Authors: Walter R. Brooks
The Clockwork Twin
Walter R. Brooks
Illustrated by Kurt Wiese
The Overlook Press
For Bernice Baumgarten
The Voyage of the Summerhouse
Once there was a boy about your age, and his name was Adoniram R. Smith. When anybody asked him what the R stood for, he would say: “Oh, it's a silly name and I don't like it,” and he would never tell. But when anybody asked him how he pronounced his first name, he would say: “Pronounce it to rhyme with âUncle Hiram.'” And I guess that is the best way to tell anybody how to pronounce it.
He lived in a farmhouse beside a big river with his uncle and aunt, and they were not very nice to him. As soon as he came home from school they made him work until supper time, and when supper was over he had to go right to bed. In the summer when there wasn't any school, they made him work all day. They acted mad at him all the time, and what seemed to make them maddest was his name. When they wanted him to do anything they would call: “Adoniram! Adoniram!” and it is a pretty long name to call if you do it a hundred times a day. Still, they could have called him Ad or Don, or just “Here, boy!” But they weren't very bright, and so they never thought of that.
The river was deep and swift, and at night when it was very still you could hear it chuckling quietly to itself as it hurried by. But in the spring the chuckle grew to an angry roar, and the river rose higher in its banks and sometimes overflowed them, and snatched and tore at hencoops and gates and woodpiles and carried them down with it. And one spring it rose so high that it came into the cellar of the house, and Adoniram could see barns and porches and parts of bridges whirling by on tossing brown water.
One night they were sitting at supper. It was a warm night, and the windows were open, and the rush and rumble of the river were so loud that they had to shout to make themselves heard. “Pass the butter!” Adoniram's uncle would bellow; and “Take your elbows off the table!” his aunt would shriek. They seemed just about as cross as usual, so he didn't think they were worried, although the river was rising.
“Adoniram!” his uncle roared suddenly.
“Yes, sir,” shouted Adoniram.
“Go out and see if the river is any higher,” bawled his uncle.
So Adoniram left the rest of his supper and went out to look at the stake that his uncle had driven into the ground at the edge of the water to measure its rise.
The grass that sloped down to the river was covered with swift-sliding, muddy water, and the little summerhouse on the edge of the bank, which in ordinary times stood eight feet above the water, was now a little island. Adoniram looked at it, standing up black against the afterglow, and hoped the river wouldn't carry it away. And he was just about to turn to look at the stake when he heard a sharp yelp and saw something small and dark scrabbling and splashing in the water and clinging to the summerhouse railing. And then a little voice called: “Help! Help!”
Adoniram hesitated, but only for a second, though he knew he would get a licking if he didn't go straight back into the house and report. Then he tore off his shoes and stockings and waded out. The water tugged at his legs, but it was only knee-deep, and he ran up the summerhouse steps, leaned over, and, grabbing a handful of wet fur, pulled a little brown dog up to safety.
The dog shook himself, sneezed, wagged a two-inch tail, barked twice, and sat down and looked at Adoniram. I don't know what kind of a dog he was. He had two ears, four legs, a tail, and a nose that was cold when he was well and hot when he had eaten something that disagreed with him. Just a dog.
“Well, doggy,” said Adoniram.
The dog got up, barked, wagged his tail, and sat down again.
“Oh, dear,” said Adoniram. “I thought you could talk. I was sure I heard you call âHelp!' Didn't you, really?”
The dog scratched his ear, looked doubtfully at the boy for a minute, then said: “Yes. Yes, I did. But don't tell anybody.”
“Oh, I won't tell,” said Adoniram. “But look, doggyâ”
“Georgie's the name,” said the dog.
“Oh,” said Adoniram. “Well, look, Georgie. I've got to go right straight back into the house, and I can't take you with me because they'd drive you away. But I'll take you over to dry land, and thenâwell, couldn't you stay around for a few days? In the barn, maybe, where they wouldn't see you? I'd bring you out bones and thingsâ”
“Sure, sure,” said Georgie. “A bone, or an old bread crust, or any odds and ends of leftoversâanything but bananas, in factâ”
“Don't you like bananas?”
“I'll tell you about that another time. But right now I think we ought to be getting out of here, don't you? If this summerhouse goesâ”
“Oh, we're all right,” said Adoniram. “The water'll have to get a lot higher and stronger to carry this away. But I've got to get back anyway.” He picked up the dog under his arm and was just feeling under water for the top of the first step, when out of the corner of his eye he saw something huge and black and shapeless bearing down upon them.
“Look out!” yelped Georgie, and Adoniram had just time to hook an arm tight around a doorpost when the thing, looming as high as a house, swept down and seemed to swallow them. There was a creaking and cracking, twigs whipped across the boy's face, and the summerhouse rocked, and then with a splitting crash pulled loose from its foundations and was whirled off down the river in the branches of a big pine tree.
Luckily the summerhouse was wedged tight into the crotch of the tree trunk or it would have tipped over. But after swaying a few times as the trunk bumped along the bank, it swung out into the middle of the stream, and then it sped along down as smoothly and swiftly as a little steamboat. The needles were all about them. After a minute, when he had got over his scare, Adoniram put the dog down and peered out.
“Oh, dear,” he said. “We've come a mile already. I'll catch it when I get home.”
“I guess you don't need to worry about that for a while,” said Georgie.
“No, I suppose not,” said the boy. “This river gets wider and wider for hundreds of miles. Oh, Georgie, do you suppose we'll be carried right out into the ocean? And we haven't got anything to eat, either.”
“Oh, what do you worry for?” said Georgie. “Why don't you enjoy the ride?”
“Enjoy it?” asked Adoniram doubtfully. He wasn't used to enjoying things, perhaps because he had never had much to enjoy. “Well, maybe you enjoy it, but I certainly don't. I wish I was back home.”
Georgie sniffed and said: “Oh, well, go on and worry, then. But don't spoil my fun.” And he went and sat on the other side of the summerhouse. But in a minute he came back again.
“Look here, boy,” he said, “we hadn't ought to quarrel. Specially as you look so much like the boy that owned me. I suppose you haven't got a brother named Byram R. Jones, have you?”
“No,” said the boy. “Adoniram R. Smith is my name. I wish I did have a brother.”
“What's the R stand for?”
“I won't ever tell anybody that,” said Adoniram. “It's a silly name.”
“Byram wouldn't tell what his R stood for either,” said Georgie. “That's funny, isn't it? You both have a middle name you don't like, and you look just alike. Oh dear, I wish I could get back to Byram. I don't know how he'll get along without me.”
“Where did you live?” Adoniram asked.
“In the city. A long way up the river. Byram didn't have any folks. Except me, that is.”
“He didn't have any folks?” exclaimed Adoniram. “Well, but how did you get anything to eat, or a place to sleep, orâ”
“He used to live with some people named Jones,” said the dog, “and I guess he took their name. He didn't know what his real last name was, he said. But they weren't good to him, so he ran away. We lived in an old shed down by the railroad. We used to go out on the street together, and I'd turn somersaults and beg and play dead dogâjust silly things like thatâand then I'd pass his cap, and people would throw money into it. We made enough to buy things to eat, though once all we had for a week was bananas.” Georgie shuddered. “I wouldn't peel another banana if, I were starving to death!
“Then this flood came, and our shed was washed away. We were all right until just as we came round the bend above your house. I slipped and fell in. I didn't dare bark, because Byram would have jumped in after me, and probably we'd both have been drowned. So I swam hard and just managed to get to your summerhouse. Now we're separated, and I don't suppose I'll ever see him again. Byram was an awful smart boy.”