Boat Race at
Yarrow by H. L.
Yarrow is the place where I am at school while my father and mother are
in Europe. My father was ordered to the Mediterranean: that's an awful
word to spell. My chum, Sandy, says, "Remember from the Latin
Medi-terra," but that's harder than the spelling. I am glad every day
that I was sent here, because I don't believe there is another school in
the world where you can have such fun. Mr. May is our teacher; and
though he is pretty strict always, and sometimes, if a fellow tries to
cheat or play sick, he's awful hard on him, yet when everybody is trying
to do his best, Mr. May is the quickest to find it out, and it makes him
mighty good-natured. Perhaps I should not think Yarrow such a good place
to send a boy if it wasn't for the river that is within a stone's-throw
from Mr. May's barn. We skate there in winter, and in summer row, swim,
and drive logs. Last year we had nothing to row in but the old Pumpkin
Seed, broad as she is long, and rows like a ship's yawl. Now she might
fill and go to the bottom, for all we cared, for Nate Niles and I have
had birthdays, and my uncle Tom sent us each the prettiest double shell,
cedar decks, outriggers, spoon oars, and all. I tell you, they were
beauties! My uncle knows what's what in a boat, as he used to row, and
beat, too, when he was in college. He is always sending me things,
because I'm his favorite relation, and my middle name is Thomas. Lately
he gives things to Nate, because he is going to marry his sister. Before
Nate got his boat, he said he'd a million times rather have her an old
maid than have such a chap for a brother. Now, though, he's all right,
he likes his boat so much.
Mr. May made a bargain that we were to study hard for a month, and he
would give us boards and timber enough to build a boat-house. We
couldn't leave such valuable boats as the Arrow and the Edith
out-of-doors, and Nate said the cows would hook 'em if we left them in
the barn. Mick Murphy (he's Mr. May's man) did most of the carpentering,
but we boys helped. Sam Fish got so he could shingle as well as Mick,
and keep the nails in his mouth. I pounded my thumb the first day I
tried, and the biggest blood-blister I ever saw grew; so I had to give
up hammering. Sam says if he can't be a Congressman, he means to be a
first-rate shingler, and get the job of shingling all the spires in the
country. I sha'n't be that, anyway. If I can't get on better with my
arithmetic, and get to be an Admiral, I shall keep a stable, and let my
father ride my horses—regular circus horses, and calico-spotted
ones—very cheap. Sandy King (he's my chum) helped me that month over my
lessons, so I got on swimmingly. Sandy can read Latin as quick as
lightning, and knows horse in eight languages, not counting pigeon
English. He's a splendid fellow, besides, and I shall never forget how
good he was to me when I came to Yarrow, and was the only Democrat,
except Mick and his family.
I painted the boat-house, because I had hurt my eyes when Sam's gun
burst when I went after a partridge. It turned out to be one of Stuffy
Wilson's hens, who lives just across the river, and I had to pay a
dollar and a half, and she only weighed four pounds. I thought I was
dead, sure, when I dropped the gun, and Mick's boy said he thought so
too. I only burned off my eye-winkers, and got some powder in my cheek.
Mr. May was awfully severe, and said I broke one of the rules of the
school. I guess he always says that when a fellow almost kills himself.
He did when Nate lassoed the pig, and she hit him. I only knew the dog
and smoking rules. You can't keep one, because, Mr. May says, it eats
what would keep a poor human being. I think, though, if I could find a
dog that would eat only fat, I could keep him, because I always leave
that, and no human being could live on that. Bridget hopes there isn't
any such dog to be found, because she is so stingy over her old soap
When the house was done, the red roof just showing above the alders, and
looking so pretty just at the bend in the river, we didn't feel a mite
sorry for all the hard work we had put into it; though I do wish I
hadn't let Sam try and get the paint off my trousers, for he took cloth
and all. I have been mighty unlucky lately with my clothes. I scalded my
best shoes, and Polly Burr didn't notice, and wore my best jacket common
for two days, and got gravy on it. He's such a funny fellow! He used to
use any boy's tooth-brush. We put salt on ours, and cured him of that,
though we couldn't use ours for ever so long. My uncle wrote me a solemn
letter a little while ago, and said, "Robert Ames, you must never forget
you are a poor man's son." That was because I sawed my new gray
trousers. I felt solemn for a long while, and now I'm afraid he will
Nate named his boat the Arrow, because he said it went so well with
Yarrow. He chose Sam Fish for his stroke, as he is the strongest fellow
in the school. I named mine Edith, after my mother, and took Sandy for
bow oar. Sandy said he wasn't half so strong as Polly, and wanted to
give up; but I wanted just no fellow but Sandy. And then Polly has been
scared of boats, and rather a land-lubber, ever since his aunt got blown
up on a steamer. Besides, he cares more about his menagerie, and was
busy training his ant-eater.
We decided to have a race the 18th of June, as it was Mr. May's
birthday. Sam wanted a silver cup for a prize, but we couldn't get money
enough. Polly was mighty generous, and gave fifty cents for the prize.
We appreciated Polly's generosity, for we knew he didn't care a pin for
boating, and the express on his ant-eater cost him ninety cents. The
three Freshmen, Fritz Davis, Phil Hayes, and Billy Butler, each gave
twenty-five cents toward the prize, Sam a dollar, Nate all he had,
forty-three cents, Sandy fifty, and I eighty-three. I hope it wasn't too
much for a poor man's son. The boys made me captain and Polly treasurer
of the Yarrow Boat Club.
Sandy and I rowed every minute we could get. Every time we got into the
boat we liked her better and better: she rowed so easily, and sat like a
duck in the water. Sandy got so he didn't dip too deep nor jerk, as he
did first. We found out that Sam and Nate were training. They ate rare
beef and ran two miles a day. Sandy wanted to train too, but I told him
I couldn't, as I only liked the outside of beef, and my only shoes hurt
"Let them try one way, and we another; the 18th will prove which is
best." Sandy and I were getting ready to anchor the Pumpkin Seed up
the river for the turning stake on the day of the race, when Polly and
his ant-eater came down the hill.
"Any more money, Polly?"
"Yes; great luck. Mick and Bridget each gave ten, and Mick's boy gave
twenty-five for a chance to sell corn balls."
"Didn't you see the Sunday-school?"
"I forgot all about it until after they had put their money into the
contribution box; but they all said they were coming, sure pop."
We anchored the Pumpkin Seed up the river just a quarter of a mile
from the boat-house; that made the distance to be pulled half a mile.
Sam sent to Boston for shirts and crimson handkerchiefs for his crew.
They both looked splendidly, but Sam's broad back and long stroke rather
scared us. Mrs. May fixed us shirts, but they wrinkled round the neck.
Then we had two yellow handkerchiefs that Mr. May used to use. The day
before the race the small boys made a grand stand at the Oxbow for the
spectators. It looked strong, but Mr. May said it wasn't, so Mick had to
do it over.
Polly told me the night before that he had kept the time of the two
boats for a week, and ours had been the best every time. That would have
been grand, if I only could have trusted Polly's watch. But it was a bad
one, and he used to set it three times a day.
I walked to the village, and brought back the blue and yellow flag, with
the letters Y. B. C. on it, which was to be the prize. The grand stand
was to be saved for adults and girls, and Mick was to be in the Pumpkin
Seed at the turn. He knows a good deal about races, as his brother owns
a trotter. Mr. May was to keep the time, as he had some kind of a
thermometer watch. Such a dinner as Mrs. May gave us! I had Sam's and
Nate's pieces of lemon pie, as they couldn't eat anything but meat. Mr.
May looked over his spectacles, and asked if I was the boy who was to
row a race that afternoon.
At one o'clock boys began coming, and took seats on the stand. Mick had
to tell them about the girls and adults. Those mean Wilson boys had
built a stand in the night, and let the crowd in for five cents! So both
banks were full. They are the meanest family in America. They promised
to keep every one out of their field. We were mad enough, but we
couldn't do anything then.
Sam and Nate were in the Arrow when we got to the river, and they
cheered us as we got into our boat, and Polly shoved off our bow. I gave
the stroke, and we pulled into the middle of the river, where the prize
flag was waving, and looking pretty enough to pull a dozen races for.
"Lay on your oars, and wait the signal." It seemed an hour before Mr.
May said, "One, two, three—go!" and Sandy and I began our work, not
rowing as we meant to later. The Arrow was to hug the Wilsons' shore,
and we our bank. I heard a cheer for the Arrow, and knew she was
ahead. It was a strong temptation to look round and see how far ahead
she was, and by a spurt bring our boat up with her if possible. I
didn't, though, and just rowed away as well as I could, and tried to
The boys on the bank kept shouting, "Go it, Arrow!" "You're ahead!"
"Brace up, Edith!" We had passed the alders, and were nearing Mick and
the turn. We held our port oars, and rounded neatly, and heard Mick say,
"Well done, Bob!" Then I told Sandy to "give it to her," and by the
spring in the boat I knew that Sandy had been saving his strength for
the homestretch. We were doing our best. If we could not get ahead at
that rate, the race was lost. But we weren't going to be badly beaten.
"The Edith's ahead!" "Good for you, Bob!" That was Polly's voice near
us on the bank. When I knew we were ahead, I felt all right. We could
row that way long enough, and if Sam and Nate hadn't been saving their
strength, we could win. I could see we held our lead; if anything, we
added to it.
"You're bating, Robert, you're bating." Bridget had promised to stand
near the bars; so we knew we were nearing the boat-house. For saying
that, Bridget should come in free, and I meant to return her ten cents.
"Handsomely, Sandy!" and we both put on a little extra muscle that we
didn't know was left over, and shot by the flag, about three lengths
ahead of the Arrow.
"Three cheers for Captain Bob!" "Well done, Edith!" "Now, Sandy!" Such
yells as the boys gave! I've never heard anything like 'em since.
The girls waved their handkerchiefs, and Fritz Davis played his
hand-organ. Sam handed the flag to me, and I put Sandy's brown hand on
it, and we waved it, and started cheers for the Arrow, as loud as we
could. When we rowed ashore, the boys put Sandy and me on their
shoulders, and rode us up to the house. Polly waved the Yarrow flag, and
Fritz ought to have played the "Conquering Hero," but he made a mistake,
and played the "Cruel War." Mr. May says he has no ear. That isn't the
matter though, for he has two, and big ones, too.
When we were changing our clothes, we four talked it all over. "By
thunder! Bob, I thought we had lost when you ate those corn balls, after
all that pie." I never saw Sandy so excited. He's a minister's son, and
"Stuff! Bob has it in him, and nothing he eats makes any odds." Sam
thinks, because my father is a sailor, I can row. But father never rows
"Well, Sam, the next one, don't let us go into training. I've been
hungry ever since we began." Poor Nate had had a hard time of it,
because he and I have the biggest appetites at school, and he didn't
like rare beef, so he ate mighty little. He says he is always hungry,
excepting Thanksgiving afternoons.
"When shall we try again, boys?"
"Fourth of July; and I'll get my father to give a prize," and Sam hit on
the thing we all wanted—to try it again.
Mr. May invited all the boys and girls on our side of the river to stay
and have lemonade and cake. Sam bought all the corn balls Pat had left,
to celebrate the opening race and Mr. May's birthday. That's the way Mr.
May served the sneaking Wilsons and their five-cent crowd. But Sam heard
they said the cake was molasses gingerbread and the lemonade bitter, and
we are going to make the mean sneaks take back every word the next time
they bring the milk.
Mick said it was as well conducted a race as he ever saw; and Mr. May
said his birthday never had been so honored before; and Sandy and I want
to row just such another the coming Fourth of July.