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   Chapter 5 SUNDAY ASHORE

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 12864

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Before the sun had much more than climbed to a position where it could peer over the low yellow ridge of Fire Island and see what the Adventure Club was up to, the two cruisers were chug-chugging out of the harbour with all flags flying. First went the Adventurer, as flag-ship of the fleet, to use Neil's metaphor, and, a little way behind came the Follow Me, her black hull and battleship-grey deck reminding the occupants of the other boat of one of the "puffing pigs" of yesterday. The bay was almost as smooth as the proverbial mill-pond this morning, and the slanting shafts of sunlight cast strange and beautiful shades of gold and copper on the tiny wavelets. It was still cool, and in the shadow of the bridge deck one felt a bit shivery. But the sun promised a warm day. The crew was polishing bright-work rather awkwardly but most industriously and with a fine willingness, explaining that if he polished brass some other poor Indian would have to swab decks, a remark which inspired Neil to state with much emphasis that cleaning decks was not, at all events, within the province of the ship's boy, and that, anyway, he had helped with the dishes and that right now he was going to lie in the sun on the galley roof and that if anyone disturbed him there'd be trouble.

Joe had been having a fine time with his engine. He was getting on terms of real familiarity with it now, having lost some of the awe with which he had regarded it yesterday. Today he called it "She" almost patronisingly and even dared lay his hand on the cylinders with a knowing cock of his head. Perry, looking on, asked sarcastically if he was feeling the engine's pulse, and Joe haughtily replied that he wanted to make sure the cylinders weren't overheating. Ossie, emerging from the cabin, wiping his hands on his khaki trousers after wringing out his dish cloths, gave it as his opinion that if there was any overeating done it would not be done by the engine, accompanying the statement with a meaning glance at Perry.

About this time the Follow Me left her position astern and began to creep alongside. Steve supposed she wanted to send a message across and told the others on the deck to keep still a minute. But the Follow Me kept on her way, the fellows sprawling around her deck and cockpit looking across the few fathoms of water in silence.

"Well, what do you know about that?" gasped Neil. "She's trying to pass us!"

Steve grunted, smiled and advanced his throttle. The click-click from under the engine hatches became hurried and louder. Joe wrinkled his forehead anxiously. The Adventurer stopped going astern of the other boat and for a little distance they hung bow to bow. They saw Harry Corwin, at the wheel of the Follow Me, lower his head to speak to his brother in the engine room. The Follow Me began to forge ahead again, slowly but certainly.

"Give her more gas, Steve," begged Perry. "We can't have a little old 'puffing pig' of a boat like that walking away from us. Look at those idiots grin!"

"And watch them change their faces," laughed Steve as he drew the throttle forward another two or three notches. Under the hatches the engine uttered a new note and a quick jarring became felt. Joe's anxiety increased to uneasiness.

"Say, Steve, do you think-is it all right-I mean-"

"She's only doing about seventeen," replied Steve calmly. "The throttle isn't nearly open yet. But I guess that's enough," he added as he glanced across the water. Perry, leaning across the gunwale, beckoned insultingly.

"Come on!" he called. "What are you stopping there for?"

The Follow Me replied to the taunt, but what the reply was they didn't know on the Adventurer, for the latter was ahead now by its full length and gaining perceptibly every moment. Tom Corwin's head appeared over the cabin roof, he took a look at the rival craft and popped from sight again. The Follow Me stopped going back and hung with her nose abreast the Adventurer's stern. Phil, who had been writing a letter in the cabin, emerged and joined the group outside.

"How fast is she going, Steve?" he asked.

"About seventeen, I think. Still, Harry said the Follow Me's best was eighteen, and she isn't losing any, and so we may be doing eighteen, too. Guess we might as well settle the matter right now, though."

With which he pulled the throttle to the limit, and the white cruiser, quivering from stem to stern, forged ahead. "We're doing a good twenty miles an hour now," shouted Steve above the hum of the motor, "and she won't go any faster unless we get out and push!"

But twenty miles was fast enough to distance the Follow Me, although that boat held on gamely all the way across the bay and only slowed down when, a good quarter of a mile behind the Adventurer, she was abreast Pelican Bar. The Adventurer dropped her gait to twelve and presently the black cruiser, having negotiated the inlet in the wake of the other craft, drew within hailing distance and Harry Corwin called across through the megaphone.

"Some boat, Steve!" he shouted. "We're satisfied!"

Steve waved back and the two cruisers settled down to their forty-mile run along the shore, the Follow Me gliding smoothly along abaft the Adventurer's starboard beam. They sighted few other craft this morning, and, as there was a deal of sameness in the coast, the fellows settled down to various occupations. Steve conducted a second class in navigation, with Perry and Han as pupils, and Perry was allowed to take the wheel all the way from Smith's Point to a position off the Moriches Life-Saving Station. Phil went on with his letters, Ossie performed mysterious rites in the galley, with Han looking on interestedly from atop the dish-board, and Neil, exhausted by his labours as crew, reclined on the seat in the cockpit and stared sleepily at a blue and unclouded sky. Joe hunched himself on a seat on the bridge deck and studied his book on motor boating, becoming, if truth were told, more and more mystified as to the working of that remarkable affair that was click-clicking away under his feet.

The Adventurer reached the inlet to Shinnecock Bay a few minutes past ten and, closely followed by her companion boat, put through and turned her nose past Ponquogue Point. As Comorant Point drew near the shores of the bay closed in and the cruiser turned to port and, signalling her way past various craft, finally came to a pause o

utside the canal entrance. When the Follow Me floated alongside Wink Wheeler called across.

"What do you say to going ashore, fellows?" he asked. "It looks like a jolly sort of place. We've got plenty of time, haven't we?"

"All the time in the world and nothing to do," replied Steve cheerfully. "We'll make that landing over there and you can come alongside us, Harry."

Ten minutes later they were stretching their legs ashore. Canoe Place held plenty to interest them. The view was magnificent, for on one side of them lay Shinnecock Bay, across whose still, pond-like waters they had just sailed, and on the other stretched the blue expanse of Great Peconic Bay, sun-bathed, aglint with rippling waves and dotted with white sails. A small boy with one suspender performing the duty of two and a straw hat minus about everything except the brim offered to guide them and his proposition was quickly accepted and a bright new quarter changed hands. The quaint old Inn was visited and their informant gravely pointed to two sentinel willow trees and told them that "them trees was planted by Napoleon a couple o' hunerd years ago. He got 'em some place called Saint Helen. They had him in prison there for somethin'." The boys viewed the willows doubtfully, but, as Phil said, it was more fun to believe the extraordinary tale and they tried hard to do so. Steve attempted to secure more historical information from the small boy, but the latter appeared to have exhausted his fund. After that they viewed several Summer estates from respectful distances and, finding that their guide had nothing further of real interest for them, went back to the landing and re-embarked.

A quarter-mile or so of artificial canal took them through the narrow neck of land between the two bays and let them out in a cove beyond whose mouth the waters of Great Peconic stretched, apparently illimitable. The course was set northeast by east and they began the trip to Shelter Island. About half an hour later Joe discovered that the Follow Me was far behind and it was soon evident that she had stopped. After a moment Steve decided to turn back and see what was wrong, and when the Adventurer rounded the smaller boat's stern they learned that the Follow Me was having engine trouble. For a few minutes the Adventurer hovered by, and then, as there was a fair breeze blowing now and Joe and Neil were showing interest in the sea-sickness remedy, Steve suggested a tow and Harry Corwin, after some hesitation, pocketed his pride and agreed. A little before one o'clock the two boats slipped into North Sea Harbour and dropped anchors. While the Follow Me doctored her engine the Adventurer sat down to a delayed dinner. Ossie gloomily predicted that everything would be spoiled, but if it was, no one save Ossie apparently knew it. There was broiled bluefish and boiled potatoes and spinach and sliced cucumbers that day, followed by a marvellous concoction which the steward called a prune pudding. Perry said he didn't care what it was called so long as it came, and, please he'd like some more! No cook can withstand such a compliment as that, and Ossie cast off his gloom. They all declared that that dinner was just about the best they had ever eaten, and they meant it, and Ossie swelled visibly with pride and almost declined Han's half-hearted offer to help wash dishes!

When the rest went back to the deck and saw the fellows on the Follow Me eating sandwiches and other items of a cold repast on deck they felt rather apologetic, and Joe and Steve slung the tender over and paddled across to lend what assistance they might. But they found Tom Corwin, very dirty and hot and somewhat peevish, reassembling the engine with the help of "Brownie," and learned that the trouble had been discovered and that the boat would go just as soon as they could get her together again, which, from present indications, would be some time the day after tomorrow! Harry Corwin told Steve he had better go ahead, that there was no use in the Adventurer lying around and waiting, but Steve replied that there was no hurry and that they'd stand by. The atmosphere on the Follow Me was not very cheerful and the visitors went back to their own craft after a decent lapse of time. About three the fellows donned swimming tights and went in from the boat and had a fine time in the water, and by the time they had had enough of that there came a heartening chug-chug-chug from the Follow Me's exhaust and Wink announced that they were ready to go on.

As a result of the delay, it was almost six when they reached Shelter Island and steered the cruiser to an anchorage. They had supper ashore at seven, having dressed themselves in shore-going attire, but it was noticeable that it was the Follow Me's company who made the most of the meal. Neil met up with an acquaintance on the hotel porch after supper-they chose to call it supper although it was really a full-course dinner-and that meeting led to introductions and the boys "did the society act," to use Perry's disgusted phrase, for the rest of the evening. As it was a Saturday night there was a dance going on, and Steve and Joe and Han, of the Adventurer's crowd, and several of the other boat's company, took part. They didn't get back to the boats until almost midnight, and Perry fell asleep in the dingey, on the second trip, and had to be practically hoisted aboard. He muttered protestingly until he had been dumped in his berth and then promptly went to sleep as he was.

They spent the next day at Shelter Island, not because anyone considered it wrong to cruise on Sunday, but because Steve and Joe and Han had discovered attractions at the hotel. Perry demanded that the question of staying be put to a vote and the rest agreed, but the result wasn't what Perry had hoped for because Neil basely cast his ballot with Steve and Joe and Han. The four went off soon after breakfast, having spent much time and effort on their various attires, and weren't seen again until late afternoon. At least, they weren't seen again aboard the cruiser until that time, although Perry, Phil and Ossie, following them ashore after dinner, were scandalised to see them strolling around quite brazenly in the company of an equal number of young ladies.

"Girls!" snorted Perry scornfully. "Why, the big chumps, they look as if they liked it! Gee, it's enough to sicken a fellow!"

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