Psychology and Mr. Floto
Mr. Floto was just a paw in the neck to Ricky—but that was before Clem’s peanut psychology met its watery Waterloo
NEWLIN B. WILDES
SAND'S LETTER said, "My train gets in at four and I think you're sweet to meet me. I have a surprise for you."
I wondered about that surprise. Maybe she had decided to give in and marry me. Sometimes she almost did. Other times she said that it would be like marrying a Governor Winthrop desk. Tall and stately and too legal. All right, I get paid for being legal. I got to the station twenty minutes early.
1 always meet trains twenty minutes early. Avoid rush and confusion. I had on my grey-flannel suit and a blue tie, and had got my shoes shined and was standing near the gate reading a pamphlet on torts, when somebody smacked my shoulders so hard that my glasses almost fell off.
“Don’t do that, ever.” I said, very annoyed. It was Clem Nowell. It would be Clem Nowell.
Clem Nowell is brown and confident, and good-looking in the country-club manner, full of health and verve and dividends. His grandfather made the dividends. Clem just clips them. “Hi’ya, professor,” he grinned, very pleased with himself, “I see we’re meeting a train.”
“How did you know when she got in?” I said coldly. Clem chortled. “Simple,” he said, “I gave Mamie five dollars.” Mamie is Sand’s maid.
I grunted. The train drawled in. I walked down the platform away from Clem. If he wanted to tag along . . . Sand came up the ramp.
She had on a tailored white-linen jacket and a grey skirt and very high heels, and she walked as if the best things were just ahead and wasn’t it going to be fun ! Sand was always that way. Something new, something crazy, and her blue eyes kept laughing and her blond hair was just one dance ahead.
“Hello, boys,” she said, with a wicked twinkle. “Is it a convention?”
Clem kissed her. He stepped right in. He kissed her too long.
“Whew!” she said, “You’ve been practicing.” She looked at me. “Well, Ricky,” she said. “Coming?”
I kissed her. I am not a good platform kisser. My hat rolled away. Clem laughed.
“No,” he said, “definitely no. Keep your head down. More follow through.”
“Never mind.” Sand said. She turned. “We will have to go to the baggage car now and get him.”
“Get who?” I said.
“Mr. Floto,” Sand said.
“And who.” Clem enquired, “is Mr. Floto?”
“You’ll see,” Sand said. She looked at me. “That's the surprise.” she said.
The baggage man was very glad to see Sand. Men always are. “Here you are, lady,” he said. “He rode good. Et all the peanuts.”
“Darling!” Sand said. Not to the baggage man. To a dog. A mutt. The funniest looking mutt I ever saw A cross. A shambles. A mirage of breeds. On the terrier size, but with short, fluffy hair in tight waves, white and brown in patches, with two great black spots around and nearly covering eyes that gleamed and sparkled wicked eagerness.
All bounce and bound and wiggle, and where-do-we-gofrom-here-boys, whoops and cats.
“Isn’t he lovely?” Sand said.
“Definitely,” Clem said. I withheld comment. “Where did you get him?” Clem enquired.
“From the stableman at the Rand’s,” Sand said. “He’s a year old and he likes peanuts.”
“He does, eh,” Clem said speculatively. Sand gave me the leash. Like a sceptre.
“Here, Ricky,” she said, “you can hold him while we fix the trunk checks.” She went off with Clem, arm through his, step in step. They seemed to have a great deal to talk about. Important, laughing things. I felt as side-lined as a wife at a college reunion.
Mr. Floto wheezed frantically at his collar. He strained. He swung around and through the legs of a distinguished gentleman. The gentleman stumbled. “Confound that dog!” He glared at me. Mr. Floto tripped a porter. Bags crashed. “See the funny dog, mama.”
Mr. Floto showed attentive interest in a new cowhide valise. I screamed at him. The owner screamed at me. Perspiration dripped from my forehead. My glasses clouded. “Porter,” I called, “porter, take this dog.” The porter went away rapidly. Sand and Clem came back.
“Darling!” Sand said, “did he get you all excited?”
I gave her the leash. Clem gave Mr. Floto a peanut. He had bought a bag of them. Mr.
Floto subsided and masticated with a slow and thorough carefulness. Clem grinned down at him disarmingly. “I like dogs,” he said. “Always have. Get along with ’em. Don’t I, pup?”
He rumpled Mr. Floto’s ears.
“Psychology.” he said. “That’s the way to handle ’em.”
Sand smiled at him. “Clem,” she said, “you’re wonderful.”
“Pooh,” I said. “Peanuts.
Anybody could give him peanuts”. What was so smart about that?
“I’ve got my car here,” Clem said. “We can drop you off,
Craney.” Drop we off!
“Of course not,” Sand said.
“We’re all going home together.”
It was a roadster.
“You’ll have to ride in the
rumble.” Clem said happily. Sand gave me the blue eyes. Better days coming. Maybe. “Do you mind awfully?” she said.
T GOT into the rumble. Mr. Floto got in too. It was a small rumble. Mr. Floto had evidently never been anywhere or seen anything. He was alive with interest. Frantic with it.
He leaped at a traffic cop, exploding a bark in my ear. My head rang. Mr. Floto was wound somewhere in my necktie. The wind blew. I tried to hang onto Mr. Floto and my hat. My hat went down underfoot. Mr. Floto saw a dog on the sidewalk. He was all over me. He was drooling, on my suit. My new flannel suit. “Sit down !” I shrieked at him. I plopped him down. Hard. He resented that. He growled.
“Growl at me, will you?” I said. I was mad. So was Mr. Floto. We were not going to be friends. Definitely. Sand or no Sand. Mr. Floto saw a cat. He leaped. I gave him an awful set down. He bit me. He bit me in the hand. Not very bad. but the shock and his teeth were sharp. I yelled. Sand turned around. Clem slowed the car.
“What’s the matter?” Sand said.
I glared at her. “This accursed and electrified doormat of yours bit me,” I said. “He bit me in the hand. He—”
“Poor darling,” Sand said. She reached for the dog, not for me.
Clem put his oar in. “You don’t handle him right,” he said. “Psychology—”
That was too much. “Psychology be darned.” I said. I got up. I got out. “I did not come down to be nursemaid to a mutt,” I said. “I came to meet you.”
Sand looked worried. “Ricky—” she began.
Let her look worried. “Good-by,” I said. I started to tip my hat with dignity. My hat wasn’t there. It was down in the rumble. The heck with it. I stalked away. I was through. If that was the kind of girl she was . . .
I was through for a week. Well, two days. say. Then I admitted it. “You’re in love with Sand." I said, “dog or no dog. What difference is a dog? Twenty dogs. Trade them all for that smile and that way of looking at you. and those eyes. She has some reason for liking that mutt. She always has some reason, deep down. Call her up. Before Clem gets her engaged.” I called her up.
“Ricky!” she said. She seemed very glad to hear from me. “I wondered when you were going to stop punishing me.”
I twisted on my chair, happily. “May I come out tonight, Sand? There’s—that is. I—well, I want to ask you something.”
Her voice changed a little. “Why, of course. Ricky, if you want to.”
I was there at eight. Precisely.
TT WAS wonderful. Sand in a white dress, and the moon -*■ up over the meadows, and the shadows warm and still on the long, sheltered loafing porch. Everything perfect, and I said, “Let’s sit here, Sand.”
And then that confounded dog came bouncing in. He saw me and stopped, bristling.
“Go away,” I said instinctively.
Sand held onto him. “You mustn’t talk to him like that,” she said. “You must make him like you.”
“He’ll never like me.” I said. “We got off to a bad start. First impressions and all.”
Sand put Mr. Floto up beside her and scratched his ear. Somehow the spell of everything being right and perfect was broken.
“Why don’t you get a good dog?” I said irritably. I don’t know why I said it, really. I just did. “I could get you one. A prize winner.”
Sand kept scratching the mutt’s ear. “No.” she said, “I like this one. I will tell you why I like him. Do you want to hear?”
“Not particularly,” I said.
“I’ll tell you anyway,” Sand said. “I like him.” slowly, reflectively, “because, at the Rand's, there were a dozen good dogs. Bench winners, handsome, strutty, combed. And this mutt had more personality and go and interest than all the rest of them put together. He was really somebody. He wanted to know what was happening everywhere, wasn’t just content to pose and yawn. But nobody wanted him in sight, and they chased him back to the stables, and he would stand and peer around a corner, hopefully, for a look at the world and all that was so wonderful. So I took him. Anybody who wants to see things and do things and have fun, ought to have the chance. And Mr. Floto’s going to.”
Sand turned and smiled at me, a little embarrassed. “That was a long speech, wasn’t it, Ricky?” she said, and just then Clem Nowell came through the French doors, and I groaned.
Clem made the sun porch crowded and shut out the moon. “Hello people,” he said. “I hope I’m intruding.”
“You are.” I growled.
“Hello, Clem,” Sand said. Something in her tone that I didn’t like. Clem had the inside. Obviously.
He sat down. Next to Mr. Floto. “Hi’ya, pup.” he said. “How’s my pal?” He brought out a rattling cellophane bag. “Here you are, fellow,” he said. Peanuts. The smell
of peanuts when you are going to propose! “Psychology,” Clem said, very pleased with himself.
Sand smiled at them. Then Clem remembered something. “I’ve got an idea.” he said. “A great idea.”
“Will it be fun?” Sand said.
“Colossal.” Clem said. “Listen.” He leaned forward. “The bass season opens tomorrow,” he said impressively, “and I know a lake, way back in the mountains, that is just teeming with fish. Literally teeming.”
“Let them teem.” I said. “Who cares?”
Clem ignored me. “Nobody much knows about this lake,” he said. “Just the natives. But I got onto it.”
“Get onto something else, then,” I said. “This place is teeming too. Crowded.”
“Ricky!” Sand said.
Clem continued: “There’s an old couple up there.” he said. “Farmhouse on the lake. Could act as chaperones. Wonderful food. What do you say, Sand? We open the season. You’ve never caught a bass. Greatest thrill of your life. Hook ’em, play ’em, land ’em.” Clem was all over the piazza, gesturing, excited. Mr. Floto reared and barked frantically. “How about it?” Clem said.
Sand considered the matter. “It sounds like fun,” she said. “I’ve never really been fishing.”
“Great,” Clem beamed. “Next week-end. Leave Friday.”
“How about you, Ricky?” Sand said.
“No,” I said.
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“That.” said Clem, “makes the weekend perfect. ”
I looked at him. “That being the case,” I said, “I accept.” Clem groaned.
“Mr. Floto will have a fine time too,” Sand said, scratching him. “He has never been fishing either.”
Clem gulped. He stopped smiling. He koked really worried. Clem is a fisherman. I did not know whether he was a good fisherman, but he was an enthusiast. The tackle store’s delight. High boots and low boots and jackets and rods, countless rods, and flies and wax and lines and nets and a very old hat. You have to have an old hat. they tell me. Old and battered and covered with blood and scales and fishing badges from faraway spots. and matches in the band and all the rest. Clem was very serious about his fishing. I could see where a dog might not help his concentration. I would go along. Definitely.
“I don’t know about taking the mutt.” Clem began hesitantly. “I—I don’t think he would like it. You have to sit still. Ina canoe. Quite a small canoe.”
“He'd love it,” Sand said, “wouldn't you darling?”
Mr. Floto assured her that he w'ould. Clem sat helpless. I grinned at him. Let h-m get out of that. But he was smart.
“Okay,” he said suddenly. “I think we can work something out.” He looked at me. “And vou.” he said, “will have fun too, Craney. I promise you.”
Somehow I did not like his tone. It boded. I did not trust Clem. After a while we both left together because neither of us would leave the other with Sand.
“See you Friday,” Clem said.
T GOT to Sand’s first on Friday. She was T all ready. Something blue, smooth, cool, unwrinkly. She looked marvellous. Mr. Floto did not look marvellous. He was very very dirty. “He rolls.” Sand said, “in the most awful places.” He smelled badly. Very badly. I was not going to ride in the rumble with Mr. Floto. Clem arrived.
“Where are you going?” I said. “North Pole?” The car was loaded down with bags and cases and knapsacks and boots and heaven only knew what.
Clem was warm but cheerful. He found some places for Sand’s kit, for mine. Then he amazed me. Literally amazed me.
“Y*u drive, Craney,” he said. “I’ll take Mr. Floto back here. We’ll have a swell time, won’t we pup?” Taking the playright away from me. Smart, Clem was. Mr. Floto leaped joyfully. Clem gave him a peanut. “I’ve got lots of those, pup.” he said.
Sand beamed at them. “I think that’s nice of you, Clem,” she said.
I handed Mr. Floto up. covering a grin. He did smell awful. Clem sniffed. He got a little pale. But he did not say anything. I drove.
I drove two hundred miles, till nine o’clock, and then we bumped along a lonely stretch of dirt road and up to a small farmhouse beside what looked like the ocean, very peaceful white in the moonlight. A twisty old guy with a chewed handle-bar mustache and half a suspender loomed up.
“Hello, Piper,” Clem said, prying himself out stiffly. “You got my letter?” He seemed quite anxious about that, and the guy Piper said, “Ya-up. Ever’things all ready, like you said.” Clem seemed relieved.
“Four-thirty breakfast,” he announced. “We want to get to the grounds early.”
I went up to bed. They didn’t. After a while I looked out and they were sitting on the float in the moonlight. I did not feel well at all. Things looked bad.
The morning was beautiful though. It really was. The sun great and red, with a promise of heat, but everything cool at that hour, and the huge sprawl of lake
stretching away with woods down tight to the shore everywhere, and just one or two little blue wisps of smoke breaking up through the trees, miles apart.
“Not many camps on the lake, are there?” I said to Old Handle-bars, and he said, “No-up. Only two-three. One big one that a funny old city feller lives on all year round. Him an’ about a dozen dogs that . . . ” He never did finish that, and 1 remembered later that he didn’t, because Clem and Sand came up just then.
“Isn’t it gorgeous!” Sand thrilled. She had on blue dungarees and a wispy little sweater. She took deep breaths. Mr. Floto bounded, barking. He felt good. The little waves lapped at the float. Old Handle-bars lapped at a little syrup on his mustache.
“About the boats,” lie said.
“Yes?” Clem said. “Two canoes I ordered.”
Handle-bars spat. “Ain’t got but three canoes.” he said, “an’two of’em’s stove. Storm busted ’em.”
Clem seemed very annoyed. “But what are we going to do?” he said. “We can’t all three go in one canoe. With the dog.” Suspender allowed that we could not. “Got the rowboat,” he said.
Clem frowned impatiently. Then he shrugged. “Well,” he said, “I suppose we’U have to.” He turned to me. “Can you handle a canoe, Craney?” he said. “Loaded down?”
I looked at the canoe. It was in the water and it wobbled and bobbed frailly. The rowboat sat broad and solid. “No,” I said, “I have never been in a canoe. I had better take the rowboat.”
Clem agreed immediately. As I look back, he agreed too immediately. “All right,” he said. “Sand and I will have to go in the canoe. She can paddle bow and I will have to help her with her tackle. You’ll have to take Mr. Floto, though. Craney. Unless, of course.” to Sand, “you want to leave him.”
“No,” Sand said, “I want him to go.” Girls are like that. She wanted him to go. I had a dim but growing feeling that a trap had sprung. I was alone in a large and very battered rowboat, all alone except for Mr. Floto. Clem had Sand. Well, we would see.
Lunch pail, rod. line. “Wait a minute." I said, “I forgot my worms.”
“You don’t use worms,” Clem said, “you use hellgrammites.”
“What?” I said.
“Hellgrammites. Larvae of the dragon lly. Bass love ’em. I’ve got them here.” He showed a bait can.
“What g(X)d will yours do me,” I said, “in separate boats?”
“That’s right,” Clem agreed. “Piper, get some more.”
“Cot a can?” Piper said. I hadn’t. “Oh. put them in a box,” Clem said.
Piper came back with a cardboard shoe box. “Careful,” he said, “they move fast.” I opened a corner. Sand peered over my shoulder. She screamed. “They’re awful!” They were. They were long, some four inches, in scaly armored sections, with hair and innumerable legs, and a very efficientlooking set of nippers, and a most remarkable activity. Mr. Floto was much interested. He wanted to get at them. I closed the lid hurriedly.
Sand put Mr. Floto on the back seat of the rowboat. “Good-by, darling,” she said. “Have a nice time.”
She and Clem pushed off in the canoe. Mr. Floto whined and tried a foot, tentatively, over the side. He looked as if he were going to jump. He wanted to be with Sand.
“Sit down, mutt,” I said. He did not sit down. “Listen,” I called, “I can’t row with him this way. You’ll have to take him.”
“Here,” Clem said, “I’ll fix him.” He
! came alongside and put three sacks of peanuts beside Mr. Floto. “There you are, pup,” he said triumphantly. “That’ll keep you happy.” He nodded to Sand. “Psychology,” he said.
I grunted. Clem and Sand went on up the lake, smoothly, rapidly. I set out after them, slowly, gruntingly.
rT'IIAT rowboat weighed a ton. It was lead all through. Every once in a while I slipped an oarlock and fell over backward and swore, and Mr. Floto kept on eating peanuts and eyeing me beadily through his mass of hair. Then I noticed that my feet were getting wet.
The water was leaking in, slowly but surely. I stopped and bailed. Mr. Floto watched with interest. Then suddenly he made a frantic dive for something on the floor.
“What’s the matter with you?” I yelled. Then I saw.
The water had got at the cardboard bait box. and its bottom had come off and the boat was alive with hellgrammites. Teeming with them. Like ants in a fire. Up the sides, into the crevices. Mr. Floto caught one and got it half into bis mouth and it bit him and he yelped blue murder and tried to spit it out, and one was half up my pant leg and I threw that one into the lake, and my lunch pail clattered down and the top came off and the bottom of the boat was a seething mass of Floto and hellgrammites and sandwiches and me and a pickle.
For minutes it was a shambles. Mr. Floto was divided between a desire for the sandwiches and a respect for the hellgrammites, and I finally caught two and the rest either got overboard or under the slats, and by that time the canoe was just a speck rounding an island. Clem and Sand. And me in this tub, with blisters, and the sun getting hot and miles to go.
So I rowed. And I rowed. And I rowed. And Mr. Floto sat on his seat and whined plaintively from time to time in the increasing swell. He was not eating any more peanuts. He did not look happy. After a while he got down under the seat, out of the sun, and watched me. his eyes very beady. It was ten o’clock before I came to a wooded cove and there was the canoe anchored, rods out. with an air of heavy concentration about it all. Mr. Floto came to life and harked.
Clem looked up and frowned. “Shhh!” he said. “Quiet.”
I whispered, “Caught anything?” I was very tired. My arms were coming off. Sand shook her head and smiled at us silently. Clem must have told her to keep quiet too. I took out a hellgrammite and Mr. Floto retired in silent apprehension. We fished.
W’e fished and we fished and we fished, and the sun beat down hotter and straighter and nothing happened. The lines just disappeared into the black depth and stayed there motionless. “They certainly love hellgrammites,” I yawned finally. “Sure do go for them.”
“Shut up,” Clem said.
“It’s one o’clock,” I said at length. “Let’s go ashore and eat.”
“We’ll eat out here,” Clem said unpleasantly. “Then we can keep fishing.”
“What for?” I enquired. Clem didn’t say anything. He just hunched. Sand got out their lunch. I watched hungrily.
“Where’s yours?” Sand said.
“It’s gone,” I said. “WTiat isn’t overhoard is in Mr. Floto.” Sand gave me some of hers. I relaxed. Then I happened to glance into the west. I did not relax any more.
A huge black thundercloud was forming there. The air was suddenly very still and the water lay out flat as if it were huddling down, scared. Mr. Floto whined, shaking nervously. “Looks like a storm,” I said.
“Nonsense.” Clem said. He was going to keep on fishing, come whatever. The thundercloud moved up and spread out.
“Clem,” I said, “I think we had better start back. It is a long way. Must be ten miles.
“Just a shower,” Clem said. “Won’t amount to anything.”
Then the wind began to blow with a moany, whistly sweep. The clouds moved laster. The water got blacker.
“I think we’d better start too,” Sand said.
Clem looked up. “Oh, all right,” he grumbled. “Little rain — mruuump, gruuump ...” He reeled in, mad. No fish. No nothing.
We started back. We got well out into the middle of the lake when the thing struck. It struck good.
TT CAME from behind us, with a burst and a settling sweep, and what had been peaceful water a few minutes ago, was big. mad, whipped waves, white-capped. And a sheet of rain came down like a curtain, cutting my face and almost blowing Mr. Floto off the back seat. Mr. Floto moaned and shivered.
“Head for shore!” I yelled to Clem. That was half a mile.
Clem shook his head violently. “No,” he screamed over the wind. “No, don’t get broadside to it. Swamp you sure. Keep leaded with the wind, with the waves. Only way. Down the lake.”
Down the lake was two miles anyway, to the first promontory. I didn’t see how we could make that, but maybe Clem was right. He seemed to know. I caught a glimpse of Sand’s face, smiling but very white, and then the canoe jumped ahead and I was out in that lake with a boat a quarter full of water, and land to make. Land a long way off.
I wanted to make that land. I can't swim. Mr. Floto hunched on the seat and the water blew off him, and he was the most miserable thing I had ever seen. Never once did he take those black, beady, and now supplicating eyes off my face.
Somehow I began to like that dog. He had stuff. We were in this together, he and I, and I pulled on that thing until I couldn’t take another stroke, and then I was taking it and the water was up to my ankles and I thought, You get Sand in, see; get her in, and it looked as if Clem was getting her in.
Maybe he did have the stuff. Maybe I was wrong. Wash off the country-club gloss in a spot like this and maybe there was a real guy underneath. Oh, well. I sighed.
Mr. Floto crawled over and got between my knees, silently, looking up at me. We would not make land. There was too much water in the boat, and I didn’t dare stop to bail for fear of swinging broadside into those waves that were really tough now. I just kept rowing.
And then, just ahead, was a wet black line of trees and two shapes gesticulating through sheets of wind and rain, and the boat scraped on something and it was the shore. Good old shore, and Clem and Sand safe some fifty yards downwind. They seemed to be shouting something at me, Clem pointing frantically with a paddle, but I shook my head. I couldn’t hear them, and what difference did it make? We were on land. Mr. Floto jumped out. That was the worst thing he could have done. Or maybe the best.
Because with one desire, evidently, to get away from that pitching, tossing, watery waste, he vanished rapidly into 1 he woods, a white wraith among the dark wet tree trunks, and I saw Clem throw his hands into the air, and Sand run stumbling into the woods. I stood there, frozen.
And then, above the wind, the roar of water, there was a series of loud, sharp, frantic yap-yappings, coming close, and Sand was yelling “Get him, Clem, get him please, Clem.” and I was trying to make my numb arms and legs and brain function when, through the clearing, was a flash of white like foam through a rapids, and it was Mr. Floto.
It was Mr. Floto and his tail was up under him to his chin, his ears flat back in his speed, and he was going away from there and behind him were dogs. Not just
one dog. Not just two. Swarms of them.
Swarms of big ones. Teeth. Tails up. Police dogs or similar. After him. After him close, and poor Sand screaming and Clem just standing there. I didn't know where they had all come from. I didn’t stop to care.
T GOT a club, a big one, and it broke, A rotten, and I got another and started through the trees, stumbling, and Mr. Floto was losing ground. He did not know the land and the first black, hungry set of jaws was only some twenty feet behind, and then Mr. Floto doubled and made the shore.
I do not know how he made it, but he was quick and he was desperate and he was trying to save his life, and I have never yet seen an animal run the way he did. He made the water.
He may have hated it but, without a second’s hesitation, he was into it, into the waves, striking out. Lie was going to sea, that mutt, right out into open water that roared for miles, and he was going into it because it was the only place he could go, the only haven.
Even the police dogs hesitated at the water. Seven or eight of them there were, big black-and-tan brutes, standing at the edge, eyes on that small black-and-white bobbin of head struggling on into the waves, and then the first dog plunged in and the rest after him. They were going to town. They were going to catch that white thing that had come onto their land, and off they set, the covey of them.
Sand was crying, screaming, mad, and I yelled, “Whose are they? Why doesn’t he call them off? What—” And Clem said. “They belong to the old guy who has the camp here. Keep away from them.” And I remembered, then, what Piper had started to say, back home on the float, and Sand was crying, “Don’t just stand there,” as if she hadn't heard Clem. “Get him! Go after him!” And Mr. Floto was fifty yards from shore and the waves were big. Very big for a small dog. Clem shook his head.
“What can you do?” he said. “You can’t handle a boat broadside to those waves, across that wind. You can’t—” And Sand was tugging at the canoe.
“Come on. Clemi,” she said. “You can handle it, and I can get hold of him somehow.” And still Clem didn’t move, and Sand turned, pleading. “Hurry, Clem,” she said. “Oh, please.” And Clem’s face got very red, and he stuck his hands deep in his pockets.
“Nothing doing,” he said. “You needn’t think I'm going to risk my life out there just for some confounded flopsv mopsy little mutt. Not I. There’s no bottom out there.” And Sand was looking at him with a funny do-I-know-you expression, and then I had a thought. I liked that mutt. He and I had been out there together.
“The rowboat!” I yelled. “It won’t tip so easily. The water in it will keep it stable.” And we got at the boat, Sand and I. “Go away,” I said, “I’ll get him.” And I tried to keep her out, but she was in the boat and we were out there on the water, pitching, driving, dropping.
Yeah, we got the dog. No, I’m not sure just how. Yes. I remember clipping at the two leading police dogs with an oar, turning them back, and then, there away ahead was a black-and-white patch, still swimming, but slowly, very tired, going half under each wave from stroke to stroke. And we got longside and I leaned over and caught a handful of fur and neck and collar, and he was up and in and Sand had him in her arms. I guess she was very fond of that mutt. Funny how you get about dogs. Funny . . .
TT WAS all very funny and I began to
laugh, and somebody said, “Ricky, wake up,” and I was in the bedroom at Piper’s and he was there, and another guy with a stethoscope, and Mr. Floto was there too. Mr. Floto, it appeared, was on the bed beside me, and his small eyes,
black and beady, were on my face steadily, intently, just the way they had been out on the lake. Sand was just behind him.
“Hello, mutt,” I said, all warm and relaxed. “How did we get here?”
Sand said, “You rowed us in, Ricky. Over to the next point. Then Mr. Piper got us.”
“Good,” I said. I felt all drowsy again. I am not used to any work like that rowing. I never want to row again. “Good. 1 guess I will go to sleep.”
“You have been asleep for twelve hours,” Sand said. She smiled. It was a much nicer smile than she had ever given me. It belonged just to the two of us. Piper cleared his throat.
“I am sorry about them canoes,” he said. “What canoes?” I said.
“The other two I had. I hid ’em. Like Mr. Nowell said. So’s you’d have to take the rowboat an’ the dog.”
“Oh,” I said. Then I grinned. “Well, it worked out all right, didn’t it?”
Clem came in. He was not the cockily confident Clem. He was defensive now. But he tried. “Hello, mutt,” he said, with an effort at casual cheeriness. “What a time you gave us.” He put his hand in his pocket. “Here,” he said, “I found another pack.” Always trying, Clem was. He held out three peanuts to Mr. Floto.
I could feel Mr. Floto stiffen on the blanket. His eyes went green. He snarled. Ile was through with peanuts. They must have reminded him. He was through with Clem too, evidently. He leaped at Clem’s hand. Clem yanked it back.
“He bit me,” he yelled. “Bit me here. Confound ...”
I wriggled my toes, I looked at Sand and grinned. Sand grinned back.
“Psychology,” I murmured happily. “That get's ’em. Psychology.”
Clem went away. So did Piper and the doctor. Sand and Mr. Floto stayed. We had things to discuss. Very pleasant things.