“Good-night, Mr. Upton,” said Westby, and his voice was excessively urbane. It made Irving look forward to a better acquaintance with both expectancy and apprehension.
The first morning of actual school work went well enough; Irving met his classes, which were altogether in mathematics, assigned them lessons, and managed to keep them and himself busy. From one of them he brought away some algebra exercises, which he spent part of the afternoon in correcting. When he had finished this work, the invitation to witness the water duel occurred to his mind.
He found no other master to bear him company, so he set off by himself through the woods which bordered the pond behind the Gymnasium. He came at last to the “isthmus”—a narrow dyke of stones which cut off a long inlet and bridged the way over to a wooded peninsula that jutted out into the pond. On the farther side of this peninsula, secluded behind trees and bushes, was the swimming hole.
As Irving approached, he heard voices; he drew nearer and saw the bare backs of boys undressing and heard then the defiances which they were hurling at one another—phrased in the language of Ivanhoe.
“Nay, by my halidome, but I shall this day do my devoir right worthily upon the body of yon false knight,” quoth Westby, as he carefully turned his shirt right side out.
“A murrain on thee! Beshrew me if I do not spit thee upon my trusty lance,” replied Collingwood, as he drew on his swimming tights.
Then some one trotted out upon the spring-board, gave a bounce and a leap, and went into the water with a splash.
“How is it, Ned?” called Westby; and Irving came up as Morrill, reaching out for a long side stroke, shouted, “Oh, fine—warm and fine.”
“Hello, Mr. Upton.” It was Baldersnaith who first saw him; Baldersnaith, Dennison, and Smythe were fully dressed and were sitting under a tree looking on.
“You’re just in time,” said Collingwood.
Scarborough, stripped like Westby and Carroll and Morrill and Collingwood, was out on the pond, paddling round in a canoe. He was crouched on one knee in the middle, and the canoe careened over with his weight, so that the gunwale was only an inch or two above the surface. He was evidently an expert paddler, swinging the craft round, this way and that, without ever taking the paddle out of the water.
Two other canoes were hauled up near the spring-board; Carroll was bending over one of them.
“Bring me my lethal weapon, Carrie,” Westby commanded. “I want to show Mr. Upton.—Is the button on tight?”
Carroll produced from the canoe a long pole with an enormous sponge fastened to one end; he pulled at the sponge and announced, “Yes, the button’s on tight,” and passed the pole over to Westby.
Westby made one or two experimental lunges with it and remarked musingly, “When I catch him square above the bread line with this—!”