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HOME > Classical Novels > Rick and Ruddy Out West > CHAPTER II UNCLE TOD IS MISSING
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 Rick and Chot gazed curiously1 at one another, and even Ruddy seemed a bit puzzled by the strange behavior of Uncle Tod. The three friends—for surely the dog was in that class—looked at the retreating form of the man.  
“What do you know about that?” asked Chot. “Do you s’pose—”
“I don’t know what to suppose,” answered Rick, not giving his chum a chance to completely form his question. “It’s mighty2 queer. Maybe we’d better—”
But he, in turn, was interrupted by shouts just beyond the same rear fence over which the mysterious message had been tossed.
“Ho, Rick!” called the voices of several boys. “Come on for a swim, Rick!”
Ruddy barked his answer—he was always ready for fun.
“Hey, Whistle Breeches!” shouted Chot, recognizing the tones of a lad who had been given this nickname because, once upon a time, he wore corduroy trousers, the ribbed cloth producing a peculiar3 whistling sound as the boy’s legs rubbed together.
“Oh, you Chot!” came the answering hail. “Let’s go swimming!”
“Sure!” answered Rick.
They were over the fence in a scramble4 and bound. Ruddy following in a magnificent clean leap, and, a few minutes later the lads, half a dozen of them, were hurrying toward the inlet where the best swimming was to be had, away from the pounding surf of the salty sea.
With the prospect5 of invigorating sport ahead of them, in the water, Chot and Rick forgot, for a time, the incidents of the last half hour—the unfounded fear of harm to Ruddy and the tossing over the fence of the mysterious message—something like the rattle-snake skin of powder and arrows, that, in Colonial days, was thrown into the blockhouse of the early settlers to indicate that the Indians intended to open war again.
“Last one in’s a rotten egg!”
“Whoopee—that doesn’t mean me!”
“No fair goin’ in with your clothes on!”
“That’s right—every fellow’s got to put on trunks!”
These shouts, and this decision, rendered while running at full speed, brought the lads and the dog to the sandy beach of the inlet, where, in a secluded6 spot, the lads quickly undressed and slipped on old trunks—some donned parts of bathing suits and others sections of cut-down trousers.
“I’m no egg!” declared Rick, as he dived in, disappearing beneath the blue, salt water.
“Nor I,” added Chot, as he bubbled down beside his chum, while Ruddy splashed and barked along the shore edge in a frantic7 ecstasy8 of delight and the other boys, eager to escape the laggard9 designation, followed.
“Tom and George are both rotten eggs!” was the decision of the majority as they arose, snorting from the water, flipping10 the drops from their eyes with quick shakes of their heads. These two lads, the last ones in, struck the water at the same time.
“I don’t care, as long as it’s a tie,” laughed George, and then the water fun began. It was only one form of amusement for Rick and Ruddy, those inseparable boy and dog chums. Though living at the seashore, as he did, Rick perhaps found more enjoyment11 in the water than he did on land.
Some of his adventures, and those of his four-footed chum, I have set down for you in the first book of this series, called “Rick and Ruddy,” telling how Ruddy came to his young master literally12 out of the sea. For Ruddy was swept overboard from a vessel13 in a storm, and was rescued by a coast-guard, the dog later adopting Rick as Rick adopted Ruddy.
The boy and dog grew, loving each other more and more. They went to camp together, as related in the book of that name, and their last experiences had been while cruising with Uncle Tod in the Sallie, told of in the volume “Rick and Ruddy Afloat.”
Uncle Tod, after having established his salt industry, had come to stay for a while with Rick’s mother, whose uncle he was, rather than Rick’s. But Rick claimed him as his own; and so did Chot and Ruddy, the dog dividing his affections fairly among all three.
“Well, fellows, this is my last dive,” announced Tom Martin, as he stood on an old pile and poised14.
“Same here,” echoed Rick. “Stump you to do it backward,” he added.
“Right!” answered Tom, and, turning, he went with a clean-cut dive into the water that way, a feat15 matched by Rick. None of the other boys would dare this, though it was comparatively simple. Then, one after another, they climbed out, raced around in the sun a bit to dry and donned their regulation clothes, which did not take much longer to put on than had their swimming trunks. The boys believed in simplicity—especially on hot days.
“What you going to do to-night, Chot?” asked Rick, as they were about to part, for their homes were on different streets.
“Oh, nawthin’. What you going to do?”
“Same thing I guess,” chuckled16 Rick. “Can you come on over?”
“Sure! No lessons now.”
“Oh, boy! That’s right—no lessons now! It’s grand—what?”
“Best ever! All right, I’ll come over. Maybe your uncle’ll tell us something about that cabbage leaf and bullet.”
“And the stone, too,” added Rick. “I wonder what it was?”
“Maybe some of the fellows did it,” suggested Chot. “I meant to ask ’em if they chucked it over the fence but I forgot.”
“I don’t believe they did, or we’d have heard something,” said Rick. “Anyhow, if they had, Uncle Tod wouldn’t have acted that way. He seemed real worried.”
“Scared I’d call it,” was Chot’s opinion.
“Well, maybe he seemed scared, but he really wasn’t,” said Rick, in defence of his uncle. “You ought to have seen him the time I was with him last summer.”
“You mean when you went with him on the Sallie?”
“Yes, when he had that fight with Bucktooth Slither, and Johnnie Green and the Indians beat the war drum. Then I thought Uncle Tod was frightened, but it was only put on. He had a reason for it.”
“Then you think he has a reason now?” asked Chot.
“I reckon so. But still it’s kind of funny—that marked bullet and the stone and the cabbage leaf. But come on over to-night and maybe he’ll tell us about it.”
“I will,” promised Chot. “So long!”
“So long! See you later! Here, Ruddy, you let that cat alone!” and Rick shouted at his dog who showed a desire to chase a lone17 feline18 up a tree.
Disappointed, Ruddy turned back to join his master and soon boy and setter were on their way home in the pleasant afternoon sunshine.
“Hope they have a good supper,” murmured Rick to himself as he trudged19 along. “I’m as hungry as a dogfish!”
His exercise in the salt water, the tang of the air that blew in from the sea and his general hungry condition at this time of day combined to make Rick aware of a gone feeling in his stomach.
“Hello, Mazie!” he called to his sister as he entered the kitchen and saw her busy setting the table. “Give us a cookie; will you?” he begged.
“You shouldn’t eat just before supper,” objected Mazie.
“Um!” mumbled20 Rick, for he had reached over and taken a cookie from a plate filled with them. “You heard Ma say that!” He tossed the expectant Ruddy part of a cookie, took another one himself and rushed out again as Mazie, with uplifted broom, started after him.
“You can’t spoil my appetite with one cookie, nor with half a dozen,” challenged Rick as he went to his room to “slick up,” before the coming meal. The faithful dog followed.
“Ruddy, I’ll have to be extra careful of you, now that the dog-days are coming,” said the boy aloud, talking to his pet as he often did, for Ruddy seemed to understand. “I’ll have to keep you on a leash21 or leave you chained up when I go off without you. Can’t take any chances these dog-days.”
Rick, like many other boys and grown persons, also, had a mistaken notion about the so-called “dog-days.” Some of you may have the idea that “dog-days,” are those hot days in summer when dogs are most likely to go mad, are apt to be inflicted22 with rabies, when their bite may cause human beings, or other animals attacked by a dog so suffering, to become infected with the germs.
It is true that the “dog-days” come in hot weather, from the beginning of July to the middle of August, but they are not so named because dogs go mad on those days. The “dog-days” are so called because during that period, from the beginning of July to the middle of August, Sirius, the Dog-Star, in the constellation23 Canis Major as its Latin name is, rises and sets with the sun. That is, the sun and the Dog-Star keep pace, rising and setting together.
That’s why those days are called “dog-days,” and not because dogs suffer from the heat and go mad then. It is true that more dogs go mad in summer than in winter, but that is only because of the heat—since all germs increase with heat and moisture—and not because the days have been called after a dog.
But Rick, like many other lads, had this notion and he began to worry lest some of the town officials, thinking of the danger of mad dogs, might try to get rid of Ruddy.
“I’ll have to look after you pretty sharp,” he said to the dog.
Ruddy wagged his tail, for he knew he was being talked about, and tried to get up on the bed to lick Rick’s face with his tongue, but was sternly though laughingly repulsed24. For Mrs. Dalton had a strict rule about Ruddy keeping off the beds.
“Oh, Rick! Supper!” called his mother a little later, when he was trying to make a refractory25 lock of hair, or his “cowlick,” remain where he plastered it down.
“All right!” he answered.
“And call Uncle Tod,” she went on. “He’s in his room.”
“All right,” answered Rick again.
He made his salt-encrusted hair as neat as possible, and walked down the hall to his uncle’s room. He knocked on the door but, getting no answer, pushed it open and looked in.
Uncle Tod was not there, a fact which Rick soon discovered. He called the information down the back stairs to his mother.
“Why he must be there,” she said. “He went up a little while ago.”
“Well, he isn’t here now,” declared Rick. And then, as he looked around the bedroom—clean and neat after the skipper’s seafaring notions—Rick discovered something on the bureau. It was an envelope weighted down with a bit of rock.
“Are you sure he isn’t up there, Rick?”
“Sure! he’s gone and he’s left a note for you! I’ll bring it down!”
With a curious feeling that something strange and mysterious had happened, Rick picked up the missive and started down stairs.

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