Chapter 21




A DUCKING

As he stood there on the great flat rock over the swimming hole Red never guessed that Snowball was behind him. But the swimmers soon noticed Snowball. And they all began to call to Red. They didn't care what they said, so long as they could keep Red so busy answering them that he wouldn't turn around and discover Snowball. They splashed about, and hooted, and on the whole made such an uproar that Red couldn't have heard the Muley Cow had she walked up behind him.

Now, there was nothing that Red enjoyed any more than a wordy battle. Whenever a boy called him a name Red hurled a worse one back at him. It seemed as if he actually took pride in making blood curdling retorts. Certainly he didn't mean to leave, so long as anybody gave him an excuse for a jibe.

Meanwhile Snowball had spied Red. And to Snowball he was a tempting sight. As Snowball drew nearer Red leaned forward with his hands upon his knees and taunted Johnnie Green: "You'd better keep that ole ram-lamb of yours out of my way! If he ever comes near me I'll——"

Nobody ever found out what it was that Red meant to do. His threat stuck fast in his throat. For before he could utter it Snowball lowered his head and dashed at him. He gave Red a butt that lifted him off the rock and sent him sailing through the air with arms and legs waving wildly, to fall with a great splash into the swimming hole, where the water was deepest.

There was a howl of delight. But it did not come from Red. He was somewhere between the surface of the water and the mucky bottom.

Presently he appeared, spluttering and blowing and gasping. For once in his life Red had nothing to say in answer to the jibes and jeers of his mates.

His hat was floating near him. Johnnie Green snatched it up, scooped it full of water and clapped it upon Red's head.

Even then Red didn't say a word.

But when Snowball looked blandly down at the boys from the great flat rock and said, "Baa-a-a!"—then Red spoke.

He spoke his mind very freely and at some length. And he dared Johnnie to come out upon the bank with him.

Johnnie Green promptly swam towards the bank where Snowball stood.

"Not that side!" cried Red. "The other one!"

But Johnnie remarked mildly that he supposed of course Red meant the side towards home. "You've got all your clothes on," said Johnnie. "You wouldn't want to have to cross the brook, later, and get them wet."

Now, since Red's clothes were as wet as clothes could be, that seemed a very stupid remark. And Red told Johnnie Green—well, he told him a number of things. And then Red scrambled up the opposite bank from the one where Snowball stood, and started off, leaving a trail of water behind him.

Johnnie Green and his friends forsook the swimming hole and took their clothes out upon the flat rock, which was warm in the sunshine. And there they spent a pleasant time untying the knots that Red had made in them. But first the boys made Johnnie Green drive Snowball away.

"Red will catch it when he gets home," said one of them. "His father told him not to go swimming to-day."

And not one of them said he was sorry.





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