting on. It was the same suit Roger had worn when he arrived.

"Oh, I say," exclaimed Adrian. "Don't tog out in these. We're going fishing, you know, and you'll need your old duds to go through the woods with. You'll spoil a good suit."

Then for the first time Roger realized that he didn't have to dress for school. He remembered that he was not going to study his lessons, and had only to go out into the air and sunshine, to listen to the birds, and to tramp through the fields. For the first time it came to him that, even though he was not as well and strong as many other boys, there was a good time ahead of him, and a chance for him to become as sturdy as Adrian.

"That's so, we are going fishing to-day," remarked Roger. "I'd forgotten all about it, I slept so soundly. I thought I was back in New York."

He made haste to replace his good suit with an older though serviceable one, which would stand hard usage. Then the two boys went down to breakfast, which meal, Roger was sure, tasted even better than the supper of the night previous.

"Wa'al, what's th' schedule fer t'-day?" asked Mr. Kimball, as he gulped down his second cup of coffee. "You boys goin' arter b'ar er mountain lions?"

"Are there bears in these woods?" inquired Roger, eagerly.

"Mussy sakes, no!" exclaimed Mrs. Kimball, "but 't wouldn't be yer Uncle Bert ef he did n't fool some un. Skunks 'n' squirrels, 'n' onct in a while a wild-cat, is th' biggest beasts in these parts."

"Now, mother," began Mr. Kimball, his mouth half full of potato, "ye know there is b'ars in th' woods. Didn't ye run away from one last fall, when ye were pickin' blackberries? Now, own up, did n't ye?"

"Oh, thet one," answered Mrs. Kimball, as she set a plate of buckwheat cakes in front of Roger. "He was th' tame b'ar thet got away from th' Italian organ grinder."

"Scared ye most int' a spasm, though," commented Mr. Kimball, laughing so heartily that he nearly choked on a piece of bread.

"Go along 'n' eat yer breakfust, 'n' git at th' chores," advised Mrs. Kimball, smiling a bit at the recollection of the incident.

"We're going over to Limestone creek, fishing," said Adrian. "George Bennett was there yesterday and got fifteen chub."

"Got any bait?" asked Mr. Kimball.

"Going to dig some right away," replied Adrian, trying to make short work of the meal. Roger, too, was busy with the victuals.

"Now I don't know 'bout this," began Mr. Kimball with a grave air, in contrast to his former jolly tone. "Roger didn't come out here t' start right in 'n' tramp eight er ten miles, 'n' git all tired out. His mother 'n' father wants him t' rest up, 'n' git lots a' fresh air. Now, Ade, I don't know's I ought t' let you two go. What d' ye say, Roger?"

"I don't feel at all tired," answered the boy. "I am not sure I could walk eight miles, but-"

"It's less than two miles there, pop," broke in Adrian, "and, say, you need n't worry, but I'll take care of Roger. We'll walk slow."

"I guess I can tramp as far as the creek," put in Roger, feeling a little nettled that his physical ability should so often come up for discussion.

"Wa'al, all right," assented Mr. Kimball. "It's a nice day, 'n' I guess it won't hurt ye none. Look out ye don't fall in, that's all. It's deep near th' hole where th' best fishin' is."

"We'll be careful," promised Adrian.

Breakfast over Adrian got out the fishing tackle and a spade with which to dig the worms for bait. Roger was provided with a bamboo pole and the necessary line, hooks, and sinkers. Then, when Adrian announced, after spading a good-sized patch of the barnyard up, that they had bait enough in the tin can, the two boys shouldered their poles and started off.

The way to the creek was along the main street of Cardiff, which ran through the centre of the village, up to the cross-road, that led eastward to the town of Lafayette. At this point the path went west, twisting and turning along the highway, over the hills to Onondaga Lake, twenty miles away. This was the first glimpse Roger had of the hamlet of Cardiff, except for the hasty glances as he had passed through on the stage the evening before. There were not more than sixty houses in the place, all comfortably close together, on the two sides of the main street.

Here and there, spread out along other roads, were scattered farms, with big, roomy, white houses and weather-stained barns and corn-cribs.

The boys passed over the little brook that ran across the road, just beyond Adrian's home, the stream being spanned by a wooden bridge. Soon they came to Hank Mack's general store, where you could buy a plow or a yard of red calico, a stick of candy or some gunpowder, a loaf of bread or a salt mackerel. Then there was the blacksmith shop, in the door of which stood Sam Bennett, and, next, the grist mill, kept by Truem Wright, as jolly a chap as one would care to meet in the course of a day's travel. The last building, save some houses, before the boys came to the turn of the road, was the public inn or tavern, which bore the name "The Pine Tree. Abe Crownheart, Proprietor," in big faded blue letters over the door.

It was still early in the day, but nearly all the people in Cardiff seemed to be up and about. The men and women whom Adrian met nodded or spoke to him, and glanced rather curiously at Roger, for strangers were not common in town. A walk of half a mile brought the boys to the cross-road, and they went down that some distance before Adrian indicated the place where they were to cut across lots to reach the creek. Through the fields they went, most of the land they found themselves travelling over having been given up to the raising of corn, which was now gathered in shocks, ready to be husked, leaving the heavy brown stubble sticking out of the earth.

"Don't know's we'll have much luck to-day," said Adrian, rather dubiously, as he wet his finger and held it up in the air to note which side felt coolest, and so determine the direction of the breeze.

"Why not?"

"South wind."

"What's that got to do with fishing?"

"Lots. Didn't you ever hear that? Why we never go fishing if the wind's south. It wasn't there when we started, but I guess it shifted. There's a verse that says: 'When the wind's in the west the fish bite

best; when the wind's in the south it blows the hook out their mouth.' But maybe we'll get a few."

"I hope so, after all our work," said Roger.

"If I don't, it won't be the first time, for me," added Adrian, as though to prepare for the worst.

They tramped for half a mile more, and then, turning down a well-beaten path, Adrian led the way to an opening amid a grove of willow trees, along the edge of the creek. The stream, which was broad and deep here, curved around from a point, and formed an eddy that had eaten quite a distance into the bank. This eddy was used as a swimming hole by the boys of the village, but now the water was a little too cool for that sport, so the fish were not disturbed in what Adrian knew was one of their favorite haunts.

It did not take long to rig the lines on the poles, bait the hooks, and cast in. Though Roger never had much chance to go fishing in the city, the necessity of keeping quiet was apparent to him, and he moved about as slowly and as easily as he could, standing in a place Adrian had pointed out. Then he softly dropped the hook, with the wiggling, dangling worm, into the water. Adrian did likewise, and then the boys began to exercise that patience which all good fishermen are supposed to be blessed with.

Roger felt a little tired from the tramp, and, after he had stood for several minutes, he ventured to sit down on a piece of drift-wood that was on the edge of the bank. Adrian, not feeling the strain of walking, preferred to stand. It was very quiet along the edge of the creek, screened as it was by the fringe of willows. Now and then a late-staying bird, that had not yet flown south, darted in and out among the trees. The dried cornstalks rustled in the wind, and there was a pleasant smell in the air. Altogether it was a most delightful place to fish.

"I've got a bite," whispered Adrian, suddenly, and Roger noticed his cousin's line trembling and shaking just where it entered the water. "Watch me pull him out," went on Adrian softly.

The next instant he yanked his pole high in the air, and, dangling on the end of the line, twisting and flopping so that its silvery sides reflected the sun, was a good-sized fish. Roger leaped to his feet to see the catch, which his cousin landed on the ground with a thud. He started back to where the prize lay on the grassy bank, and then he felt something give way beneath him. He seemed to be falling down, and in desperation he clutched wildly at the air. He heard Adrian shouting, as though he was miles away, and the next he knew the waters of the creek closed above his head. A part of the bank where he had been sitting had broken off, and carried him into the stream with a splash of the deep water.

Roger thought he would never stop sinking down and down into the pool, and, though at this point it was only about ten feet deep, the boy imagined it must be three times that. He had kept hold of the pole when he fell, and he dimly knew that his hands still grasped it as he tried to strike out and spring to the surface. It was black as night all around him, and the waters roared and sang in his ears.

For a half minute Adrian was so frightened by his cousin's disappearance he did not know what to do. He felt sure Roger would be drowned, and, already, he was charging himself with the responsibility for it.

Then a determination to save him came into the boy's mind. With a quick motion he peeled off his coat, cast aside his cap, and, with his knife, rapidly slit the laces of his shoes, as the easiest and most expeditious way of undoing them. He kicked the leathers from him, leaped to the edge of the bank, and was about to dive into the water when he saw Roger's head bob up.

"Don't be afraid!" called Adrian. "I'll save you!"

He poised for the spring, but, to his surprise, instead of seeing Roger helplessly floundering in the creek, he noticed that his cousin was calmly treading water to keep himself afloat, for it was hard to swim weighed down by clothes and shoes.

"Look out! Here I come!" cried Adrian.

"D-don't d-don't," stuttered Roger, his teeth chattering. He was a little out of breath. "I c-c-can get o-o-out a-all r-r-right! I was a l-l-little s-s-surprised a-at first!"

* * *

"Roger held up the fish pole so that Adrian could grasp it"

* * *

Adrian noticed that his cousin was making his way slowly toward more shallow water. When he got to a point half way to the bank Roger held up the fish pole, so that Adrian could grasp it. The latter saw the idea at once, and, with a quick motion, he took hold of the bamboo rod, and pulled his cousin along until it was an easy matter for the boy to walk out. Roger stepped on the shelving bank, below the swimming hole, dripping water like a big Newfoundland dog. His breathing was rather uncertain, and his teeth chattered, for the water was cold.

"I thought at first you were a goner," said Adrian, grasping Roger's hand heartily. "I never imagined you could swim."

"I learned how in the free baths down at the Battery, in New York, where we fellows used to go Saturdays," explained Roger. "Only that's salt water, and it's easier to keep afloat in than this. I wasn't scared after the first few seconds. It took me by surprise, and knocked the breath out of me, that's all. I didn't know where I was for a little while."

"I don't blame you," agreed Adrian. "Well, I guess that'll be about all the fishing to-day," he went on. "You'd better hurry home with me, and get dry clothes on, so you won't catch cold. If it was July instead of October it wouldn't matter so much. So come on; let's run for it."

They started off across the fields at a smart trot, and soon reached the road. They got there just as a man came along, driving a light wagon.

"It's Enberry Took, who lives right below us," explained Adrian. "He'll give us a lift. Hey, Enberry!"

"Whoa!" exclaimed the man in the wagon, pulling the horse up. "Been fishin', boys, or swimmin'?" he asked as he looked at Roger dripping water, and at the solitary fish Adrian carried. Then Mr. Took smiled grimly, perhaps suspecting what had happened.

"We've been doing a little of both," explained Adrian. "Can we ride home with you, Enberry? This is my cousin, Roger, from New York. He's here on a visit."

"Hop in," invited Mr. Took, shortly, and, when the two boys were settled in the bottom of the wagon, he whipped up his horse, which trotted over the ground in good shape. Almost before Roger and Adrian knew it they were at the gate of their house, greatly surprising Mrs. Kimball and amusing her husband, who laughed heartily when he learned there was no harm done.

"You'll make out all right," he said to Roger, as the boy went to change his wet clothes for dry ones; "you've got a level head on your shoulders, even if ye do live in New York. I'm proud on ye, thet's what I am; I'm proud on ye, Roger."

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