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A FORMLESS, fringy, low-lying, white-brown-and-yellow thing, for all the world like a fried egg afloat, drifted between the blunt-nosed ferry-boat and' her slip. It was the canalboat caravan, the loosely articulated, hawser-bound "Albany tow" with its flat white deckhouses and yellow-striped gunwales and its fluttering lines of checked junipers, white petticoats and such, all fresh from the wash-buckets. Fussy tugs pulled at great cables ahead, fussy tugs scurried around the flanks, trimming in the loose ends.

Sharp and fierce the signal bells rang in the engine-room of the ferry-boat and the ancient craft trembled under the strain as her paddle-wheels beat in reversal. The waters gurgled and churned and a stream of foamy soap-suds surged out from under the bows.

Two men stood on the forward deck, leaning against the heavy railing. The ruffled silk hat of one of them was pulled down over his eyes. The eyes were slightly bloodshot because the owner of them had been drinking, but otherwise they were very pleasant gray eyes, just as the face with its smooth, broad brow and straight, beardless features was a very pleasant face. The garments of the young man—he was about twenty-five—were of fashionable material, although somewhat tousled like his brown hair, and they fitted well a clean-limbed, six-foot frame.

The other was older, although not much; a short, stocky fellow with an aggressively protuberant chest, sharp features and narrow, shrewd, humorous eyes. His cutaway coat, gray trousers and black derby hat were speckless, his patent-leather shoes refulgent, his gray silk waistcoat was buttoned with diamond-centered pearl discs and his lavender scarf was held by a big diamond pin.

Although standing side by side they had not spoken since the ferry-boat left the Brooklyn shore. The Older man glanced occasionally at the younger, the younger glared gloomily down at the waters; The foamy streak from the paddle-boxes caught his sight and excited his disapproval.

"Thought I wash on the fron' o' thish boat?" he said, addressing the other.

"Right you were, bo!" was the cheery answer.

"Um! Wah—when'd we turn aroun'?"

"Didn't. She's backing up."

"Goin' back to Brooklyn?"

"Looks like it."

"Well, she c'n go ish she likes; I'm not!" said the younger man decisively and he jumped overboard.

"Oi-yoi!" exclaimed the other in amazement. "Man overboard!" he yelled, raising his voice so that it rang throughout the vessel. Quickly he slipped off his coat, transferred a gold watch from the fob pocket of his trousers to the inside pocket of the outer garment, folded the latter neatly, laid it on the deck, and, jumping upon the flat top of the railing, dove into the white surge.

Fifty feet away the other man came to the surface, shook the brine from his eyes with a vigorous twist of his head and flung his right hand forward in a powerful, practised overhand stroke. He was heading for the canal-boats, which were nearer to him than the rapidly receding ferry-boat, but he looked back in time to see the man in the gray silk waistcoat plunge from the rail after him. The chill of the river had cleared his brain and he understood. With some anxiety he watched the bobbing head of the other swimmer. The latter made progress slowly and, as he approached, it was quite plain that he was laboring hard. Gray-eyes turned and went after him and drew up alongside with a few of his long reaches.

"How are you?" he asked.

"'Bout all—all in!" gasped the other. "Got-got a——cramp in—in my—gurgle-gurgle!"

The waves closed over his head. Grayeyes slipped down and caught him and without difficulty got him back to the surface.

"Lie perfectly quiet!" he admonished, holding him by the collar and swimming easily on his back.

"All right," the stocky chap answered.

Meanwhile in wild excitement passengers were crowding upon the deck of the ferryboat, that calliope cry, "Man overboard!" having drawn them in haste from the cabins. Blue-shirted deckhands were loosening coils of rope and tying big cruller-shaped life-preservers to the ends of them. The man in the pilot-house signaled "Slow speed ahead!" to the engine-room and tooted like mad with his whistle.

Tidal action had swung the canal-boat flotilla around so that the tail of it was within one hundred feet of the two men in the water and Gray-eyes struck out for the nearer craft. It was easy work for him to make the distance; he soon grasped the line dropped over the side, and, still holding his companion by the collar, looked up into a pair of very large brown eyes that peered over the rail of a big grain-barge.

"Thanks!" he said, grinning.

The possessor of the big brown eyes nodded acknowledgment.

"Hold tight!" she directed. "I'll slip a ladder down to you."

A minute later the end of a long ladder fell beside him and he swung around, so that Iris companion could catch a rung.

"Can you climb up, or shall I carry you?" he asked.

"I can make it," the short man replied briefly.

"All right; you go first and I'll follow you."

SO THEY ascended the ladder and gained the deck, and the ferry-boat pilot, seeing them safe if soppy, swore with remarkable enthusiasm, put his helm hard-a-starboard, and edged around to the rear of the tow.

Gray-eyes looked at the girl who was standing on the deck. She was a splendid creature, with raven hair coiled braid upon braid upon the back of her head, glorious eyes with tawny glints in the depths of them, sun-tanned cheeks through which the roses glowed, lips of scarlet, and shining, strong teeth. A soft felt hat was pinned to the masses of her hair and a canvas waist with a wide brown collar fell away from her glorious neck and rested loosely upon her full bosom across which her bare brown arms were folded. With her canvas skirt snapping around her in the brisk river breeze and the low western sunbeams slanting down upon her over the irregular sky-line of New York, with the western windows all aflame and the scarlet clouds fluttering like pennants in the amethystine depths, Gray-eyes concluded that he had never seen a picture so magnificent.

Further thought upon the subject was arrested by a vigorous smite on the nose. The young man's eyes blazed with anger and, clutching the brother of his adventure by the wet front of his diamond-decked waistcoat with his left hand, he drew back his right hand to return the blow he had received so unexpectedly. The short man threw up his hands to guard his head in a manner that indicated some familiarity with the rules of the game, but the fingers that gripped his chest were fingers of steel and he was helpless because of the long reach of the outstretched arm. Gray-eyes curbed his anger instantly and instead of driving in his clenched right hand, he opened it and rubbed his bruised nose with it.

The girl said nothing, but looked from one to the other curiously.

"What did you do that for?" Gray-eyes asked:

"For what?" echoed the other in pure amazement. "Hey, bo, see yon Kelly on the sad sea waves? It cost me six only last night! And on the deck of that ferry-boat is a black broadcloth coat, 1911 model, inside of which is my gilt timer with wheels that go round and round, price one hundred and fifty! Lost, bo! Lost! And just because you wanted to get as much water outside as you had booze inside, and I thought it was up to me to pull you out of the wet! Do you think I'd let any one come across with a play like that and no come-back?"

"You tried to save my life?" said Grayeyes.

"Nix on the melodrama," protested the other. "And by the way, you're rumpling up my shirt-front something awful. You can throw off your clutch—I've decided to let you live."

"Thank you," said Gray-eyes, grinning as he released him.

The short man raised an inquiring thumb and two inquiring fingers to his scarf-pin. Then he dropped his chin on his soppy shirt-front and deliberately counted the buttons on his waistcoat.

"You didn't take anything away but your hand," he said at last, approvingly.

The younger man flushed. "I am not a thief," he said coldly.

"That's what I said," assented the short man tranquilly. "Now if you'll tell me your name, I'll introduce you to this lovely skirt."

"My name is Harold Armitage."

"Oh, Harold!" murmured the short man joyously. "Madam," he went on, turning with a bow to the brown-eyed girl, "allow me to present muh moist friend, Mr. Harold Armitage. I've known him at least a quarter of an hour on land and sea, and it has been some crowded. Mr. Armitage, this is Miss— Name, please!"

"My name is Elaine," said the girl gravely.

"Oof!" grunted the short man, catching his breath. "Ah! Mr. Armitage this is Miss Elaine. You've got to hand it to her for being some good-looker, and her name listens like a book. And now, Miss Elaine, would you mind presenting me to your friend? We have met somewhere, but have had no formal introduction."

The girl looked at him, unsmiling. "Name, please?" she asked.

"I might tell you it was Adelbert Percy Fitz-Fitz, but it ain't," he answered. "I'm just Jake Buchmuller."

"Mr. Armitage, Mr. Buchmuller," said the girl seriously. "If you gentlemen," she went on, "will sit down on these hatches a few minutes, I will see what can be done in the way of dry garments."

She turned on her heel and swung off down the deck. Jake looked after her, approbation written all over his expressive features.

"If," he sighed at last, "that skirt is the captain's little daughter, lash me to the mast, matey; I'll never desert the ship!"

Harold nodded.

Jake plunged his hands into his trousers pockets. Instantly he emitted a loud wail.

"Oi-yoi! Oi-yoi!" he moaned, seating himself upon the hatch covers and rocking his body to and fro. "It's gone, it's gone!"

"What's gone?" asked Harold.

"Muh bankroll! Muh lovely little bunch of money! Oi-yoi! Oi-yoi!"

"How much was in it?"

"Five hundred and thirty dollars!"

Harold drew from his pocket a package of moist bills and began to count:

"Fifty, a hundred, one-ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy, eighty, two-hundred, two-ten, two-fifteen, two-seventeen—two hundred and seventeen dollars." He looked up. "I'll have to owe you the balance; this is all I have," he said. "And heaven knows when I am going to get any more!" he added.

"Not on your silhouette!" shouted Jake, indignantly waving back the proffered bills. "I'm no cheap sport, kid. You can lend me a twenty to tide me over, if you care to, but that'll be about all in that line. As for what's gone, it's gone, and there's no dividends in weeps over burnt money, as the Bible says. But tell me, did deponent truly state or were you stalling on the nameplate?"


"That Harold Armitage business. Is that what they call you back home?"

Harold laughed. "Yes," he said, "that's my real name. You've probably heard of dad. He is Thomas Armitage."

"Not Armitage & Barnes' Frazzled Friskies?"

"U-hum. I'm the son of 'the King of Breakfast Foods.' I was going to say son and heir, but we had a row yesterday and I was thrown out of house, home, allowance and will. Dad has a real warm, redheaded temper."

"Now Harold—you'll excuse me for pulling on the front doorbell but I do love to say Harold—I know you ought to have your nut examined. Getting a souse on and jumping into a wet river is just an indication, but having a serious fight with paternal millions is proof positive of bats in the loft. Did you ever try earning a living?"

"No, not yet."

"It's some more complicated than running an automobile. A fellow that doesn't have to shouldn't jump into it without serious consideration. What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. I have just come back from Paris where some money was spent teaching me to paint pictures. But I'm afraid I couldn't sell them."

"Leave that to me, bo. You paint and I'll be the selling end. What do you say to the firm of Armitage & Buchmuller?"

Harold clasped Jake's outstretched hand and shook it heartily.

"You're a pretty good sort, Buchmuller," he said. "We'll try it out. What's your plan of campaign?"

"Can you paint human things?"

"Yes—you mean portraits?"

"Then Job Number 1 for you is to paint a picture of Peaches. If I don't sell it to a complexion-cream outfit I'll eat it. Here she comes now. Just let me make all the arrangements."

ELAINE came swinging aft, her arms full of check jumpers and blue denim trousers. Jake advanced to meet her.

"Miss Elaine," he asked, "are you the skipper's daughter?"

"No," she answered, "I am the skipper."

"Oof!" exclaimed Jake. "Well, Cap, we would very much like to take the trip to Buffalo with you. How much would it cost us, American plan?"

For the first time Elaine showed some slight signs of confusion. "Well, I—I don't know," she stammered. "We should be glad to have you of course, but—"

"Perhaps," interjected Harold, "Miss Elaine is er-er unchaperoned and——"

"No, that's not it," she said, turning to him. "My brother is on board with his wife and her sister and a young man friend; but you see we never have taken passengers before and——"

"You don't know what to charge," Jake broke in. "All right, Captain, suppose we take half the railroad fare from New York to Buffalo for a basis and add ten a week for the eats and berths."

"That would do very well," said Elaine. "Follow me, please."

She led them to the bow of the barge and down a companion ladder to the main cabin. Jake drew in his breath quickly as they entered. A handsome rug lay upon the floor, silken curtains of Nile green draped the little ports, and a small piano stood in one corner. There were cosy wicker lounging-chairs and divans, a reading-table of polished oak and a revolving bookcase whose shelves were full of handsomely bound volumes.

Some embroidery lay in a woman's workbasket on top of the bookcase and a dozen magazines were heaped upon the table. From this compartment a companionway led aft, and on each side of it were neat little white staterooms with comfortable rocking-chairs and cosy brass beds. Into one of these the girl ushered the two young men.

"This is our only spare room," she said. "You will have to share it." She deposited her armful of clothing on the bed and went on: "The dining-room is at the other end of the boat. When you have changed your clothing come right aft and meet the others. We have dinner at six." She flashed a golden smile at them and vanished.

Jake turned a dazed look upon Harold.

"Would you mind pinching me, bo?" he asked feebly.

"Why, what's the matter?" Harold asked.

"I just want to make sure I am awake," responded Buchmuller. "Recent experiences suggest to me that I'm either in a dream or pleasantly dippy, like the bug who has a kink that he's John D. Rockefeller. I'm the little fellow who tells real estate men they ought to advertise. For ten years I have been blowing all the surplus earnings of muh business in a foolish endeavor to put a good one over on the bookies. Yesterday, when I'm down to hard-pan, behold, bo! they really win at big money and I sail home with a thousand in muh kick. Muh for the realization of muh dreams, new clothes, flashes for the necktie and vest buttons, the gold ticktick!

"But see how wealth takes wings and the tide of fortune, taken at the flood, biffs you most unexpected and cruel. Riches this morning, and the fishes playing with muh bank-roll before the sun sets! In the water, out of the water, and up we come on a canal-boat which a fairy with a wide smile presto-changos into the St. Regis. Now Harold—how I love that name!—are you sure that we're awake?"

"Quite sure," Harold answered with a laugh. "This is a nice little stateroom, old fellow, but it's not the St. Regis."

"You've been in the St. Regis?"


"Have you ever been on a canaller?"


"Well, I have. And, take it from me, bo, that you may know that this is not the St. Regis, but I know it isn't any canaller either! Besides which these blue-jeans are too brand new to look the part. And no bloomin' low-bridge expert tramps the towpath in fifteen-dollar suits of underwear!"

This last observation was due to the discovery that two comfortable suits of underclothing had been laid out upon the counterpane.

Harold did not answer. He was too busy divesting himself of his wet garments and replacing them with the dry, warm habiliments so kindly provided.

"A little scant, but nice and comfy," he commented, sitting on the bed and ruefully surveying the hiatus between the rims of his trouser legs and the tops of his mis|it shoes.

"You'll have to put flounces on those, bo," remarked Jake, bending over to fold up neatly the surplus length of his own garments. "Now," he observed, as he stood up straight and pirouetted up and down the cabin, "see that neat and fashionable cuff? You may have it on me for name and lineage, Harold, but as a nobby dresser—fade, bo, fade, I've got you skinned and on the pan!"

Harold paused with a comb stuck in his hair.

"By the way, partner," he said, "we forgot one item in our business arrangements. A painter must have paint to paint."

"Sounds like a music-hall gag or a conundrum," mumbled Jake, talung his scarf-pin out of his mouth and fastening the neck of his jumper with it. "However, don't let it spoil your digestion; we'll tie up at some river town and you can go ashore and buy the paint."

Rather timidly they made their way to the after deckhouse. A big oak dining-table occupied the center of it and a handsome sideboard stood against the bulkhead.

"Get hep to the sidebar," murmured Jake to himself. "Cut glass, too!"

Two young women and two men were in the room with Elaine as the guests entered. She introduced one of the men as* her brother, Mr. Daniels, and the other as Mr. Brough. Daniels looked enough like Elaine to confirm the introductory explanation and Mr. Brough was a lean young chap with a sandy mustache and a languid manner. Mrs. Daniels was a blue-eyed, golden-haired matron of twenty-five, and Polly Hawkins, her sister, was a slim eighteen-year-old lassie in a tidy checked kitchen apron.

The men were clothed in blue-jeans and jumpers and the women in canvas blouses and skirts. Harold and Jake were cordially welcomed and took the seats Elaine assigned them at the table. Their afternoon's experience had put a razor-edge on their appetites and they thoroughly enjoyed the substantial dinner set before them. At the conclusion of the meal Daniels reached into the sideboard and drew forth a box of cigars.

"We generally smoke these after dinner," he explained as he passed the box to Jake. "During the day we smoke corncobs. I'll put a couple and a box of tobacco in your room. If you don't care for the pipe, however, you can always find the cigars in this cupboard."

AS THEY pulled comforters over them in their cosy stateroom that evening Harold concluded that canal-boat life was the most joyous life a human being could live. They had spent the evening lounging and reading in the forward cabin. Jake had entertained them 226 Adventure with several popular songs sung to Polly's rattling accompaniment, and, best of all, Harold and Elaine had had a tramp around the deck in the moonlight that* bathed bank and boat, darkling shore and sparkling river. She was not too communicative about her business, but he gathered that the barge had come down to New York flour-laden and was going' back empty. It struck him that there was some difference between his hosts and the crews of the craft lashed alongside, but he dismissed the question with the reflection that canal society had its gradations like all other societies. And truly, Elaine had wonderful eyes!

Jake nudged him in the ribs. "What did you fight with your dad about?" he asked.

"Uh?" mumbled Harold.

"Why did you leave home and all the money—a skirt?"

"Something like," yawned Harold. "He wanted to marry me to his partner's daughter 'n' I—was—umble, umble——"

"You don't tell me?" snorted Jake in deep disgust. "Well, a guy that can go to sleep telling how he lost a few million doesn't deserve to have money! Ugh!"

And Jake fell asleep also.

"HEIGH-HO!" exclaimed Jake, as they turned out to the tune of a clamorous tom-tom at six the following morning, "how do you like life on the bounding marine?"

"All right!" answered Harold, rubbing sleep-heavy lids. "But why all the racket so early in the morning? Is the ship afire?"

"Nay, bo; it's pipe all hands to grog— I mean to grub," Jake explained. "And—toot! toot! little bright-eyes—on this marvel of a canaller they supply passengers with a razor!"

They shaved rapidly and hurried aft. In the dining-room Polly, again wrapped in her kitchen apron, and Mrs. Daniels, similarly swathed, were skipping back and forth with steaming platters of buckwheat cakes while Elaine could be glimpsed in the galley beyond, transferring slices of red and white bacon from the frying pan to a mammoth serving-dish. Daniels was pouring coffee and Brough was dragging the chairs up to the table.

"Hi there, Armitage! Get that big knife and cut the bread!" yelled Daniels cheerfully. "Buchmuller, help Polly in with the buckwheats!"

Soon they were all at the table eating with a North River appetite of which Armitage was rather ashamed, but Jake was as proud as a peacock.

"Now what have we to do, Cap?" he asked of Elaine. "We want to be part of the crew and jump in and work with the rest, you know."

Elaine seemed at a loss. Her brother hurried to the rescue.

"As we are traveling empty there is really nothing to do, you know," he said. "We generally sit around the deck and read and smoke—that is Brough and I smoke—and watch the scenery. You see?"

"Yes," said Jake, "I see. How could a fellow help seeing," he went on under his breath, "when it's as clear as mud?"

As they went on deck he observed a lean person whose long legs were encased in cowhide boots and whose chin-whisker of red and gray looked like the spike on a picket fence. This person was smoking a black clay pipe and leaning his back against the tiller.

"Who's your steersman, bo?" Jake whispered in Daniels' ear.

A slight flush crept into the young man's cheeks.

"He belongs on the next boat," he explained. "He comes over to give us a hand in a neighborly kind of way, you know, when we're busy. How are you, Hiram?"

The lean person straightened up stiffly and touched his brow with a weatherbeaten fore-finger.

"Good morning—"

Polly, who stood beside them, placed her hand on her heart.

"—sir," said the helmsman.

"Ahhhhh!" sighed Polly softly.

But Jake didn't seem to have noticed anything. He followed Elaine and Harold forward, looking down at the deck. To himself he was saying, "For the love of Mike, what are we up against?"

THAT night Elaine and Harold sat on the hatch-covers, the girl resting her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands as she looked up into his face. The lights of Saugerties twinkled off the port quarter and a rippling streamer of silver moonlight lay like a bar upon the river. Armitage had just told the girl of the quarrel with his father.

"But why does he insist that you marry her?" she asked. "Is it because she has— has money?"

"Oh, no," he answered quickly. "Dad has a bunch of it himself and doesn't care about that end of it. But you see her father and he were mining partners years ago and made their first big strike together and they have been brothers in business ever since. It seems that when both of us were babies they made it up between them that we were to marry."

"Well, why don't you marry her? Isn't she a nice girl?"

"Oh, I suppose she's nice enough—I've never seen her," he answered. "You see, he took care of the Western end, the manufacturing, and dad ran the advertising and selling in New York, and then when I was fifteen I was packed off to boarding school and later to college and then to Paris to cultivate what I thought was a talent for painting. I have just come home and find that he has it all arranged that I am to marry a girl who probably has as little taste for the thing as I have. He insisted, I objected, there were fire-crackers and I got out."

"Is that the only reason you did not want to marry her?"

Harold lifted his glance and looked straight into Elaine's brown eyes.

"That was the only reason," he said.

"'Was?'" she repeated softly, looking out over the waters.

"Yes," he answered, "was. There is another reason now."

"What is her name?" Elaine asked.

Armitage started. "You wouldn't really like me to tell you that, now would you?" he asked quietly.

"No," she answered. "I should think you horrid if you did."

She looked a while at the red dot of the port lantern. Then she turned her eyes in the direction of the thin yellow streamers that escaped from the cabin windows through which escaped also Jake's gay voice raised in song, and the tinkle of Polly's vivacious obligato.

"The other reason?" she said softly, her lashes falling.

"Why, Elaine, you are the other reason," he said, looking up at her frankly. "I do not want to be offensive and I haven't any hope, but it won't hurt you to know, and perhaps it will help me. If I were any good—if I had been taught how to make a living instead of painting pictures no one would buy—why, I'd try to make you love me and marry me, but—Oh, do not think too little of me, Elaine, because you are a splendid, competent worker of the world, and I am a good-for-nothing. I'll learn how—in time."

"Your father may relent," the girl suggested, her lashes still brushing her cheeks. "You don't know my dad," Harold answered, shaking his head.

"But I think you can win out alone," she said, looking up at him suddenly.

Harold looked into her face in a frank, level-eyed way he had.

"You are right," he said without the slightest suggestion of a boast in tone or manner, "I can. But," he added, "it wouldn't be the square thing to ask any girl to bet on me."

Even in the pale moonlight he could see. the cloud of color that surged into her face as she bent her head and whispered:

"I would be willing to bet on you, Harold!"

The singing had ceased in the forward cabin. Jake Buchmuller stepped out on deck, the red tip of his cigar brightening and fading, and the smoke of it curling back over his shoulder. He looked at the little tugboats ahead and then swept a careless glance back at the barges strung out astern. Something dark against the white hatchcovers, on the port side amidships, arrested his wandering glance.

"Is it one or are it two?" he murmured after a minute of careful scrutiny.

"It are two," he answered his own question a minute later, and discreetly tinned his eyes ahead.

"That young man," he remarked confidentially to the hawser-ring at his feet, "is some rapid, even if his name is Harold. In ten minutes he makes a life-long friend of me and now he's kissing the Captain of this blooming ship!"

Having delivered himself of which Jake went below and turned in.

ALL the way up the river Mr. Buchmuller's crowning joy was the enthusiasm of Polly. That young lady was just bursting with information concerning the canal-boat trade, and Jake drank it in as the dry earth drinks up the Summer showers.

"Now what was it you told me you were carrying last trip?" he encouraged her one morning as he aided her in the culinary task of peeling potatoes.

"Lobsters," answered Polly demurely, tossing a denuded Murphy into a capacious sauce-pan.

Jake looked at her with baby eyes.

"How very interesting!" he said.

"Yes," said Polly, "it was a great sight to look down in the hold and see them fighting, millions and millions of them."

"It must have been," Jake replied with conviction.

"Yes," Polly went on with growing enthusiasm," and one night they er — mutinied."

"Mutinied?" gasped Jake.

"Um," said Polly. "They all came clambering up on deck and we barred ourselves in the cabin and drove them back at the point of our pistols!"

"Gee!" exclaimed Jake.

Polly sighed. "The trip before that wasn't very romantic," she said.

"No?" queried Jake.

"No," said Polly. "We had on board a hundred thousand hogsheads of flour. It took us girls two days to get it on board."

"Gracious, how do you do such hard work and keep your hands so nice and soft?"

"Oh," said Polly, "we always wear our gloves when we're handling hogsheads, of course!"

"Of course; how stupid of me!" said Jake.

Elaine's appearance in the cabin stopped the flow of Polly's eloquence and Jake retreated to his room. From the little port of that apartment strange, muffled sounds issued, and the skipper of the barge alongside, peering through, saw a short man trying to swallow a feather pillow and making a terrible pother about it.

THE flotilla halted at Albany, and next afternoon, just as they were about to resume the journey, the crew of the grain-barge were startled by the wild croak of a horn and the roar of an unmuffled six-cylinder. A big touring-car tore down the dock and pulled up with a creaking of protesting brakes at the barge's side. Out of the tonneau jumped a ruddy, spectacled old gentleman with streaming gray sidewhiskers. With surprising agility he leaped over the string-piece and landed upon the deck.

"Dad!" gasped Harold, in blank amazement.

"Hello, you obstinate young scamp! his father saluted. "I knew you'd knuckle under to the old man—they all do when he puts his foot down, you bet your life! But how did you get him on the barge, Edie?"

Elaine looked up, her face crimson and her hand reaching out in appeal toward Harold. Instead of answering the old gentleman she spoke to his son.

"There isn't any Elaine, Harold," she said. "I'm Edith Barnes."

Harold looked at her with dazed eyes. "And all this—he said, looking around at the barge.

"Why, it's simple enough," she answered. "This barge belongs to your father and mine. Richie and Nell and Polly and I were tired of town and thought a canalboat trip would be a delightful lark. Dick had the boat altered a little and furnished, and we were just starting on our trip when you came on board, rather unceremoniously. When I heard your name it occurred to me that it would be a splendid chance to find out what kind of chap father had picked out for me—you will forgive me for fooling you, won't you, Harold?"

"Forgive you, dear girl! Why it's been fine! But—but how did you know about it, father?"

The elder Armitage plunged his hand into his breast pocket and drew forth a telegraphic dispatch.

"How did I know about it?" he cried, thrusting the paper into Harold's hand. "Didn't you send me this?"

With their heads together Harold and Elaine read:

You win. I have just become engaged to Edith Barnes. Bat the corpulent calf on the brow and chase me a check.

"I was so—so—so dingbusted glad that I hustled up on a special myself, just to see if it was true!" exploded Mr. Armitage.

But Edith had turned an accusing eye upon Jake. He threw up his hands.

"Guilty!" he confessed. "I thought the old guy might be worried, and what was the use keeping him on the griddle?"

"But how did you know? Did Polly—?"

"Don't pass it up to Polly! She's been having the time of her life kidding me, haven't you, Polly? As for the engagement part, why, Harold has been murmuring things in his sleep. And as for the rest, you should have heard the nice early morning chats I have had with old Chinny-chin-chin who plays with the tiller. He told me how much per he got for being so neighborly and who paid him. And then it was an oversight, Cap, to leave that plate on the tiller-post!" He pointed to a nickel-plated sign which bore the inscription:

Armitage & Barnes—Barge No. 12.

"And I thought I had you fooled as badly as Harold was!" Polly complained in heart-broken tones.

"Oi-yoi!" chortled Jake. "Living the simple canal-boat life with perfectos for after dinner and ten-dollar-a-pound mixture for our humble corn-cob pipes! Maiden, I may look like a simple child of nature from the far-off reservation, but believe me, my wigwam's hard by little old Broadway!"