By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.
Originally published in King Comics #49, November 1942.
It was the last frolic before the break-up of Bayside Camp on the Cape. Not the usual weekly cruise to Clay's Island for a corn and clam bake, but a real bang-up all-day party and celebration at Provincetown itself. A special permit had been secured giving the Romp permission to cross the bay from Wellfleet to the doll-like little town on the tip of Cape Cod, and though theirs was an inside course and not in the ocean at all, a lively discussion about subs was already under way.
"Subs could easily come in here," asserted Polly Spencer, hopefully waving her binoculars. To this the other Baysiders enthusiastically agreed, passing the glasses from hand to hand, till eyes and necks protesting, they were thankfully returned to their owner. A. D., the camp's head counselor, did not bother to explain the extreme improbability of encountering a sub. She felt it a shame to remove the thrill of such an experience from their last cruise. Only the captain of the little motor boat allowed himself an indulgent chuckle as the girls agreed to post a lookout on the cabin top and take turns on watch. Gabe Saunders, hailed as Gabriel because she played cornet in the camp band, climbed cheerfully aloft for the first turn. The others, intent on the souvenirs they hoped to pick up in Provincetown and the prospect of a good old gorge on sodas and buns to make up for the balanced diet at Bayside, soon forgot all about subs, chattering away as noisily as the Romp's engine. Gulls circled lazily overhead as they went chugging along through the choppy waters of Cape Cod Bay. The sky above was so blue and the air so clear and snappy the Codders (Bayside girls after a season in camp felt justified in calling themselves that) could not help breaking into song. One tune followed another so fast the morning passed quickly and everyone was astonished when A. D. began handing 'round the lunch boxes. Though the motion of the boat was considerable, all hands fell to with a hearty appetite and complete justice was done to the sandwiches, pickles, eggs, tomatoes, cake and fruit. Captain Bill's hard-boiled egg, parked absentmindedly in his port pocket, rolled down into the engine when he lifted the hatch to see how it was running. Sally Blake sat on a tomato, but these little incidents only added to the general hilarity. In fact, there was such a merry noise and racket the first shriek from the lookout went completely unheeded. But at Betty's second scream - Bet was now doing her turn - everyone stopped chewing and talking at the same instant. Lunches were pushed aside and only a sharp order from A. D. kept them all from rushing over to Betty's side of the Romp. In one leap Betty had landed on the deck and was pointing wordless t' leeward.
"What is it?" gasped Polly, snatching the binoculars. "Did you see one? Was it really a sub? Here, give us a gander!"
"Girls! Girls!" warned the A. D. as the Codders made another rush toward Betty and the Romp dipped down dangerously. "What use is it going to a nautical camp if you forget all the rules of seamanship at the first test? Back to your places. Spread out as you were. Now then, Betty, what DID you see?"
"A�a periscope!" stuttered Betty, waving her sandwich in a dramatic circle. And she kept stubbornly repeating herself even after the whole crew, squinting off in the direction indicated, declared there was nothing in sight but the bobbing waves of the bay.
"I don't care what you say. It WAS there, too!" declared Betty, stamping her foot in exasperation as no one seemed inclined to take her story seriously. "First there was a long shadow and then this gray funnel sticking up out of the water. Oh, do put about, Captain Bill, it's heading right this way."
"Pshaw, you've, been reading too many war stories," muttered the captain, taking his pipe out of his mouth and staring quizzically off toward the horizon. "There's never been a sub in these waters and likely there never will be."
"Just the same. I think she's right." Janey Bramwell, who'd been quietly reading a magazine during all the fun and merriment, spoke up smartly. Usually no one paid any attention to Janey. She'd come up to Bayside for the last ten days, and who could be expected to be treated as a real camper in that short time? At first Janey had tried to enter into the spirit of the sports and games, but irked by the patronizing and superior attitude of the older girls and their unwillingness to include her in any of the inner circles or fun, she gave up the attempt and, bothering as little as possible with camp routine, extracted what enjoyment she could from the boats and scenery. But today was different, and as every eye turned in her direction she announced calmly: "There's a destroyer aft." Captain Bill's pipe fell to the deck with a clatter. Half the Codders made a dive for the inside cabin. The others, frozen to the spot in a kind of terror, watched the grim shape cutting through the bay's blue waters. "Nothing to be frightened about." Again Jane spoke calmly. "It's an American destroyer. See, there's the flag!"
" 'Course it's an American destroyer!" Grumbling and muttering, Captain Bill retrieved his pipe while the crowd in the cabin came streaming out. Certainly they'd all known it was an American destroyer.
"We'll edge over and have a look. Not every day they come as close as this," Captain Bill said, giving his wheel a spin.
"Look, she's signalling another boat," observed A. D., now perfectly cool and collected again. "Probably out on maneuvers. Watch this, girls; it should be interesting."
"There isn't any other boat," said Jane politely but firmly. "They're signalling to us, Miss Dreighton."
"To us. Oh, my goodness! Why should they? Here, Polly, Anne, Frances, you've all had wigwagging. Hop up on the cabin, one of you, and see what's wanted."
"Oh, but he goes so fast." demurred Polly, making no move to mount the cabin. "Oh, that's not the way we learned signalling, A. D." Frowning and really alarmed, Miss Dreighton turned to Captain Bill. He, knowing nothing of the navy signalling code, merely shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, why," groaned A. D. frantically to herself, "had she not brought Speedy, the camp's nautical instructor and expert, along."
"Suppose I edge closer," proposed Captain Bill with a doubtful look over his shoulder.
"Would you like me to take the message?" inquired Janey, calmly putting down her peach and magazine.
"Oh, COULD you? WOULD YOU?" With an eager push, A. D. accelerated Janey's spring to the cabin top. Once there, the little rookie waved a handkerchief in each hand to attract the furiously wigwagging sailor on the destroyer's bridge. Then she stood stiffly at attention while he continued to wigwag more furiously than ever. As the Codders with open-mouthed envy and admiration looked on, Janey wigwagged a satisfactory answer back. That it was satisfactory they could tell from the cheerful waves of the sailors aboard the destroyer and the hoarse cheer of the signaller himself.
"Quick, what did he say?" demanded A. D. as Janey slid down with more speed than grace. Janey cocked a cold and critical eye at her discomfited mates. "He said," stated Janey, " 'Have sighted sub and are chasing same. Scram!' "
"I told you it was a sub," screamed Betty, her voice hoarse between triumph and terror.
"And what did YOU say?" inquired A, D. in the electric little silence that followed. Sinking back into her deck chair, Janey picked up her magazine with elaborate carelessness. "Who, ME? Oh, I said, 'O, K., keep 'em fleeing!' "
"Good!" A brief smile chased the frown of worry from the counselor's anguished countenance. Then, turning to Captain Bill, she barked out an order. "Put about and get out of here, FAST! Now, girls, no confusion, no panic. Stand by for further instructions, and whatever happens -" A. D.'s voice trailed off, for who could tell what they should do then?
"The destroyer told us to proceed to Provincetown and wait there for permission to leave," volunteered Janey. This time she spoke less stiffly, for she, herself, was excited to the very bone.
"We're nearer Provincetown, at that," puffed Captain Bill, swinging his wheel to port. "I aim to lay up the boat there tomorrow, anyway, so I'll just stay on and you and the girls can go back to camp by bus."
"Oh, not before we see the fun, I hope," exclaimed Janey, leaning her elbows on the Romp's low rail and gazing intently off toward the destroyer, now churning away in the direction where Betty had first sighted the sub.
"Fun?" choked Captain Bill, veering in the opposite direction as speedily as his engine would take him. "If you think roosting over a torpedo is fun, you're crazy."
"Sub fun," giggled Gabe, who would make a joke out of a hanging.
"Oh, wait till John hears about this," exulted Janey, paying no attention as her magazine slid overboard.
"Who's John?" asked Polly, edging over to sit beside Jane and proffering her binoculars as a sort of peace offering.
"John? Oh, he's my brother, and in the navy. He taught me all the signals on his last leave."
"A brother in the navy! Boy, are you lucky! Me, I knew some of those old wigwags, but darned if I could get organized."
"Using what you know at the right time and why is the real test of knowledge," said A. D. with a warm little twinkle for the camp rookie. "Taking that message earns Jane her camp letters in one week. Janey here is going to make a real sailor."
"Thank you." Janey, who'd been sole crew and able-bodied seaman for years on her brother's ketch in Barnegat Bay, smiled demurely. And from then on, as she wrote John later, everything was better if not completely smooth. Though the Codders did not have the thrill of seeing the sub-marine chase, they were still near enough to watch the depth bombs going over and to feel, as indeed they were, in the middle of the grimmest war in history. As they rolled home by bus late that evening they all voted the last frolic most thrilling of all. It was, too, except for A. D., who heaved a great sigh of relief when the tents and cabins of Camp Bayside hove into view.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 1, 1918.
A Few More Puzzles by That Old Friend of Ours
First and 4most he wants to answer his last puzzles. He says a shoe is like you because it has a long tongue. (The idea!) And a tree is like himself because it has its head in the air and is a great loser. He loses everything--almost. A potato is related to a table because it is a vege-table--and the words which he had abbreviated were sedate, decipher, opiate, foray, tool and Entente.
Here is one he forgot to put in last week--O. E.
"Tall and slender,
Mum's the word," he said,
I made that rhyme up myself, so don't be too critical of it. Can you guess the puzzle?
Here are some of his own verses, which seem even more mixed up than usual:
The moon was blowing gently
And the wind began to fall;
The snow behind a cloud--my stars!--
This don't sound right at all!
But let's proceed. The fields were coated
With a powdery white--
Like sugar on a pie--now I
Think this verse is all right!
The hill shone out upon the lights,
The snowflakes in their beds,--
Seeing the children falling,
Dreamed of skating and of sleds!
[Answers next time]
Copyright © 2009 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
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