Harry's Island/Chapter 5

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“OF course this isn’t real camping,” said Dick as he munched his fifth sandwich.

“It’s a mighty good lunch, though,” answered Chub. “And I can’t wait to get to those crullers—I mean doughnuts. What’s the difference, anyway, Roy?”

“A cruller is a doughnut with the hole left out.”

“Get out! What we call crullers are built just like these, with a hole in the middle.”

“Some folks call them fried-cakes,” offered Dick.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what they’re called,” said Chub, cheerfully; “they look fine and Harry has made lots of them. And, say, fellows, look at the sugar on them! Let’s hurry and reach the dessert.”

Dick had brought Harry and her lunch basket across to the island and now they were seated on the grass in front of the tent with the contents of the basket spread before them. There were two kinds of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, bananas and doughnuts. There was also clear, cold water from the river served from a tin coffee-pot for want of anything more suitable and drunk from tin cups. Strange to say, the enthusiasm over the doughnuts brought no response from Harry. In fact, as the meal progressed and the time for the dessert drew near, she exhibited well-defined symptoms of uneasiness, and when, finally, Chub, unable to hold off any longer, seized the first doughnut and bit into it, she forgot the sandwich she was struggling with and watched him anxiously.

“Um-m!” said Chub rapturously. Then he repeated the remark, but with a note of doubt. Then he shot a puzzled look at Harry, who dropped her eyes quickly and devoured her sandwich so hurriedly that she choked and had to be slapped on the back by Dick. During this diversion Chub glanced frowningly at the doughnut in his hand, dropped it surreptitiously into his pocket and took a banana. When Harry looked again the doughnut had disappeared and her face expressed relief. Then Dick reached for one.

“How are Harry’s doughnuts, Chub?” he asked.

“Great!” said Chub with extraordinary, even suspicious, enthusiasm.

“Well, they certainly look fine,” replied Dick, setting his teeth into one.

“They surely do,” agreed Roy, following his example. “Aren’t you going to have one, Harry?”

“Please,” said Harry, her hand stretched toward the plate and her gaze on Dick.

Dick was munching his first mouthful somewhat gingerly and viewing the doughnut with surprise. There was a moment of silence. Then,

“I say, Harry,” blurted Dick, “what the dickens did you put into these things?”

“Why?” she faltered.

“Don’t they taste sort of funny?” he asked. “How’s yours, Roy?”

“All right,” replied Roy, eating doggedly, his eyes fixed on space as though he were trying to concentrate all efforts on the task. Dick laid his doughnut aside and picked up another.

“Maybe that one isn’t a fair sample,” he said hopefully. “I thought it tasted of—of—I don’t know just what.”

But he appeared to derive small pleasure from his second one and with a sigh of disappointment he laid it down on his knee with a fine simulation of carelessness and took a banana. Then:

“Hello,” he said, “aren’t you eating any doughnuts, Chub?”

“Me? Oh, yes, I had one,” answered Chub. “Fine, aren’t they?”

“Great,” answered Dick warmly.

“Toss me a banana, will you, Dick?” This from Roy, who, having caused the last of his doughnut to disappear, was still swallowing convulsively. “I ate so many sandwiches,” he added, in an apologetic tone, “that I can’t do justice to the doughnuts. Doughnuts are awfully filling things, aren’t they?”

“They certainly are,” agreed Dick and Chub together.

“These will be fine for supper,” continued Dick.

“Yes,” answered Roy, but with less enthusiasm.

“Or breakfast,” suggested Chub. “I’m awfully fond of doughnuts for breakfast. With lots of coffee,” he added as an afterthought.

Harry, who had listened to the remarks with a puckered brow and downcast eyes, struggling heroically with her own doughnut meanwhile, suddenly dropped her face into her hands and there was an audible sob.

“Hello!” cried Chub. “What’s the matter, Harry?”

There was no reply save more sobs. The three boys gazed from Harry’s heaving shoulders and bent head to each other’s faces and then back again in dismay.

“It’s the doughnuts,” whispered Dick in a flash of comprehension. Then in loud, cheerful tones, “Have another doughnut, Roy?” he asked. “I’m going to.”

“Sure,” said Roy. “Have one, Chub?”

“You bet! I just didn’t want to eat them all now for fear there wouldn’t be any left for breakfast; but I dare say there’ll be enough. Good, aren’t they?”

“Don’t think I ever tasted better,” said Dick.

“Swell!” said Roy.

“They’re not! They’re perfectly horrid!” Harry’s tearful eyes were gazing at them tragically. “It—it’s the almond!”

“The—the what?” asked Roy.

“The almond flav-flavoring,” faltered Harry. “I thought it would be nice to put some flavoring in—and I got too—too much, and they’re nasty!”

“Nothing of the sort!” cried Chub, deftly tossing a half-devoured doughnut over his head and reaching for another. “They’re not bad at all, are they, fellows?”

“I should say not!” exclaimed Dick. “I guess it was the flavoring I tasted that time. You see, I didn’t know they were flavored, Harry. If I’d known it, I’d have—er—understood.”

“I put in too much,” sniffed Harry, dabbing her eyes with a diminutive handkerchief. “I didn’t know how much to use and so I put in four tablespoonfuls. They’re just as bitter and horrid as they can be!”

“Oh, well, don’t you care, Harry,” Roy comforted. “You’ll know better next time.”

“There isn’t going to be any—next time,” answered Harry, dolefully. “I’m never going to make any more.”

But this elicited such a torrent of protestation, and it sounded so genuine, that Harry was comforted, and in the end relented.

“Maybe they’d be better just plain,” she said, “without any flavoring at all.”

“Well, we could try them that way next time,” said Chub, “and see. I suppose the trouble with almond is that it’s pretty strong. Now, vanilla or—or wintergreen—”

This produced a howl of derisive laughter in which even Harry joined. Chub pretended that his feelings were wounded and in another minute or two the doughnut incident was quite forgotten and Harry was eating a banana very cheerfully. The only untoward incident to threaten the serenity occurred when Chub absent-mindedly whisked his handkerchief from his pocket and at the same time whisked forth a half-eaten doughnut which flew across into Harry’s lap. For a moment her gloom returned, and Dick and Roy silently threatened Chub with dire punishment; but Chub saved the situation in a measure by rare presence of mind.

“Here,” he said calmly, “that’s mine.” And when it was returned to him he ate it unflinchingly, nay, even with every mark of enjoyment, allowing carelessly that possibly there was a little too much flavor to it but that he thought one could get very fond of almond after a time. But to go a little ahead of our story, when supper was eaten the doughnuts, through some oversight, were not placed on the menu, and every one tactfully forebore to remark upon the omission.

They had made out a list of groceries and supplies the evening before which Mrs. Emery was to hand to the groceryman from Silver Cove when he came for her order in the morning. And so in the middle of the afternoon they went over in the rowboat to get the things.

They made Dick row both ways because, as Chub put it, “he had imposed upon his superiors in the morning.” Dick made a great fuss about the labor but in reality enjoyed rowing hugely.

They found their supplies awaiting them at the Cottage—two big baskets of them. They had managed to get quite a little excitement the evening before out of ordering. They had all made suggestions, Dick’s imagination refusing to go farther than bacon, potatoes, and coffee; Roy holding forth for what might be called staples, fresh meat, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and lard, and Chub’s fancy roaming blissfully amid such delicacies as guava jelly, fancy biscuits, and pickles. As for Harry, her suggestions, like Chub’s, ran to “trimmings,” such as nuts and raisins, chocolate, patent preparations which by the addition of boiling water magically turned into highly-colored puddings, and dried fruit. (Dried fruit, she explained, was awfully nice when you were hungry between meals.) But Mrs. Emery’s counsel usually prevailed, and so when it was finished the list didn’t contain many unnecessary articles. They stopped at the Cottage long enough for Dick to write his letter to the boat-builder ordering the launch. As he signed his name to the check which was to accompany it he grinned.

“Can’t go to London now, anyway,” he said; “haven’t enough money left.”

“Oh, it doesn’t cost much by steerage,” observed Chub.

Then they carried the baskets down to the boat and across to the island. Here Harry took command and directed the arrangement of the supplies in the packing-case in the tent. Butter and lard, they decided, would not keep hard there, so Chub built what he called a “larder” on the edge of the water. He dug away the sand until he had a small hole. At the bottom of this he placed a flat stone. Then he built up around with pieces of box cover driven into the sand. The butter firkin and lard tin were placed on the bottom and the water, passing in between the pieces of wood, came half-way up them, keeping them cold. A nice square piece of wood, selected from the pile which was drying on the beach, was placed over the top and a stone was rested on it to keep it from blowing off. Chub was very proud of his “larder” and straightway insisted that each member of the party should stop his or her labors and admire it. Each member good-naturedly did so.

By this time the sun was getting down and Dick started a fire in the stove and prepared to cook the evening meal. As it did not grow dark until quite late Harry had received permission to remain on the island for supper. Roy and Chub piled wood together for the camp-fire, and Harry, having stowed away the last of the groceries to her liking, furnished Dick with some slight assistance and much advice. He accepted both thankfully and paid no heed to the latter; for Harry’s way of cooking was not Dick’s. She was not too insistent with her advice; possibly with the doughnut fiasco still in mind she thought it behooved her to be humble. As a camp cook, Dick proved himself an unqualified success from the start. Even Harry acknowledged that he was a wonder. He possessed the knack of doing several things at once and not losing his head, and the easy, unflustered manner in which he boiled potatoes, made tea, and fried steak at one and the same moment was a source of wonderment to the others, who, washed and ready for supper, sat around and almost forgot their hunger in admiration.

Now when you have been busy out of doors all day long, steak sizzling in butter, potatoes steaming through burst jackets, thick slices of snowy bread, and tea glowing like amber when it is poured from the pot in the late sunlight, are just about the finest things ever fashioned. If the steak was a little bit overdone no one realized it, and if condensed milk wasn’t quite up to the fresh article it was too paltry a fact to mention. From where they sat, within, for Dick, easy reaching distance of the stove, they looked out upon the placid water of the river, hued like molten gold under the last rays of the setting sun, across to the green-black shadows of the tree-lined shore. High up above the slope of verdure a window in School Hall caught the radiance and shot it back, glowing ruddily. When for a moment, which was not frequently, the conversation paused there was only the leap of a small fish from the stream, the twittering of a bird, the distant screech of a locomotive, or the lazy creak of a boom as some small boat crept by the island, to mar the mellow stillness of the sunset hour.

But you may be sure the fish and the bird, the engine and the boat, had scant opportunity to make themselves heard at Camp Torohadik, for every one was in the best of spirits and there was so much to talk about that it required all of one’s politeness to keep from interrupting. The school year just closed was a never-failing subject, for there were dozens of incidents to be recalled. And there were plans to lay, marvelous plans for excursions and explorations. After every one had eaten as much as possible, and when there was no longer any excuse for remaining about the “table,” they cleaned up, washing the tin pans and plates in the water of the cove where an accommodating stone jutted out from the sand.

The sunlight lingered and lingered on the tops of the hills in the west and then the twilight filled the valley with soft shadows and toned the bosom of the river to shades of steely gray. And so it was almost eight o’clock before there was any valid excuse for lighting the camp-fire. A tiny breeze sprang up out of the east and fanned the flames into leaping forms of orange and ruby. Gradually the conversation died away, and finally Harry yawned frankly and sleepily. Chub and Roy paddled her across the darkening water to the landing, pausing now and then and letting the canoe drift while they gazed back at the point, where Dick’s shadow, monstrous and grotesque, moved across the side of the tent as he mended the fire. They went part way up the path with Harry, bade her good night, and scampered back to the landing and the canoe. As they glided softly into the shadow of the island Dick’s voice challenged them.

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“Chub and Roy paddled her across the darkening water”

“Who goes there?”

“Friends,” answered Chub.

“Advance, friends, and give the countersign.”

“What the dickens is the countersign?” whispered Chub.

“You may search me,” replied Roy with a yawn.

“Torohadik,” ventured Chub.

“Wrong,” answered Dick, sternly.

“Liberty,” said Roy.

“Freedom,” said Chub.

“Wrong,” replied Dick.

“Oh, go to thunder,” grumbled Chub, paddling for the beach. “I don’t know what it is.”

“Doughnuts!” laughed Dick, pulling the canoe up. “Any one ought to know that.”

“Well, it isn’t anything you could easily forget,” answered Chub, ruefully. “Weren’t they fierce?”

“They certainly were,” answered Roy as he jumped ashore. “And,” he added determinedly, “that reminds me of a duty to humanity.” He disappeared into the tent and when he emerged again he bore something in one hand. An instant later there was a series of light splashes. Chub took his cap off.

Requiescat in pace,” he murmured.