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EARL DERR BIGGERS

GOOD FISHING

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This story was illustrated by Alexander Popini
(1878-1962), whose works are not in the public domain.


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First published in The Red Book Magazine, February 1917

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2024
Version Date: 2024-02-28

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Cover

The Red Book Magazine, February 1917, with "Good Fishing"



Illustration


THIS story has to do with an engagement ring that cost three thousand dollars if it cost a cent. You are not compelled to believe the tale. Frankly, we didn't. Just the same, Mr. Biggers, a very truthful person, declares that he has set the story to paper in just the words Mr. Sammy Vail used in telling it to him.




"YOU realize how little God thinks of money," said Sammy Vail, "when you consider the people He's given it to."

I had returned to my rooms at midnight to find Sammy in my easiest chair, smoking a cigar and gazing thoughtfully at the ceiling.

"Your epigram has a familiar ring," I told him. "You read it in a book. Besides, if you are referring to me, I haven't any money."

Sammy's frank, gray eyes opened wide.

"You? Of course not. I was thinking of the Quimbys. The St. John Quimbys. Ever meet them?"

"Never," said I.

"Lucky—you are. Rich—rotten rich, the Quimbys. And a nice, human little family that reminds you of Mount Blanc at five o'clock on a January morning."

"Ugh! Why think of them?"

"Can't help it." Sammy smiled. "They've just done me a service—a whopping big service, though never meaning to. So I think of them, one and all: of St. John himself—Sin Jin she calls him when she remembers him—little, gray spats, clubs, the soul of a rabbit; of Maude, the daughter, proud, haughty, unlovely, but stylish and Vogue-like; and especially of her—of Mrs. Sin Jin—in her breast all the love of the rabble that moved Marie Antoinette. Dame of the Revolution, she is—some Dame—some Dame."

Sammy lighted another of my cigars. He seemed to have considerable on his mind. Reflectively he laid down the match and took an envelope from his pocket.

"Funny, isn't it," he went on, "how a little piece of paper like this can change the course of a man's life? Send him flying to Hong Kong or Newark, make him a fortune in Wall Street or open his eyes to the presence in the same block of a girl! Er—read it."

He handed the envelope over. It was a wealthy-looking missive; even the stamp seemed redder than most. The note-paper inside was top-heavy with monogram, and underneath I read:


Dear Mr. Vail:

We are spending the month of August at our houseboat on Lake Asquewan. Roughing it,—if you know what I mean,—wearing disreputable clothes, behaving most informally, getting back to nature with a rush. We should be delighted to have you run up, any time, for as long as you care to stay. Just let us know your train, and we'll see that you're met at the Junction. Do come.


The note was signed "Helene Quimby."

"There's a postscript," said Sammy. I read aloud: "P.S. Good fishing."

"She said something there," laughed Sammy. "Good fishing! Yes, Mrs. Sin Jin Quimby dipped her pen in the bottle of Truth when she wrote those last two words."

I handed back the letter.

"Just whither," I inquired, "are we drifting?"

Sammy gazed again at the ceiling.

"I hope it's a nice day next Thursday," he remarked.

"Why?"

"Because," said Sammy slowly, "I'm going to be married."

"Married?" I cried. "Next Thursday!"

"I know it's sudden," he answered, "—sudden for all of us, including me. That's why I've been trying to lead up to it gently. That's why I brought this three-weeks-old letter from Mrs. Sin Jin—for the great venture began the morning I got that."

"You don't mean Maud—the proud and haughty—"

"You bet I don't. Maud plus money—or should I say money minus Maud—is a combination that has agitated several bosoms—but not mine. No, sir. I'm about to marry the neatest, sweetest—but you'll see her next Thursday, at her mother's house in Flushing, when you come down to be best man. You're elected, you know."

"Delighted. But suppose you begin at the beginning, and tell me just what has happened."

"Aye-aye," said Sammy. "Good fishing. Listen."

And he spoke:


MY law practice (said Sammy), as you know, is nine-tenths watchful waiting at any time, but if it's quiet in the winter, it's absolutely silent in the summer. So on the third of August—memorable date!—I sat in my office with nothing to do, wondering about the rent as usual, and wishing I had money in the bank so I could run away to one of the gay seaside colonies we read about in the Sunday papers. And at that point clickety-click through my letter-slot came this epistle from Mrs. St John Quimby, with its message of cool waters, whispering trees and fish pining for the hook.

I never liked the Quimbys. And I felt sure that the talk about roughing it was pitiful bunk—that, in fact, things aboard that houseboat were probably as informal and rough as the Court of Saint James the day the brewer's daughter is presented. On the other hand, I wanted a vacation, had no money to take it—and here was little Sin Jin ready to squander a bit of cash he inherited on giving me three or more meals a day and a surcease from New York.

So I boarded a train going north. It looked like a long, tiresome trip, and then in the parlor-car I met Marian Paine. She sort of broke the journey—broke it up into little bits of heaven—I never saw a girl work so neatly before. I'd met her several times at the Quimbys', and I'd been a bit interested in her until Mrs. Quimby whispered to me that the girl had millions of her own. Then—er—well, I don't want to be accused of mixing business with pleasure when I marry. So I turned away. But on this train I backslid a little—I noticed again that her eyes were hard not to look into, and other features and extras. She was bound for the houseboat too.

Well, the train slipped along, mile after mile, each mile costing me two cents railroad fare I couldn't afford, and I not remembering it, Marian Paine being that kind of girl. Along about dusk we got down at Asquewan Junction.

William and James were there in the big French car to meet us. They were roughing it in the regular, monogrammed uniform of the Quimbys, and they looked as rough as a Louis Quinze chair, and as human. William sent James over for our credentials, and having passed on them, himself condescended to open the door of the car. In fact, he almost spoke to us. We got in, and the car started.

It was one of those nights. The moon hung up above, like a new silver dollar, lending cheer and encouragement. I leaned back on those cushions, and was on the point of remarking "Aint it lovely to be rich?" but I remembered in time that it isn't the thing to mention money to people who have it. She sat there beside me, Marian did, her eyes bright, her cheeks red—and the moon was pouring silver into her lap like a doting father. I kept looking at her and wishing she didn't have all that money. It was that kind of night.

We reached the lake altogether too soon, and there loitering by the shore was the Quimby houseboat Quiet Days—a mere shack of ten or twelve rooms. Our hosts greeted us. They emphasized the rough informality of it all—emphasized it in faultless evening attire that would have done credit to the Ritz. I took a look at them and was glad I hadn't brought a single stitch of clothing other than everything wearable I possessed.

Dinner was at seven, they told us—there was really not much to do and one might as well dine early. I hurried off to my room and got into my most uncomfortable clothes so as not to be conspicuous. All the time I was dressing, with the aid of a valet I hoped to see drown before the close of my stay, I heard the lap of the waters outside and reflected on the bully time I might have been on the brink of, if the Quimbys had been regular people. Even the thought of Marian Paine didn't cheer me. For she had all that money, and I was broke. It was the hour of depression and regret that always overtakes a man who has just rushed gladly away from the hot city to the glorious country.


THE dinner cheered things. The Quimbys have a new French chef, and the boy is good. Also there was a lot of hothouse conversation that is always amusing if you look at it right. Of course, the meal was just a rough, thrown-together snack, as Mrs. Sin Jin intimated, served roughly by Wadleigh, the Quimby butler. Once, in 1882, Wadleigh's hair got rumpled. He's bald now, and doesn't have to worry for fear the thing will repeat on him.

There was, as I say, conversation. People talked continuously, and oftener than you'd think somebody said something. That girl Marian Paine—but there were other guests: a little chap from Philadelphia, Melville Laceby, and his wife. Money—they looked like the annual report of the directors of the First National. And a man about town—there are a whole lot of things about town I don't like—named Davis. Last and not far from least was Clarence.

It seemed Clarence had gone and got himself engaged to Maude Quimby. Why? I don't know. His father is a leather-importer, or ivory. Yes, ivory, I think. Clarence will have a great head for the business. Well, he'd gone and done it, though he's got all kinds of money himself. And Maud was almost polite to him; I suppose she likes him—or did. Anyhow, she wore the biggest and brightest engagement ring I ever saw. I heard Mrs. Laceby tell Marian Paine after dinner that it cost three thousand if it cost a cent. I mention these details with a purpose. They all have to do with good fishing.

After dinner, the old stuff—back with the rugs, get out the phonograph. The giddy soul who invented dancing did the rich host a great favor. It removes the strain of entertaining from the head to the feet. Later I sat with Miss Paine, and we heard the soft lap of the waves and the sedate splash of the servants bathing at their certified bathing beach to the left of the boat. It seemed that moonlight bathing was a pleasant feature of the rough life. We didn't do any that night. We made up for that later.

The valet acted as though he intended to sleep in my room, but I dissuaded him. He went away, crestfallen. Night, and the stars, the soft lap of the waters aforesaid and the snore of Sin Jin echoing down the corridor! I slept and dreamed that Marian Paine was so rich she had Sin Jin for a butler.

The next morning at breakfast Mrs. Sin Jin suddenly inquired what we wanted to do. No one seemed to want to do anything if he could get out of it; so just to help the hostess out, I mentioned fishing.

"Of course," she said, regarding me with stern approval, "you must fish. I'll have Perkins accompany you. First, I presume you will want to get into your fishing-togs."

I hadn't any fishing-togs. I took a chance and said so. "I guess it will be all the same to the fish," I added, aiming at lightness and banter. "No doubt," replied Mrs. Sin Jin coldly, in a voice that suggested I was quite, quite in error there.

Marian Paine said she would come with me, and fishing began to look up.

It looked down again when Perkins hove in view, haughtily chaperoning a motor-launch filled with paraphernalia of the angler.

"Will you step in, sir?" he inquired, in a tone that added without words, "—or shall I have to come up there and get you?"

I assisted Miss Paine—Marian—down and followed. We separated from Quiet Days and plowed out into the lake.

Perkins, who was a footman, but doubled as guide,—and I may add he was a good dresser on and off,—arranged a couple of easy-chairs for us and baited our hooks. Then he put a pole into the care of each of us and stood at attention.

"If you will be so good as to let me know at the first suggestion of a tug," he remarked, "I shall, of course, pull in the fish for you."

And he stood there, waiting for the tug, with a special tin box marked "Fish" all ready. It was enough to make the gods laugh.

"Great stuff, this roughing it," I said to Marian, and I want to tell you that if there hadn't been a twinkle in her eye just then I wouldn't be here with my big story, to-night. But the twinkle was there—more, it developed into a very beautiful and understanding smile. So we sat and fished.

The tug was slow in coming, and I got to thinking of the old days back home in the little town out in Indiana, when I used to sit on the bank and fish for minnows, without any footman at my elbow, and without any elbow in my shirt. I mentioned those days to Marian Paine, and added that if I had a boy I'd want him to grow up in a town like that, where money is scarce, and footmen are unknown. And she told me that she'd feel the same way about any boy of hers, and the sun shone on her hair and sort of—well, you're beginning to follow me, I guess.

Two hours passed, and still the fish refused to bite—perhaps they resented my lack of the proper togs. Perkins stood there at attention—he gave me a black look when I asked him to sit—stood with nothing in all the bright blue world to lean on, and not even able to lift a foot from time to time, being John J. Dignified himself. I got tireder and tireder watching him, and finally, all worn out, I suggested we give it up. So Perkins took us back to the boat, the tin box marked Fish rattling all the way, sort of human and mad and empty.

Getting anxious for something to happen? Man, something had happened—something that looked mighty tragic to me. I was gone, gone for good and forever, in love with that girl—and she with her millions. It seemed there was nothing to do but pull out and leave her, with one of those James K. Hackett smiles that cover an aching heart. I was trying to figure out how to send myself a telegram calling me away, when she invited me to go in for a swim that afternoon. So I decided to stick around for another half-day of bliss—and I'm glad I did. For something came along that afternoon and started me on my way to paradise—but wait a minute.


WE had a gloomy lunch. The food was O.K., but conversation languished. There seemed to be some sort of feud or vendetta on between Maude and her Clarence. It wasn't surprising; Maude has a disposition that would put a crimp in heaven in less than an hour's time.

After lunch we read and lounged, some of us having lounge-suits and others contenting themselves by merely dropping down onto lounges. Along about three Marian and I had a very neat little hour in the water, and after one glance at her in her bathing-suit I knew that that telegram calling me home had to arrive any minute without delay.

I'm getting close to the big scene now; so sit tight. When at last we tired of the wet lake we went ashore, stole up on Quiet Days from the rear, and started around to the veranda at the front. As we rounded a corner we were met by angry words, and we both stopped dead. There, so mad neither of them saw us, stood Maude and Clarence, on the homestretch of a lovers' quarrel.

"Mrs. Laceby told me she saw you,—you and this creature,—and there's nothing more to be said." Maude raged. "Our engagement is broken. Here,"—she removed the sparkler and held it out,—"here is your ring."

"I don't want it," said Clarence, just as proud and haughty as Maude.

"Very well," replied Maude hotly, "I'm sure I don't."

And she turned and threw that three-thousand-dollar diamond-and-platinum ring plumb into the lake.

Marian and I made a hasty get-away. As we turned, I caught sight of Mrs. Laceby peering out through some very filmy curtains. Just then Wadleigh, the butler, stepped gracefully out of our path. I believe he had been looking over our shoulders.

The true depth and meaning of the situation didn't dawn on me for quite a while. You know how it is sometimes—your mind sort of ambles around—mine was ambling around with Marian Paine. I went back to my room to change. That valet was there—the man was omnipotent. He got in my way with things I didn't want, and hid everything I did. I kept wishing Marian didn't have all that money, and from that I shifted to my own financial condition. There seemed little hope there. You know we're told it is the first thousand that is hardest to get. I pictured myself with that thousand—going on and on—hauling in millions—marrying.

But it wasn't any use. I didn't have a thousand cents. And then—all of a sudden—the thing popped into my mind—diamond and platinum—three thousand, if it cost a cent—lying alone and, I supposed, quite forgotten, at the bottom of Lake Asquewan.

Aha, says I to myself. Aha, indeed! And I added to the valet, thoughtful-like:

"See if you can get that bathing-suit dry before night. I may want to use it."

"Very good, sir," he answered.


I WENT down to dinner. Marian Paine was standing by the rail, all glowing and beautiful in an expensive evening dress. I stopped to talk with her, but she was rather non-committal. Her fine eyes stared out at the lake.

It was at the table that the true inwardness of the situation came home to me. I suppose you've read those pirate-stories—you know, crowd of villains wrecked on an island alone, knowing the burial-place of the late captain's treasure. How the idea grows and grows on them—how each man begins to picture all the others dead and himself all alone with the loot—then the knife-thrust, the sharp cry, the silence—and one less villain left to claim a share in the golden horde. Well, it was more or less like that. Mrs. Laceby had been telling the story of the quarrel—talking was the best thing she did. There were no knives in sight except the table silver,—too dull by far,—and of course all that sort of thing has gone out, but—if looks could kill!

"I—er—I understand that the moonlight bathing is very—er—charming," said Laceby—and him looking like the First National—but you never can tell.

"It's most exhilarating," says Mrs. Sin Jin, one of the few innocents present.

"Thinking of trying it to-night?" I asked brightly.

Laceby gave me a look, desert-island style.

"No—positively no," he replied.

Davis spoke up.

"Moonlight bathing," he remarks soft and dreamy. "Sounds romantic. Think I'll have a go at it."

"To-night?" I wanted to know.

"Soon—soon," he answered, noncommittal, and also with the look. Davis hadn't been ten feet from the sideboard since his arrival. Something was certainly on.

Maude and Clarence were very, very polite to one another. And Clarence kept intimating that something was going to call him back to the city unexpectedly.

There wasn't much of any dancing that night. Everybody sort of felt a longing to sit by the rail, measuring distances with their eye. The phonograph ran along unnoticed. Along about eight o'clock the Lacebys said they were strangely weary, and bade everybody good night. Pretty soon Davis said farewell to the highballs, and also slipped away. Clarence was the next to fade—then our hosts. When Marian spoke of a headache and disappeared, I took a close survey of the water and followed.

That valet wasn't so bad, after all. He'd got the bathing-suit dry. It took me about two seconds to get into it, and I hurried back on deck. There were Laceby and Davis, both in bathing-suits, standing and staring blankly at each other.

"Ah, gentlemen," said I, "you have changed your minds. Quite right, too. What a night for a swim!"

They gave me a couple of those looks. But it was a fine night, just the same. The moon was on the job with a complete repertory of daylight effects. The waters of the lake were still and tranquil and transparent. You could see every pebble on the bottom. I made sure of that, leaning over the rail. Then, since there was nothing else to do, we all dived in.

Well, thank heaven, I'm plumper than most, and cold water doesn't bother me. It was lucky for me that night. The contest that began right there tested every bit of staying power I had.

"Damned silly," said little Laceby, after an hour of it, "to stay in all night."

His teeth were chattering. Davis was rapidly turning a deep purple. I sensed that victory was on the way.

"Nonsense," I remarked blithely; "we've only just come in."

They fooled round for another ten minutes, and then both gave up. They climbed on deck and stood there, shivering like two currant jellies, and gazing gloomily down at me.

"Better not stand round in wet clothes," I called to them. "You'll catch your death."

They muttered something profane and ran away. I knew I had to work fast.

It took me about two minutes to locate that three-thousand-dollar token lying at the bottom of the lake,—some ten feet down,—and I began diving. Ever try it? I mean, locating something with your eye, taking a long breath, plunging down and making a grab at the floor of a lake. It's no easy job. I brought up enough sand to start a rival Sahara, and other things I wont mention. Ten times at least I went down, and ten times I apprehended nothing of note.


JUST as I was coming up the tenth time with a fine handful of real estate, I heard a splash, and there was Marian Paine swimming toward me.

"Hello," I said, startled. "Couldn't resist the moon either, eh? This will cure your headache."

She didn't say anything, but swam over and took hold of the lower rail of the boat. Then she sort of hung there, looking at me.

"Bully night for a swim," I went on, silly, rattled. I was treading water to keep up.

"Is that what you're doing—swimming?" she asked.

I was just about to reply "Of course," when it came to me all of a sudden—why lie about it? So I went over and grabbed hold beside her, and spoke.

"I wont try to bluff," I said. "I'm not out for a swim. I'm out for a diamond-and-platinum ring worth three thousand dollars, if it's worth a cent."

"You—" she sort of gasped. "Why—I thought—Mrs. Quimby told me—"

And she stopped.

"Yes—me," I answered. "It's true—I'm broke absolutely, and three thousand dollars—I've never had that much in my life."

"Why—I can't believe—" She stared up at me. "Mrs. Quimby told me you were worth millions."

An idea struck me all of a sudden, bright, dazzling, beautiful.

"Would you mind telling me—honest—just what you are doing here?" I inquired.

She hung her head.

"I might as well," she began. "You see—I—er—I've never had as much as three thousand dollars either, and—"

I was so delighted I kissed her. And as she didn't seem to mind—much—I kissed her again. I wont go into the words and music of that scene; it would be more or less indelicate of me to blab it about; but I told her, hanging there in the water under that wholly sympathetic moon, how I loved her, and always had, and always would, and was on the point of leaving her forever because Mrs. Quimby had told me of her millions. Then we both remembered that Mrs. Quimby boasted of being a born matchmaker, and it came to us that this was Mrs. Quimby's cheap, mercenary way of interesting people in each other. Some mind, Mrs. Quimby's—some soul! But it didn't matter. For Marian admitted she cared for me, and I began to see that that night was the most magnificent night in all the collection since Eden.

"I tremble," I said presently, "when I think how near we came to losing each other. bas the Quimbys. Cur-rse all the rich. Which reminds me—now we're going to get that ring—"

"I don't feel right about it, somehow," said Marian.

"Nonsense!" I answered. "It has been thrown away because nobody wants it. Maude doesn't; Clarence doesn't. It belongs to the daring soul who can find it. Watch me. I'm sure no man ever dived into a lake for a ring before with more to inspire him to success—"

I dived, and I got it. Don't tell me the day of miracles is no more. It wasn't really a miracle, though, for she was there to cheer me on. After I'd come up with that valuable bit of jewelry firm amid a lot of pebbles, we hung to the side of the boat, and I got a kiss for my trouble. It was a very pretty scene—or would have been, if suddenly a big black something hadn't swept over our heads and splashed most of Lake Asquewan in our eyes.

We turned, and there was Clarence, puffing, and blowing like a big Newfoundland after a stick.

"Oh—ah—er—hello," said Clarence. "Great night for a swim." And he swam.

We climbed aboard and stood watching. Clarence seemed to swim mostly in one spot, and he kept an eager eye on us.

"Now you see," said Marian, "we can't possibly keep it. Clarence wants it back. They say he's about to chuck Maude for a girl in the Follies, and he probably figures he can use that ring on Broadway."

"All right," I said, "he can have it for all of me. I've got you."

"Then you'll give it to him?" said Marian.

"I can't quite figure out," I answered, "whether I should hand it over to Clarence or to Maude. I'll tell you—we'll let the matter go over until morning. Perhaps an idea will come to me in the night. In the meantime, it wont hurt Clarence to swim. Serves him right for getting engaged to Maude, anyhow."

And we said good night, happy as any two people can be.


THE great joy of being engaged to Marian woke me early next morning. I dressed and started for the veranda. Just as I was about to push open the screen door, I heard the familiar splash of a bather out front. I went over and peered down at the lake.

If you'll believe me, there was Wadleigh the butler, the man who invented dignity, swimming round like mad, anxiously studying the water. I had a moment of regret. Probably the poor fellow had some scheme afoot for his old age—a return to Wessex, or Sussex, or Moreton-on-Marsh or some such place, to spend his declining years as keeper of the tavern, there amid the scenes of his boyhood. I smiled at him—I was afraid of him no longer.

"Can't you find it, Wadleigh?" I asked.

He paused, startled and shivering.

"Find what, sir?" he wanted to know.

"The ring," said I.

He swam over and hung onto the boat.

"If I might make so bold, sir," he remarked, "may I ask you to explain your meaning—"

"Don't try to stall," I said. "And take a tip from me, before pneumonia sets in. The ring isn't out there now."

I turned my back.

"Very good, sir," I heard Wadleigh murmur respectfully. And he bowed himself off the side of the boat and rapidly up the shore to his bathhouse.

Marian came out soon after. If you've been on many house-parties you've noticed most girls look like the devil early in the morning—all puffy-eyed and ragged; but Marian didn't. She looked gorgeous. I tell you, she's a wonder. But no matter. I told her about Wadleigh.

"Sammy," she said, "I've thought it all out—we can't keep that ring. It would not be right. We must give it back to—to—"

"To whom?" said I, like the owl.

"Well—I—er—that's just what I can't figure out," she stammered. "Perhaps you'd better throw it back in the lake."

"And have all these people catch pneumonia," I said, shocked. "My dear, I'm surprised at you. Still, it's not such a bad plan, at that. Now listen—I've an idea. As soon as Clarence appears I'll nab him and talk to him about the Piping Rock races, or some other intellectual topic. When you see us together, run off and steer Maude onto us, accidental-like."

"What are you going to do?" she wanted to know.

"Trust your coming husband," said I. Did she? You bet.


PRETTY soon Clarence arrived, looking even more tired and vacant than usual. He made frantic efforts to avoid conversation, but I grabbed him and hung on. All at once Maude and Marian came upon us. The good mornings were frigid, and I had to speak quickly, for Maude was moving along.

"By the way," I began genially, "a very lucky thing has happened." I took the ring from my pocket, and stood holding it out. Clarence's eyes popped, and Maude herself was more or less rooted to the spot. "I was in bathing last night, and found this ring. I had no idea who had lost it, until Marian here identified it—"

Nobody spoke.

"Some little Sherlock, I am," I continued. I moved nearer Maude, holding out the ring. She gave Clarence a black look.

"I'm sorry," she said, "The ring wasn't lost. As a matter of fact, I threw it away. I had no further use for it."

I tried to seem overcome with surprise.

"Then—you don't want it," I gasped.

"Certainly not," Maude answered, turning on the proud and haughty to the limit.

"And Clarence, you—" I held it out to him.

The boy had spirit He was just as lofty as Maude.

"I'm sure I don't want it," he said with feeling.

"Then it appears that in finding it I've made more or less of a social error," I remarked.

"I'm afraid so, old chap." responded Clarence in the zero voice.

"In that case," said I, "there's just one thing to be done. I'll rectify my error at once."

I stepped back. I raised my arm.

"Oh-h-h! gasped Maude.

"Um—er—gurgle!" put in Clarence.

I paid no attention to them. I threw. There was a flash, such as platinum makes when it moves rapidly through the sunlight. Then a sort of zip in the water, and a series of circles starting with the zip for a center and breaking on the side of the boat. I was pleased to note that I had thrown wide and far.

"There," said I. "That settles it."

Maude and Clarence stood glaring at one another. I turned to Marian, who was a bit startled but smiling happily, and we left that heavily charged atmosphere.

Well, little remains to be told. I had thrown too far for Clarence, I fancy, for he left on the noon train. Marian and I came away just as soon as we decently could—which happened to be the next day. We had a long, wonderful ride together back to the city. And on the way we fixed it up—about next Thursday, you know. Don't forget you're to be a feature of the affair. I'll give you more details later. You see, there on the train, we made up our minds that the sum of two thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine dollars and seventy-five cents is ample to get married on—


"WAIT a minute," said I, breaking into Sammy's story. "What do you mean? Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars—"

"And seventy-five cents," replied Sammy. "Exactly! The three thousand minus twenty-five cents, the fourth part of a dollar—a brand new, shiny quarter—"

"What quarter?"

"The quarter I threw into Lake Asquewan that morning we stood there with Clarence and Maude. It made the same sort of flash platinum would have made as it flew through the sunlight—and the same sort of circles in the water—"

"Sammy—Sammy—" I gasped.

"That's why I say I've got two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars and seventy-five cents," laughed Sammy. "I have. There were a lot of mysterious doings on the lake that last night we were up there—the splash of people swimming, the sound of oars, the flicker of lanterns. Davis and Laceby put on their bathing-suits immediately after dinner, and Wadleigh wasn't much in evidence as the evening wore on."

He stood up.

"I hope none of them catch cold," he said. "It's hardly worth it. Poor fishing. Very poor fishing—now."

My door slammed behind him.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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