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   Chapter 2 THE CLUB GROWS

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 17144

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

And that is the way in which it happened. It began in fun and ended quite seriously. They sat up in Number 17 Sumner until long after bedtime that night, figuring the cost of the expedition, planning the cruise, even listing supplies. The more they talked about it the more their enthusiasm grew. Perry was for having Steve send a night message then and there to his father asking for the boat, but Steve preferred to wait until he reached home and make the request by word of mouth.

"He would just think I was fooling or crazy if I telegraphed," he explained. "Tomorrow we'll try to dig up three other fellows to go along, and then, as soon as we all get home, we'll find out whether our folks will stand for it. You must all telegraph me the first thing. Don't wait to write, because I must know as soon as possible. I dare say there's work to be done on the Cockatoo before she's ready for the water, and we don't want to have to wait around until the end of July. The fun of doing anything is to do it right off. If you wait you lose half the pleasure. Now you'd better beat it, Perry. It's after ten. If you meet a proctor close your eyes and make believe you're walking in your sleep."

Perry reached his own room, on the floor above, without being sighted, however, and subsequently spent a sleepless hour in joyous anticipation of at last finding some of those adventures that all his life he had longed for. And when he did at length fall asleep it was to have the most outlandish dreams, visions in which he endured shipwreck, fought pirates and was all but eaten by cannibals. The most incongruous phase of the dream, as recollected on waking, was that the Cockatoo had been, not a motor-boat at all, but a trolley-car! He distinctly remembered that the pirates, on boarding it, had each dropped a nickel in the box!

Fortunately for the success of the Adventure Club, the next morning held no duties. In the afternoon the deciding baseball game was to be played, but, except for gathering belongings together preliminary to packing, nothing else intervened between now and the graduation programme of the morrow. Hence it was an easy matter to hold what might be termed the first meeting of the club. Besides the originators there were present Messrs. Fairleigh, Hanford and Brazier. After Steve had locked the door to prevent interruption, he presented to the newcomers a summary of the scheme. It was received with enthusiasm and unanimous approval, but Neil Fairleigh and Oscar Brazier sadly admitted that in their cases parental permission was extremely doubtful. George Hanford, whose parents were dead and who was under the care of a guardian, thought that in his case there would be no great difficulty. The other two viewed him a trifle enviously. Then, because one may always hope, they had to hear the particulars and each secretly began to fashion arguments to overcome the objections at home. Finally Oscar Brazier inquired interestedly:

"Who is going to cook for you?"

"Oh, we'll take turns, maybe," answered Joe. "Or we might hire a cook."

Joe stole a look at Steve. Oscar only shuffled his feet.

"I say hire," remarked Perry. "Any of us could do it after a fashion, I dare say, but you get frightfully hungry on the water and need good stuff well cooked, and lots of it."

"Yes," agreed Steve, "any of us would make an awful mess of it. Cooking's an art."

Oscar cleared his throat and frowned. "You'd have to pay a lot for a cook," he said. "It isn't hard, really. I could do it-if I were going along."

"That's so," George Hanford confirmed. But the rest seemed unflatteringly doubtful. The silence was almost embarrassing. At last Joe said hurriedly:

"Well, we don't have to decide that now. Besides, if you can't come with us-um-" His voice trailed off into a relieved silence. Oscar smiled haughtily.

"That's all right," he said. "If you prefer a cook, say so. Only, if I did go I'd be willing to do the cooking, and I'll bet I could do it as well as any cook you could hire. Isn't it so, Han?"

"Yes, I call you a mighty nifty cook, Ossie. I've eaten your biscuits more than once. Flapjacks, too."

"Well," said Joe politely, "camp cooking is um-different, I guess, from regular cooking. Of course, I don't say Ossie couldn't do it, mind you, but-we wouldn't want to take chances. On the whole, I think it would be best to have a regular cook."

"We might let Ossie try it," suggested Perry judicially.

"Oh, I'm not crazy about it," disclaimed Oscar, piqued. "If you prefer to pay out good money for a cook-"

"Not at all," interrupted Steve soothingly. "We want to do the whole thing as cheaply as we can. I see no harm in leaving the cooking end of it to you, Brazier; that is, if you can go."

"I'm going to make a big try for it," declared Oscar resolutely. "If my folks won't let me, they-they'll wish they had!"

Whereupon, emboldened by Oscar's stand, Neil Fairleigh expressed the conviction that he, too, could manage it some way. "I dare say that if I tell my dad that all you chaps are going he will think it's all right. It wouldn't be for all Summer, anyway, would it?"

"The idea now," responded Steve, "is to start out for a month's cruise and extend it if we cared to. I suppose any of us that got tired could quit after the month was up." He smiled. "We'd all have to sign-on for a month, though."

"Right-o," agreed Hanford. "What about electing officers? Oughtn't we to do that? Someone ought to be in charge, I should think."

"Sure!" exclaimed Joe. "We'll ballot. Throw that pad over here, Ossie."

"Wait a minute," said Steve. "I've been thinking, fellows. The Cockatoo will hold six comfortably. The main cabin has berths for four and the owner's cabin for two, but if I'm not mistaken the berths in the owner's cabin are extension, and if they are we could bunk three fellows in there, or even four at a pinch. That would give us room for seven or eight in all. Eight might make it a bit crowded, but she's a big, roomy boat and I think we could do with seven fellows all right. And seven's a lucky number, too. So suppose we take in one more while we're at it?"

"The more the merrier," agreed Joe. "Who have you got in mind?"

Steve shook his head. "No one, but I guess we can think of a fellow. There's-"

Steve was interrupted by a knock on the door, and when Hanford, who was nearest, had, at a nod from Steve, unlocked the portal a tall, rather serious-faced youth of seventeen entered.

"Oh, am I butting-in?" he asked. "I didn't know. I'll come back later, Joe." Philip Street smiled apologetically and started a retreat, but Steve called him back.

"Hold on, Phil!" he cried. "Come in here. You're the very fellow we want. Close the door and find a seat, will you?"

"By Jove, that's so!" exclaimed Joe, and the others heartily endorsed him. Oddly enough, not one would have thought of Phil Street in all probability, but each recognised the fact that he was the ideal fellow to complete the membership. Steve, Joe aiding and the others attempting to, outlined the plan. If they had expected signs of enthusiasm from Phil they were doomed to disappointment, for that youth listened silently and attentively until they had ended and then asked simply:

"When are you planning to get away?"

"As near the first of the month as we can," replied Steve.

"I'm afraid I couldn't go, then," said Phil. "I'm a delegate to the C.B. Convention, you see, and that doesn't end until the sixth."

"I'd forgotten that," said Joe disappointedly.

"What's C.B. stand for?" inquired Hanford.

"Christian Brotherhood," supplied Steve. "Look here, Phil, could you go after the sixth?"

"Yes, I'd love to, thanks."

"All right then, you're signed-on. If we get away before that we'll pick you up somewhere. If we don't you can start with us. How is that?"

"Quite satisfactory," answered Phil.

"But are you sure your folks will let you?" asked Perry.

"Oh, yes, I spend my Summers about as I like."

"Think of that!" sighed Perry. "Gee, I wish my folks were like that."

"I guess," said Steve, "that Phil's folks know he won't get into trouble, Perry, while yours are pretty certain that you will. It makes a difference. Now we can go ahead with that election, can't we? How about nominations?"

"No need of them," declared Joe. "What officers do we want?"

"Well, this is a club-the Adventure Club, Phil, is the name we've chosen-and so I suppose we ought to have a president and a vice-president and-"

"Rot!" said Perry. "Too

high-sounding. Let's elect a captain and a treasurer and let it go at that."

"I never heard of a club having a captain," Oscar Brazier objected.

"Nor anyone else," agreed Joe. "Let's follow the Nihilist scheme and elect a Number One, a Number Two and a Number Three. Number One can be the boss, a sort of president, you know, Number Two can correspond to a vice-president and Number Three can be secretary and treasurer. How's that?"

"Suits me," said Steve. "Tear up some pieces of paper, Perry. We'll each vote for the three officers, writing the names in order, then the fellow getting the most votes-"

"I don't know as I ought to vote," said Neil Fairleigh, "because I'm not sure I can go. Maybe I'd better not, eh?"

"Oh, shucks, never mind that," replied Perry. "You can join the club, anyway, and be a sort of non-resident member. Here you are, fellows. Who's got a pen or something?"

During the ensuing two or three minutes there was comparative silence in Number 17, and while the seven occupants of the room busy themselves with pens or pencils let us look them over since we are likely to spend some time in their company from now on.

First of all there is Steve Chapman, seventeen years of age, a tall, well-built and nicely proportioned youth with black hair and eyes, a quick, determined manner and an incisive speech. Steve was Football Captain last Fall. Next him sits George Hanford. Han, as the boys call him, is eighteen, also a senior, and also a football player. He is big and rangey, good-natured and popular, and is president of the senior class.

Joe Ingersoll's age is seventeen. He is Steve's junior by two months. He is of medium height, rather thin, light complexioned and has peculiarly pale eyes behind the round spectacles he wears. Joe is first baseman on the Nine, and a remarkably competent one. He is slow of speech and possesses a dry humour that on occasion can be uncomfortably ironical. Beside him, Perry Bush is a complete contrast, for Perry is large-limbed, rather heavy of build, freckle-faced, red-haired and jolly. He has very dark blue eyes and, in spite of a moon-shaped countenance, is distinctly pleasing to look at; he is sixteen.

Neil Fairleigh and Phil Street are of an age, seventeen, but in other regards are quite unalike. Neil is of medium height, with his full allowance of flesh, and has hair the hue of new rope and grey-blue eyes. He is even-tempered, easy-going and, if truth must be told, somewhat lazy. Phil Street is quite tall, rather thin and dark complexioned, a nice-looking, somewhat serious youth whose infrequent smile is worth waiting for. He is an Honor Man, a distinction attained by no other member of our party save Steve. The last of the seven is Oscar Brazier, and Ossie, as the boys call him, is sixteen years old, short and square, strongly-made and conspicuous for neither beauty nor scholarly attainments. Ossie has a snub nose, a lot of rebellious brown hair, red cheeks and a wide mouth that is usually smiling. Renowned for his good-nature, he is nevertheless a hard worker at whatever he undertakes, and if he sometimes shows a suspicious disposition it is only because his good-nature has been frequently imposed on.

When the last pencil had stopped scratching Joe gathered the slips together and after a moment's figuring announced that Steve had been elected Number One without a dissenting vote, that he himself had been made Number Two and that Phil was Number Three. If Perry felt disappointment he hid it, and when Phil declared that in his opinion Perry should have been elected instead of him, since Perry was, so to say, a charter member, Perry promptly disclaimed any desire of the sort.

"No, thanks," he said. "If I was secretary I'd have to keep the accounts and all that sort of thing, and I'm no good at it. You're the very fellow for the job, Phil."

The assemblage broke up shortly after, to meet again that evening at eight, Steve undertaking to have a map on hand then so that they might plan their cruise. As none of the seven was bound to secrecy, what happened is only what might have been expected. By the time the ball game was half over Steve and Joe had received enough applications for membership in the Adventure Club to have, in Joe's words, filled an ocean liner. It is probable that a large proportion of the applicants could not have obtained permission to join the expedition, but they were each and all terribly enthusiastic and eager to join, and it required all of Steve's and Joe's diplomacy to turn them away without hurting their feelings. Wink Wheeler-his real name was Warren, but no one ever called him that-refused politely but firmly to take no for an answer. Wink said he didn't care where he bunked and that he never ate anything on a boat, anyway, because he was always too seasick to bother about meals.

"One more won't matter, Steve," Wink pleaded. "Be a good chap and let me in, won't you? My folks are going out to California this Summer and I don't want to go, and they'll let me do anything I like. Tell you what, Steve. If you'll take me I'll buy something for the boat. I'll make the club a present of-of a tender or an anchor or whatever you say!"

Steve found it especially hard to turn Wink down, because he liked the fellow, just as everyone else did. Wink was eighteen and had been five years getting through school, but he was a big, good-hearted, jovial boy, and, as Steve reflected, one who would be a desirable companion on such an adventure as had been planned. Steve at last told Wink that he would speak to the others about him that evening, but that Wink was not to get his hopes up, and Wink took himself off whistling cheerfully and quite satisfied. But when Steve tentatively broached the matter of including one more member in the person of Wink Wheeler, Joe staggered him by announcing that he had promised Harry Corwin to intercede for the latter.

"He pestered the life out of me," explained Joe ruefully, "and I finally told him I'd ask you fellows. But I suppose we can't take two more. Nine would-um-be rather overdoing it, eh?"

Everyone agreed that it would. Han suggested that Wink Wheeler and Harry Corwin might toss up for the privilege of joining the club. "After all," he added, "we aren't all of us certain that we can go. If one or two of us drop out there'll be room for Wink and Harry, too."

"Seems to me," said Phil Street, "it might be a good plan to enlarge the membership to, say, twelve, and let the new members find a boat of their own. I dare say they could. Then-"

"Fine!" exclaimed Joe. "Harry and his brother have some sort of a motor-boat. He told me so today. That's a bully idea, Phil! With twelve of us we could divide up between the two boats-"

"How many will Corwin's boat hold?" asked Neil.

"I don't know. I'll see him and find out. But it ought to be big enough to hold four, anyway. There are seven of us now, and Wink and Harry and his brother Tom would make ten, and we could easily pick out two more."

"Let's make the membership thirteen," said Perry.

"Thirteen!" echoed Han. "Gee, that's unlucky!"

"Rot! Why, you've got thirteen letters in your name. George Hanford." Perry counted on his fingers. "This is the Adventure Club, isn't it? Well, starting out with thirteen members is an adventure right at the start!"

"Sure!" agreed Ossie. "Let's take a chance. It's only a silly what-do-you-call-it anyway."

"Meaning superstition?" asked Steve. "Well, I'm agreeable. Who else do we want? Bert Alley asked to join, and so did George Browne."

"And Casper Temple," added Joe. "And they're all good fellows. But I want it distinctly understood that I'm going on the Cockatoo."

"Me too!" exclaimed Perry. "All of us fellows must go on the Cockatoo. We were the first."

"But suppose Corwin's boat won't hold five?" said Han.

"We can squeeze eight into the Cockatoo, if we have to," said Steve. "Joe, you cut along and find Corwin and bring him up here. We might as well settle the thing now."

"All right, but don't settle about the cruise while I'm gone," answered Joe. "I'll have him here in ten minutes."

When the meeting adjourned that evening the club had added six new members and enlarged its fleet by the addition of the cabin-cruiser, Follow Me. It was just half-past ten when Joe and Steve produced the last of their supply of ginger-ale from under the window-seat and, utilising glasses, tooth-mugs and pewter trophies, the members present drank success to the Adventure Club.

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