CRICKET AT THE SEASHORE
BY ELIZABETH WESTYN TIMLOW
AUTHOR OF "CRICKET: A STORY FOR LITTLE GIRLS"
ILLUSTRATED BY HARRIET ROOSEVELT RICHARDS
ESTES AND LAURIAT
BY ESTES & LAURIAT
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, Mass., U. S. A.
I. OLD BILLY 11
II. A BROKEN WHEEL 21
III. CRICKET'S DISCOVERY 33
IV. KEEPING STORE 45
V. A BATH IN CURDS AND WHEY 61
VI. BEAR ISLAND 79
VII. THE EXILES 101
VIII. A NEW PLASTER 117
IX. GEORGE W. AND MARTHA 132
X. THE ECHO CLUB 147
XI. THE "ECHO" 165
XII. THE HAIRS OF HIS HEAD 180
XIII. A WRESTLING MATCH 192
XIV. PLAYING NURSE 204
XV. A KNITTING-BEE 213
XVI. TWO LITTLE RUNAWAYS 223
XVII. HILDA ARRIVES 237
XVIII. A SAILING PARTY 251
XIX. BECALMED 267
XX. A NEW HIDING-PLACE 287
XXI. BILLY'S PRAYER 306
XXII. HELEN'S TEXT 323
XXIII. THE JABBERWOCK 333
XXIV. AFTER THE SACRIFICE 344
XXV. THE END OF THE SUMMER 359
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"CRICKET WENT TO THE WINDOW AND PEEPED OUT" Frontispiece
"OLD BILLY TELLS HIS STORY TO THE TWINS" 31
LANDING ON BEAR ISLAND 87
"THE EXILES" 99
FEEDING GEORGE WASHINGTON—"CRICKET BORE OFF HER CHARGE TO THE KITCHEN" 137
"SHE BURIED HERSELF IN HER NEXT STORY FOR 'THE ECHO'" 205
HILDA'S ARRIVAL 235
"CRICKET SAT DOWN ON THE BEACH WITH THE CHILDREN" 293
CRICKET AT THE SEASHORE
The summer at Marbury had begun. On the 20th of June, after seeing the Europe-bound party off for New York, the Ward children had arrived, bag and baggage, under Auntie Jean's escort.
Early the first morning after their arrival, Cricket awoke Eunice with a punch.
"Eunice, what do you think I am going to do to-day? and I'm going to do it every day till I succeed."
"Don't know, I'm sure," said Eunice, sleepily. "Don't tumble round so. It isn't time to get up."
"Oh, you're such a lazybones," sighed Cricket, whose light, active frame required less sleep than Eunice's heavier build. "It's six o'clock, for the clock just struck. Now I'll tell you what I want to do. Let's dig in the sand-banks every day, and see if we can't find mamma's money-bag, that she and auntie buried there so long ago."
"All right, and let's search in the cove for the little turquoise ring you lost two years ago, in bathing," answered Eunice, still sleepily, but with much sarcasm.
"Now, Eunice, you needn't come out with any of your sarcastic sinuates," said Cricket, tossing her curly head. "I'm going to do it anyway, and I'm going to find it. I feel it in my bones, as 'Liza says, and I'm going to begin straight after breakfast, if we don't do anything else. Don't tell any one, for I want to surprise everybody."
"I think you're safe to do it, if you want to. I won't tell. Wonder if they've sailed yet," with a thought of the travellers.
"The steamer doesn't sail till eleven; don't you remember? Prob'ly they're just getting up. Come, Eunice, get up. I hear the boys, now."
Cricket scrambled out of bed and ran to the window to peep out.
"There they go now for their swim. Boys! Boys! wait for me!" and Cricket dropped into her bathing-suit, which had been put out all ready the night before, and flew down-stairs to join the boys in their morning plunge in the sea, her bare arms gleaming from the dark-blue of her suit, and bathing-shoes protecting her feet from the sharp stones in the rough lane that led to the cove.
They had a glorious swim. At least, Will and Archie swam, and Cricket splashed under their directions. She had almost learned to swim the last time that she had been at Marbury in the summer-time, two years before, and she could already float nicely and go "dog-paddle," but she had great difficulty in making any headway in swimming.
"There!" she sputtered, in triumph, at last, clinging hold of the swimming-raft; "I almost got away from the place where I was, then." She turned over on her back to rest herself, and float for a moment, then prepared for another start.
"I don't seem to wiggle my feet right. I get so destracted thinking of my hands, that I always forget to kick. I can't keep my mind in two places at once."
"Now try again," said Will, good-naturedly. "See here. Draw up your feet as you bring your hands together and kick hard, when you throw them out. Go just like a frog. That's fine. Now again. Draw up, kick out, draw up, kick out—fine!" and Cricket, sputtering and laughing, drew herself up on the swimming-raft, having really swum two feet. And then it was time to go out.
The cove was some little distance from the house, so, after scampering up the lane, their bathing-suits were almost dry. There were bathing-houses down there, but for this early morning dip they liked better to get into their bathing-suits at the house, and dress there.
When Cricket flew up-stairs into her room, glowing and rosy, she found Eunice only partly dressed, with the sleep not half out of her drowsy eyes.
"Oh, you lazy thing!" cried Cricket, retiring behind the screen. "You don't know how fine I feel. My skin is all little prickles."
"I shouldn't think that would be very comfortable," said Eunice, brushing out her long, dark hair, and braiding it. "I like to sleep in the morning better than you do, anyway. Did you dive for mamma's money-bag?"
"You needn't laugh at me," said Cricket, emerging, half-dressed already. "I mean to find it. You'll see." But she inwardly registered a vow that she would pursue her search alone.
The Ward children had never spent much time at Marbury, with grandma, since they had their own summer home at Kayuna, in East Wellsboro. They had often been there for short visits, however, as mamma generally took one or another of her little flock with her, in her frequent trips to see grandma.
Marbury lies in Marbury Bay, which is very large, but so shallow that at low tide the mud-flats are all exposed for a long distance out. A long tongue of land, principally sand-banks, stretches half around the bay, making a break-water from the ocean, and rendering the harbour a very safe one for sailing. Will and Archie Somers were capital sailors, inheriting their grandfather's love of the sea. Back of the house, over a short, steep hill, lay the beginning of the sand-banks, where mamma and auntie had buried their money-bags long ago. Then beyond these sand-banks, on the ocean-side, was another deep small curve, called the cove, where the children bathed. It was a safe, sheltered spot, with a good bit of beach. Altogether, Marbury had many attractions.
What chattering and gabbling there was that first morning at breakfast, when all sorts of plans were projected for the summer's amusement! Mrs. Somers and her children had spent most of the warm weather at Marbury, for years, so that Will, and Archie, and Edna knew every inch of the country for miles around, and were eager to do the honours.
"'Wot larks' we're going to have," cried Archie, as they all got up from the table. "Think of it, grandma! all summer! whoop!" with a shout, as he vanished, that made grandma cover her deafened ears in dismay, as the whole flock trooped after.
"Dear me! mother," said Mrs. Somers, privately, as they stood together on the piazza, "I begin to think that we've undertaken a great deal, to keep this horde in order for a whole season. Can you ever stand it in the world? I scarcely realized that there would be eight of them."
"We'll manage beautifully," said grandma, cheerily. "The boys go to their camp for a month, you know, and the little girls will soon settle down."
"Yes, and Edna will have to spend two weeks with her Grandmother Somers, at Lake Clear, as usual, and as for the twins, Eliza manages them really beautifully, and Kenneth is no more trouble than a kitten. Eunice and Cricket are used to running pretty wild all summer. If the confusion is not too much for you, that's all I'm thinking of."
"And I'm on special police duty," broke in Arthur, popping up from behind the vines. "I'll chuck the baddest ones overboard any time you say."
"And there's old Billy for special guard duty," added auntie, laughing. "See him now, poor old fellow! he doesn't know whether he's scared out of his few wits, or whether he likes the commotion."
Grandma followed auntie's glance.
"He likes it," she said, "for see, he's bringing out his music-box, and that's the highest honour he can pay any one."
I must stop right here and tell you about old Billy, for he was a life-long institution at grandma's. I wish I could make you see the dear old fellow as I see him now, in my mind's eye. A tall, thin, bent old man he was, not much over fifty, in reality, though he looked seventy. A shock of rough gray hair stood out all over his head, and a gray, tousled-looking beard covered half his face. A pair of keen, startled-looking eyes flashed sharp, observant glances this way and that, from under his shaggy eyebrows. Few words he had on any occasions, but he generally spoke straight to the point.
A sad story had poor old Billy. He had been a bright lad in a neighbouring village, and, when he was about eighteen, had come to work for Captain Maxwell. He was very faithful and responsible, and soon became a fixture on the place. Then poor Billy one day got a terrible fall in the barn, and was taken up for dead. However, he was not dead, only unconscious, and terribly hurt. He had a long and severe illness, during which Mrs. Maxwell had him carefully nursed and cared for in her own home.
At length he recovered, but, alas! his poor mind was hopelessly affected, and the doctor said that, though he might be much better, he would never be quite right again. Everybody thought they ought to send him to the poorhouse, as he had no home to be sent to, but Captain Maxwell refused to do this. So he stayed on, and, gradually, as he grew stronger, he took up some simple duties again. However, he had forgotten everything, even how to read.
But he was very happy in his dim way, for he did not realize all that had happened to him. So several years passed, when suddenly a lawyer's letter was received, stating that William Ruggles was heir to a large amount of money from a brother who had gone West many years before and had never been heard of since. He had died leaving no family, and no other heir than Billy.
Of course there was a great deal of troublesome law business to be adjusted, but the end of it was that, a few months later, Billy was in possession of a small fortune. The next question was, what to do with him. He could not stay on as a servant at the Maxwells, and he was entirely unable to take care of himself. Captain Maxwell had been appointed his guardian, and trustee of his property. There chanced to be a small unused building, once an office, on the grounds, and this was easily changed into a suitable abode for Billy. He had his little sitting-room, bedroom, and kitchen, and some one to take care of it and of him, and here lived Billy, as happy as a king. When Captain Maxwell died, Mrs. Maxwell took Billy as one of her legacies, and here he probably would end his days.
It was hard at first to make him understand that he need not do any more work, and yet could have what he called his "pay," just the same, for it was useless to tell him about his property. His allowance had to be a small one, for it was soon found that generous Billy emptied his pockets on all occasions to any one asking. So his allowance was limited to twenty-five cents a week in his own hands, but the spending of his "dollar," as he always called his quarter, gave him quite as much pleasure as if it had been hundreds. He always spent this for tobacco and peppermint candy, his two luxuries.
Mrs. Ward and Mrs. Somers had been little girls of ten and twelve when Billy first came there, and all through their childhood he had been their devoted slave, for the poor soul was patience and fidelity itself. And to the second generation, old Billy was as much part of the landscape as the bay itself.
A BROKEN WHEEL.
"Let's take a ride, the very first thing we do," said Eunice, eagerly, after breakfast. "I'm wild to get behind Mopsie and Charcoal again," for the ponies had been sent over from East Wellsboro for the children's use.
"I'm going to—" began Cricket, and then she stopped, remembering that she was going to surprise the family with what she felt sure would be the result of her mining explorations,—the finding of mamma's long-buried money-bag. But then, she could dig any time, she reflected.
So Luke, the man, brought up the ponies, harnessed to the little cart, that was getting to be close quarters for Eunice and Cricket, to say nothing of Edna.
"Dearest old Charcoal!" said Eunice, caressing her pony, as he rubbed his affectionate head against her shoulder, expecting sugar; "isn't it lovely to have him again! But, Cricket, don't you think he is really getting smaller all the time? Last summer his head came above my shoulder, and look at him now!"
"Does it occur to you that your shoulder may be growing above his head?" suggested Auntie Jean, laughing. "Unless you put a brick on your head, I am sadly afraid that you wouldn't be able to ride Charcoal next summer."
"When Eunice and Cricket are big ladies, Helen and I are going to have the ponies. Papa said so," piped up Zaidee.
"Dear me!" said Cricket, mournfully. "I wish I could take a tuck in my legs. I don't want them to get so long that I can't ride Mopsie. Get in, girls. Hello, Billy! If we had any room, we'd take you, too."
"Old Billy can walk as fast as them little tikes can run," he said, with scorn.
"All right, then, you come, too," said Edna, jumping into the cart; "you jog along behind. Don't you want to?" And off started the little cavalcade, with Cricket driving, because she was the smallest, and could perch up on the others' knees, while old Billy, all beam, jogged after, making almost as good time, with his long legs and shambling gait, as the ponies.
Back of Marbury there are miles of level roads, almost free of underbrush, intersected in every direction with roads and lanes, and one can drive for hours without leaving the shelter of the stately forest trees.
They had been riding for an hour or more, laughing and singing, and shouting sometimes, since there was no one to be disturbed, when suddenly one wheel went over a big stone, which Cricket, in glancing back to see if Billy were in sight, did not notice and turn out for.
"Look out, Cricket!" warned Eunice, but too late. Thump came down the wheel and crack went something, and in a twinkling down came one side of the cart, while the wheel lay on the ground. The well-trained little ponies stood still at the first "whoa!" and the children were out in a flash.
They looked at each other in dismay. How should they get the cart home again with only one wheel?
"And we must be twenty miles from home," said Eunice, soberly.
"Oh, no, we're not," said Edna, for as she usually spent her summers at Marbury, she knew this country-side well. "Only two or three miles, that's all. You see we've been driving around so much that it seems longer, but it's not really far. This lane leads out on to the Bainbridge road, by the old Ellison Place, and that's only two miles from home. But, after all, nobody may come along here for hours to help us about the cart."
Just then old Billy came lumbering up around the curve behind them.
"Sho, now!" he said, surveying the wreck. "Wheel's come off."
"Exactly so, Billy. Now the question is, can we get it on?" returned Eunice.
But something was broken, and getting it on proved impossible.
"Billy carry the cart," suggested that individual, who had a high opinion of his own strength.
"Well, hardly, Billy,—but, oh, I have an idea! Billy, you hold up the cart on that side, so it will run on the other wheel as the ponies draw it, and Cricket can lead them, and Edna and I will roll the wheel along. You said it wasn't far, Edna."
Billy lifted the side of the cart, obediently, while Cricket started the ponies forward. This worked very well. Then Edna and Eunice armed themselves with sticks and found that their new variety of wheel rolled in fine style, with a little persuasion.
"What a come down," laughed Eunice. "We start out in state, and we come back on foot."
"Let's play we're a triumphant procession," instantly suggested Cricket, the fertile of resource. "I'll be the emperor, what was his name? The one that conquered Zenobia. I'll be that one, and Billy is one of my slaves, a captive of war, and you can be Zenobia, Eunice, and you're her daughter, Edna, coming into Rome at the head of my procession after you're conquered. You go ahead singing 'Hail to the Chief.' That's it; march along like that. Now don't go too fast. I really ought to be riding in the cart, but I'm afraid Billy couldn't hold me up, so I'll play I'm tired of riding in state. Play we haven't come into the city yet."
"I can't think how 'Hail to the Chief' goes," said Eunice, after one or two attempts at the tune. "I keep getting into 'Hail Columbia happy land.'"
"That won't do, for this is Rome and not Columbia we're coming to. This is the way that 'Hail to the Chief' goes," and Cricket sang the first line.
Now Cricket, alas, was, unfortunately, absolutely devoid of voice to sing. She loved music dearly, but she could not keep to a tune to save her life. Like a certain modern heroine, she could not even keep the shape of the tune. Consequently, unless the girls had known the words, they could not have told whether she was singing "Old Hundred," or "Tommy, make room for your uncle."
Edna and Eunice almost doubled up with laughter. Edna sang like a little woodthrush, and Eunice also had a sweet and tuneful voice.
"Oh, Cricket, you'll kill me," gasped Edna. "Your voice goes up when it should go down, and down when you ought to go up, and the rest of the time you go straight along."
Cricket looked injured, for, strange to say, she was sensitive on the subject. She loved music so dearly, that she never could understand why she couldn't make the sounds she wished come out of her little round throat.
"I never pretended that I thought I could be singeress to the President," she remarked, with dignity. "Anyway, if I'm emperor, I have people to sing for me. Begin, Zenobia."
"I don't know 'Hail to the Chief,'" said Edna. "Let's sing 'Highland Laddie'—I love that," and Edna piped up in a gay little voice, that startled the birds overhead, and presently attracted the attention of two prowlers, who were getting birds' eggs for their collection.
"The kids have had an accident," said one of them, peering through the trees. "Hi! there!"
"There are the boys," said Eunice, as the "triumphant procession" halted at the voice. "Come and help us," she called.
"No, we don't want any help," said Edna, moving on, "and boys are such a bother. Don't call them." But the boys needed no calling, and so she added, with decision, "You can't come with us unless you behave yourselves."
"We're a triumphant procession," explained Cricket, "and you must go behind and be slaves. I'm the emperor that captured Zenobia, and Edna and Eunice are Zenobia and her daughter. They're to march in front, singing, and Billy is one of my captives who carries my chariot because the wheel came off, and these are my elephants that draw it. Ho, there, base minion! are you tired?" for Billy was grunting a little under his burden.
"Guess one of them boys better spell old Billy a little," suggested the slave, putting down his side of the chariot, and mopping off his face with his red bandanna. "Cart's kinder heavy when you carry it so fur. Hurts your hand, too."
"That's so, boys," said the emperor, stopping her diminutive elephants. "Do help him, please. There, now, Zenobia and her daughter are almost out of sight. Put your eggs and things in the cart, Will,—I mean in the chariot. Now let's start. Billy, you can walk in front of me now."
They started on again, the boys holding up the side of the demoralized chariot, and keeping up a fire of jokes.
"Next time you're emperor, Marcus Aurelius, see that your groom looks after your chariot wheels before you start," said Archie, finally. "It would be inconvenient to have a wheel come off when you're making a charge, and it would give your majesty a nasty fall."
"Yes, my grooms are getting very careless. I think I'll make gladiolas of them, and get some new ones. I captured a couple of pretty fair looking slaves, a little while ago, that I'm thinking will do. If they don't," she added, severely, "I'll cut off their heads, and put them in a dungeon."
"Don't do that. I'd rather you'd make a 'gladiola' of me, too. I don't mind so much about my head, but don't put me in a dungeon. See here, emperor, next time you break down, please do it within easy reach of your ancestral halls. The side of this chariot hurts my hands, and I wouldn't demean myself so for any one but your majesty."
"That's too bad. Shall I carry it a little while?" asked the emperor, sympathizingly, as they turned into the main road. "My hands are pretty strong."
"No; your humble slaves can manage a little longer."
"It's a good mile home, now," said Archie. "See here. The blacksmith shop is not far down the road. We'll leave the cart there, to be mended. Edna! Eunice! Stop at the blacksmith's."
So the "triumphant procession" came to a halt, while the ponies were unharnessed, and the cart and wheel left for repairs. Cricket mounted Mopsie, with the boys walking beside her, while Billy stalked along, leading Charcoal, since Eunice and Edna were walking along together.
Will was very fond of his merry little cousin, who laughed at his jokes, took his teasing good-naturedly, and loved and admired him with all her heart. He was nearly sixteen, big and strong of his age, and Cricket thought him the nicest boy in the world. She was not nearly so fond of Archie, who was a year younger than Will. He teased her more, was quicker-tempered, somewhat conceited, and rather liked to order the girls around. He was slight and small for his age, and he did not have his reddish hair for nothing.
Auntie met them at the gate, with an anxious face.
"What has happened, children?" she asked, resignedly.
"Nothing, much, auntie," answered Cricket, cheerfully. "We lost the cart-wheel off, that's all. It was real fun coming home. We left it at the blacksmith's to get it mended."
"So you've begun already," said auntie, laughing, but relieved.
Old Billy sat in the front yard, under a big tree, telling stories to the twins. Perhaps I should say telling a story, for Billy's range was limited to a single tale, and when he had told this, if any child wanted more, he simply had to tell it over again. It was a story with a moral, and was drawn from Billy's own experience. It was about a bad little boy, who ate up all his sister's pep'mint drops. This was the worst of crimes, in Billy's eyes, for to him pep'mint drops were a sacred possession, not even to be lightly referred to.
"His marmer," went on Billy, impressively, "kep' a-whippin' him, an' a-whippin' him, but it warn't no kind o' use, an' didn't do a mite o' good. And just think, children," finished Billy, solemnly, "when that bad, naughty, selfish little boy died, he couldn't go to Heaven and be a good little angel, but he had to go to the Bad Place."
The children listened with wide-open eyes.
"Where is the Bad Place, Billy?" questioned Zaidee, looking interestedly up into Billy's face.
Billy looked slowly all about him, and above him, and then at the ground, puzzled, now, what to say. He was not very clear, himself. He looked again at the blue sky, flecked with soft, white clouds.
"Wal, I think, children," he said, in his slow way, "that Heaven is up there where all them little bright specks is at night. I guess them's holes in the floor. Can't see 'em daytimes, you know, when the lights are out, up above. 'N' I ruther guess t'other place is down under there, pointing to the ground."
"Oh, I don't want it right under our foots. The ground might crack, Billy, and we'd fall in. Please don't say it's there," she begged, earnestly.
But Zaidee immediately began to poke the ground with great interest, and stamp hard upon it.
"Do you really think it's down there, Billy?" she asked, excitedly. "Oh, Helen, let's dig and find it! How far down is it, Billy?"
"Wal, now, I dunno as it's down there at all. Dunno as it is, dunno as it is. Folks say it's purty hot there."
"I know a nice place to dig, Helen, and that's the sand-banks. They're so nice and soft. Let's go and try it."
But Helen hung back, and Billy said, anxiously, "I wouldn't. Folks say that Somebody lives there."
"Who?" demanded Zaidee.
"Wal, folks says as Mr. Satan lives round them parts," answered Billy, cautiously.
"Oh, don't let's dig, Zaidee, I'm afraid," said timid little Helen, clinging to Zaidee's hand. "He might not like it, if we finded him."
Zaidee, always more daring than her delicate little twin, did not think so.
"'Course we'll be careful not to bunk right into him," she conceded. "We'll dig very slowly when we get pretty near there. Come on, Helen. Want to come, Billy?"
"Sho, now!" said Billy, looking very unhappy over this unexpected result of his little moral tale. Once, long ago, a mischievous boy-visitor had taken and eaten all Billy's peppermints, and he never forgot it. He always took occasion to tell it as a story to every little newcomer, to ensure the safety of his valued peppermints, but no one had ever thus applied the story before.
"Seems as if I wouldn't try, children," he repeated, anxiously. "You might tumble in."
But when Zaidee's mind was once set on an enterprise, nothing could turn her. She ran away for the shovels and dragged reluctant Helen with her. They selected a nice hollow place in the sand, and began to dig furiously. In a few minutes they had a hole a foot deep. Zaidee balanced herself on the edge, on her knees, and put her hands down on the bottom of the hole.
"I do think it's getting hotter, Helen, just feel."
Helen put her hand down, rather fearfully.
"It's getting very hot, Zaidee, and don't let's dig any more."
"Don't be a 'fraid cat," responded Zaidee, promptly. "It's only a little bit hot. We must dig until it's ever so much hotter yet," and Zaidee went on throwing up the sand, energetically.
"Oh, dear! how it all slides down the sides. I'll have to get in it and dig," she said, presently.
"Don't! don't!" cried Helen, in great terror, clutching Zaidee with both hands. "Don't go down there. You might tumble right through any time right on Mr. Satam's head!"
But Zaidee, unheeding, jumped into the hole, and went on digging, sturdily, while Helen, frightened and apprehensive, watched her from above. Suddenly she shrieked in new terror:
"Oh, Zaidee! come out! please come out! I see the feathers on his cap sticking right up there! oh, you'll hit him in a minute, and he'll jump up!" for "Mr. Satam," and Indian chiefs, with waving plumes, and tomahawks, formed a very confused picture in her mind.
Zaidee scrambled up in a flash.
"Where? Where?" she cried, peering down when safe above. Truly, at the bottom of the hole was seen the top of a feather dropped from a sea-gull's wing, and buried under the drifting sand, but the startled children never doubted that it was growing fast on the top of "Mr. Satam's" head, and they waited in terrified silence for that head to rise and confront them.
Meanwhile, Billy was wandering around in great anguish of soul, not knowing what dreadful thing might happen any moment. He started back to the house at last. Cricket came skipping down the piazza steps.
"See here, young 'un," Billy began, eagerly,—he seldom called the children by their names. "I'm afraid suthin' dretful's goin' to happen."
"What's the matter, Billy? Why, how your hands shake!"
"Perhaps you can stop 'em," went on Billy, hurriedly; "them ere little tikes is a-doin' a dretful thing. They're over by the sand-bank, a-diggin' fur—hell." He brought out this last word in a deep, half-frightened whisper.
"Digging for what? Oh, Billy!" and Cricket's laugh rang out. "You know better than that. Where are they? I'm going to dig a little myself, and they might help me."
Billy looked a little shamefaced at Cricket's laugh.
"Don't you think they could get there, then?" he asked, looking relieved. "I don't really know just where 'tis, myself. Didn't want them little tikes to come to no harm, that's all."
"Billy, think how silly of you to think that place is under the ground. Think how men dig wells and mines, and things, and nothing ever happens, unless they cave in, or something like that, which doesn't count," said Cricket, skipping and dancing on, as usual, while Billy shambled along by her side. "I'm just ashamed of you."
Billy looked crushed.
"I s'pose I'm a silly boy," he said, meekly, for the poor old fellow was never anything but a boy in his own eyes. "See here, don't say nothin' to Mis' Maxwell, will you?" he added, anxiously.
Just then the children, who still stood, frightened yet curious, by the hole, caught sight of them coming. They both made a wild rush and caught Cricket's hands.
"I'm so 'fraid, Cricket," half sobbed Helen. "Zaidee digged for the Bad Place and we've most found it, and there's a feather of Mr. Satam's head, sticking right up, and I'm 'fraid he may bounce up and get us."
Cricket doubled up with laughter.
"Oh, you silly children! You're thinking of a red Indian, I guess. That's nothing but some bird's feather. If you dug long enough, you'd come to China, that's all."
"But it got so hot, Cricket," insisted Zaidee, "an' Billy says it's awfully hot there."
"'Course it's hot when you dig down, because the centre of the earth is all burning up, you know, but I don't think you'll get far enough to get scorched any. You're silly children, any way," finished Cricket, with a very elder-sisterly air.
Nevertheless, Helen did not feel secure until Cricket had jumped into the hole and pulled up the feather, triumphantly.
"Now I'm going to dig myself," with a deep-laid purpose in her mind, "and you may dig, too. You start another hole, right here. I'll dig this big one out more, and I'll be an incubus"—meaning nobody knows what—"and live in it, and you be little crabs trying to get out of my way in these holes of yours."
The children, quite reassured now as to the safety of their pet amusement, dug away merrily, while Billy, like an amiable Turk, sat cross-legged near by.
The shifting stretches of sand changed their shape year by year with the wind and rain, and Cricket had no definite idea of the exact locality of the spot where mamma and auntie had buried their money-bags, thirty years before. She enlarged the hole the children had begun, till it was quite an excavation, carrying on her game of "incubus" with the children all the time. At last she concluded to sit down and rest. She planted herself in the bottom of the hole, with her curly crop not visible above the top of it. She pulled up her sleeve, plunging her hand idly in the dry, cool sand, till her arm was buried far above the elbow. Then her hand struck a resisting object.
"Oh, oh!" she shrieked, immediately, not daring to move her hand lest she should lose the object, which might prove what she was searching for. It was too large to bring up through the weight of sand.
"Come here, Zaidee, quick," she cried. "Dig me out. Dig out my arm, quick."
Helen looked fearfully into the hole, then set up a shriek in her turn.
"Mr. Satam's got Cricket's hand, and he's holding her down. Pull, pull, Zaidee," and the child began tugging at Cricket's nearest shoulder, which she could reach without committing herself to the dreadful possibilities of that hole. Zaidee instantly jumped in, however, and, screaming, herself, added her small strength to pull up Cricket's arm, while Billy, startled by this sudden hubbub, ran distractedly from side to side, trying to find something to pull, likewise adding his peculiar "Hi! Hi!" his expression of great excitement. Cricket laughed so at the general uproar that she could not explain.
"Oh, children," she managed to cry at last. "Stop pulling the sockets out of my arms—I mean the arms out of my sockets. Goodness, Zaidee, how you pinch! There isn't anybody down there, but I've got hold of something and I don't want to lose it. Just dig down around my arm, that's all. Stop crying, Helen. That's a good girl, Zaidee." And so in a few minutes, by their united exertions, a hole was scraped around Cricket's arm, and she could bring up the object she was grasping.
"What is it?" cried the excited little twins. Cricket plunged both hands under the object, and, if you'll believe me, she actually brought up a little buckskin money-bag.
"Hoo-ray!" she shrieked, wild with delight at her discovery. "It's mamma's bag, children, that she planted ever so long ago, when she was a little girl. There's money in it."
The bag, indeed, had been perfectly preserved all these years in the sand. The sand-banks there were too high to be ever overflowed by the tides, and were very dry, even to the depth of many feet. But the string fell to pieces in Cricket's eager hands as she tried to unfasten it, and the pennies and dimes came to view.
A few minutes later, the young woman, breathless and excited, flew up the walk, with the twins toiling on behind. Auntie Jean and grandma were sitting on the porch, when suddenly a shower of dull-looking coins fell into auntie's blue lawn lap.
"I've found it!" Cricket cried, triumphantly. "Knew I would. Won't I laugh at those girls now!"
"But what in the world—" began Auntie Jean, in amazement, hastily transferring the heap to a newspaper. Cricket waved the chamois bag in wild delight.
"It's one of the bags, auntie, that you and mamma buried so long ago in the sand-banks, because you thought it was the right kind of a bank to put money in."
"We digged the hole," put in Zaidee, eager for her share of the glory. "We digged for Mr. Satam's house, an' most found him, an' Cricket came an' said he'd gone to China, an' then Cricket digged this up, and we're going to dig every day, now, and get lots of money," for the whole performance was very mysterious in Zaidee's mind.
You can imagine the clatter when the rest of the children arrived on the scene, and Cricket, flushed with victory, waved her bag, which had been found to have mamma's initials on it. Therefore, auntie's was still unfound, and, strange to say, it never has been found, although, after Cricket's remarkable achievement, the sand-banks in that locality were excavated to a point just short of China.
It was voted by all that the money in the bag belonged undeniably to Cricket, by right of discovery, but she would not touch it till she had written to mamma the astounding news. She was very anxious to cable the important announcement, and Auntie Jean had some difficulty in persuading her that a letter would convey it just as well. The money only amounted to two dollars and sixty-four cents in all, but this was larger in Cricket's eyes than any money she had ever owned before. She spent it in imagination a hundred times, and the others helped her, till even little Kenneth caught the fever, and begged "Tritet, buy Tennet bikachine," his own invention for bicycle.
"Goody!" exclaimed Cricket, "that's just what I'll do for myself. Eunice, I'm going to put the money in the really-truly bank this time, and keep putting more in, and I'll save my allowance and get a bicycle to ride when I'm too big to ride Mopsie. Wonder how long it would take."
"Years," said Eunice, with a cold-water expression. "Why, Cricket, bicycles cost lots of money. You never could do it."
"I can ride on the boys' bicycles when they get them, to learn how, and keep saving till I'm grown up. Couldn't I get enough by that time? Wish I could earn money."
"Keep a peanut stand," suggested Archie.
"I wonder if I couldn't," said Cricket, instantly attracted by the idea. "What fun! Where could I have one? I'd just love to. I'd have that big white umbrella that used to stand up in the old phaeton, over my head, and I'd have a chair and a table. Do you suppose auntie would let me go down on the dock and sell peanuts?"
"I should think not!" cried Edna, horrified.
"I'm going to ask her," returned Cricket, undaunted. "I'll make great piles of money. Everybody will stop and buy of me when they're going out sailing. Peanuts are always good when you're sailing."
"Discount to the family?" asked Will.
"Discount to me, anyway," put in Archie, insinuatingly, "for my suggestion. Really, you know you ought to supply me free."
"Free!" replied Cricket, with much scorn. "I might as well try to fill up Marbury Bay as you, Mr. Archie. I know who ate twenty-seven griddle-cakes for breakfast."
"Don't confess it right out loud, Miss Scricket, if you did get away with that number. I'm not astonished, but I'm overcome."
"Dear me," answered Cricket, tossing her curls, "you think you're abdominally smart, I know, but—"
A howl of laughter stopped her, and Cricket looked dismayed. They always made so much fun of her when she made one of her constant mistakes in the use of words.
"She means abnormally," shouted Archie, rolling on the ground. "Abdominally smart, oh, my!"
"Well, abnormally, if you like it better," returned Cricket, amiably. "I don't see much difference, anyway. I am going to ask auntie, right away, about the peanut stand," she continued, changing the subject quickly, as long experience had taught her to do. Off she ran, returning, jubilant, in a few moments.
"Auntie says to be sure I may; there, now, Edna; she says I may sell all the peanuts I like, and on the dock, if I want to, and she'll give me a pint cup to measure them out with. And since you all make so much fun of it, I'll keep it all alone, without any partner."
"You might go shares with me," pleaded Archie; but Cricket was resolute.
"If you'd been more polite to me, perhaps I might have. Now I sha'n't. I don't know that I'll even sell you any."
"But I'll be partner, sha'n't I, Cricket?" asked Eunice, accustomed to sharing everything with her younger sister.
"You all laughed at me, first about finding the bag, then about the peanuts," she said, firmly, "and I'm going to be my own partner. If I take any one it shall be Billy. He never teases."
"But if you put in the capital," urged Archie, "you should have somebody else to supply the experience."
"All the experience that any of you would supply would be experience in eating them," Cricket replied, with severity. "Then I'd lose my money and my peanuts, too. Good-by. I'm going to make my arrangements now."
"If you buy your peanuts of old Simon, at the corner, make him give them to you wholesale," called Archie after her; and then he departed on a little private expedition.
Cricket was busy all the rest of the afternoon, getting her establishment together. First, a little, square table was unearthed in the garret, and was scrubbed and polished by Cricket's own hands. Then the old white phaeton umbrella was found and brushed, and a long slit in one side of the cover mended with stitches of heroic size. This was, with much painstaking, lashed firmly to the back of the stout, wooden chair, contributed by the kitchen. All these, old Billy, proud and happy at being selected as chief aid, took down to the little dock, where she was to set up business. She decided to invest a capital of fifty cents, not part of her new-found funds, but her private and personal possession, and expected to come out of her venture a millionaire. She made up her mind that she would not take even Billy into partnership, for it would be so much fun for him to buy peanuts of her; but she graciously allowed him to go to the village store with her the next morning, after breakfast, to help her carry home her stock in trade. She would have driven Mopsie, but the cart was not yet home from the blacksmith's.
Acting on the boys' suggestion, she proposed to old Simon Hodges, who kept the village store, that he should give her the peanuts wholesale, and they struck a bargain that she should buy them at nine cents a quart instead of ten, which Cricket regarded as a most generous reduction.
She invested in four quarts to begin with.
"Say, little 'un," suddenly proposed old Billy, nudging her, "why don't you buy some o' those pep'mint drops long o' the peanits. I'd just as lives buy 'em o' you as o' Simon. Fact is, I'd liver."
"What a good idea, Billy. 'Course I will."
Billy grinned from ear to ear.
"How will you sell them, Mr. Simon?"
Simon, a weather-beaten old sailor, who had taken to keeping store in his old age, thought he could sell her as many as she could take aboard at the rate of six for five cents, instead of the regular rate of a penny apiece. These peppermint drops must have been peculiar to Marbury, I think, for I have never seen any just like them anywhere else. They were thick and round, and about two inches across, indented in the middle, like a rosette. They were not soft and creamy, but hard and crunchy, though how much of this latter property rose from the lack of absolute freshness, I am not prepared to say, for it was a standing joke with the boys that Simon had once been heard to remark that he hadn't gotten in his summer stock of candy yet. Some of the peppermints were pink, and some were striped red and white. Cricket supplied herself with six of each.
"That makes forty-six cents, doesn't it? I ought to spend the whole of my money," she said, twirling her half-dollar on the counter.
"Tobaccer?" queried Billy, quickly, thinking of his other indulgence. "I'd just as lives—"
"Oh, no, Billy, I wouldn't have tobacco for anything, nasty stuff," said Cricket.
Billy looked dejected.
"Didn't mean no harm," he said, meekly.
"Never mind, Billy. Now what shall I get?"
"Lemons," suggested Simon, deferentially. "I'll let you have 'em for a cent apiece, and water's cheap. Lemonade would sell well these hot days," for Simon had been taken into Cricket's confidence.
"That's a good idea," beamed the small merchant. "There's the sugar, and I guess grandma would give me that, and I'd let her have a glass of lemonade free. Yes, I'll take four lemons, Mr. Simon, thank you. Now, Billy, you take the peanuts and put the lemons in your coat pocket, and I'll carry the peppermints."
Thus laden the two went gaily homeward.
"For goodness sake! look there, Billy!" Cricket suddenly exclaimed, as they approached the little dock, where they had arranged the table, chair, and canopy, the night before. Archie had evidently been busy during their absence. He liked to tease Cricket, because, as he said, she was so "gamey." Edna would grow peevish and fretful if he teased her, and his mother would never allow it. But Cricket never cared, and enjoyed a joke on herself as well as on any one else.
She went into shrieks of laughter, at the new decorations adorning her place of business. From every rib of the umbrella hung a little, live, wriggling crab. Four horseshoe shells, stuck up on the sharp points, decorated the four corners of the table, and a drapery of seaweed festooned its legs, and the back of her chair. A flapping sign was suspended on one side, on which, in big letters, they read:
SIGN OF THE CRAB
MISS SCRICKET, BILLY & CO.
PEANUTS STRICTLY FRESH EVERY YEAR CALL EARLY AND OFTEN
Billy glanced from Cricket to the peanut stand, and back again, not knowing whether to join in her laughter or not. He didn't see anything funny himself in it, for he had a horror of creeping, crawling things.
"Drat them boys!" he said, at length; "how be we goin' to get them things off?"
"You go get me a basket and a pair of scissors, Billy," ordered Cricket of her willing slave, "and I'll take them away. Don't they look funny?"
In a very little while the crabs were restored to their native element, the seaweed was thrown over the dock, the chair and table wiped clean and dry, and everything was again in order. The horseshoe shells were left sticking up for ornaments. Then she proceeded to lay out her stock, and dispose of it to the best advantage. Grandma contributed a big cracked dish for the peanuts, which stood in the middle of the table. The peppermints were arranged in a row, a red one and a striped one alternating.
"Now, Billy, you stay here and watch things while I go to the house for a pitcher for the lemonade, and some tumblers. I mustn't forget the sugar, either, and a knife. Oh, and the lemon-squeezer. I do hope everybody will keep out of the way till I get it all fixed."
Fortunately, auntie had sent Edna and Eunice on an errand, and had told Eliza to keep the children away till the little merchant was ready to begin her sales, so Cricket was left in peace, as Archie, after he had finished his adornments, had gone for a sail with Will.
A little later, and the peanut vender had everything in order. A pitcher of lemonade—not of the strongest, it must be confessed—was added to the table. At the first signal, the twins, who had been eagerly watching from a distance, darted forward, with pennies in hand, and trade began. Then the girls appeared, and each bought a glass of lemonade, and when Will and Archie landed, as they did, a few minutes later, the demand for peanuts increased. Cricket measured them out in a teacup, and poured them into the purchaser's outstretched hands.
"Put in some more for good measure," somebody would say. "Some of mine spilled."
"Pick them right up, then," said the little store-keeper, thriftily. "'Twon't hurt the nuts a bit. No, Zaidee, you can't have another thing till you bring me some more money. A peppermint drop, Eunice? No, you can't have two for a cent. Don't they look good? B'lieve I'll just taste one," hastily putting her words into practice. "Yes, Billy, what do you want? a red one or a striped one?"
"Say, little un," asked Billy, uncertainly, "which would you take, if you was me? I want two cents' wuth. Would you get two reds, or two striped?"
"Two reds," advised Edna, as Eunice said, "Two striped."
"I can't buy so many, can I?" he asked, holding out his hand, with six cents in it. "I want some peanits, too, and some lemonade. Will this buy 'em all?"
"Get one striped and one white," said Eunice, "and two cents' worth of peanuts and a glass of lemonade."
"Lemonade is three cents a glass," said Cricket, "but, Billy, you can have it for two, because you've helped me so much."
"By the way, Will," broke in Archie, suddenly, "how much are crabs selling for, in the market, to-day?"
"Ten cents," answered Will, promptly.
"Now, then, Cricket, you owe me a lot on those crabs that I furnished you this morning. It took me all yesterday afternoon to catch them, too. You have sold them all off, I see, already. How much did they bring? Give me all the lemonade I want, and we'll call it square."
"I don't care whether you call it square or round," answered Cricket, briefly, snipping Zaidee's fingers, which were creeping too near the peppermints. "Zaidee, keep your hands away. You've broken a whole piece out of that."
"How could she break a whole piece?" teased Archie. "If it's a piece, 't isn't whole, Miss Scricket."
"If catching crabs makes you so brilliant, you'd better catch some more," said Cricket serenely. "Now, do all of you go away. I see some other people coming down to the dock, and I know they'll buy something, if you go away, so they can see me," she added, rearranging her wares. "Billy, drive them off." Thus ordered, Billy made a lunge at the twins first, and they, secretly half-terrified out of their wits if he spoke to them in his gruff tones, scampered off to Eliza. Eunice and Edna strolled off, eating peanuts, and the boys betook themselves to new sports.
All day the little maid and her faithful ally sat on the little wharf, vending her wares. The dock had half a dozen sailboats moored there, and their various owners, in passing to and fro, stopped, laughed, and bought. Soon Billy had to take some of the accumulated money and go up to Simon's to replenish the stock, and frequent expeditions there through the day were made. The two refreshed themselves in the intervals of business with sundry glasses of lemonade, and occasional "peanits," while every now and then a piece of a red or of a striped peppermint found its way down Cricket's throat. Billy scrupulously paid for all he ate. By supper-time nearly everything had disappeared.
"Now, I think, Billy, we might just as well drink up this little bit of lemonade, and eat up those peanuts," said the tired little merchant. "All the peppermints are gone, and it's most supper-time."
Billy was nothing loth, and together they soon cleared the board.
"Well, my little peanut woman, how went the day with you?" asked Auntie Jean, at supper. She had, of course, patronized the peanut stand herself during the day, with grandma. "All your wares sold?"
"Yes, auntie, everything," answered Cricket, as the always hungry tribe gathered around the supper-table. "Billy and I ate up what little there was left so it shouldn't be wasted."
"Then you don't mean to go on with your speculations in peanuts?" asked grandma.
"No-o, I think not, grandma, thank you," answered Cricket. "It was very nice to-day, but I think I couldn't stand keeping still all day for every day. But we made a lot of money," she added, with much satisfaction.
"Well, dear, that is always gratifying," replied auntie. "How much did you make? if we may be admitted to the financial secrets of the firm."
"We made twenty-one cents," cried Cricket, proudly, "and I think that's pretty good."
"Indeed, it is. You're quite a financier. And you invested fifty cents? Then you have seventy-one cents now."
"No, we haven't," returned Cricket, looking puzzled. "I have twenty-one cents, now. Oh, I spent a lot more than fifty cents. Billy went up to the store five or six times and got more peanuts and things, as fast as the money came in. Now, I have twenty-one cents to put in my box. Isn't that making twenty-one cents?" she asked, looking up, anxiously.
There was a burst of laughter from the older ones.
"My dear little girl," said Auntie Jean, "I'm afraid your affairs are not on a sound financial basis. You must have been too generous. People don't call it making money unless they get back all they spend, and more besides. As it is, you had fifty cents this morning and, to-night, you have twenty-one. That looks like losing."
"I don't believe I'm a good speculationer," she sighed, at last, looking crestfallen. "Well, I don't care much. I didn't want to keep store any more anyway. It's too poky. Can we be excused, grandma? I must have a ride on Mopsie, or I'll burst!"
A BATH IN CURDS AND WHEY.
All the younger fry were playing in the barn. It was much smaller than the great barns at Kayuna, for there was no farm attached to Mrs. Maxwell's place, but the new-mown hay was just as sweet and soft to jump on as the haymows were at dear old Kayuna. There was a little added excitement in the fact that Luke was not nearly so good-natured as 'Gustus John was, and was very apt to chase them off his premises when he found them there. He said the horses would not eat the hay after the children had jumped on it. However, as grandma always said that they could play in the barn as long as they didn't do any damage to anything, Luke's disapproval did not trouble them much. To be sure, they would scamper off if they heard him coming, and breathlessly fly around corners, and eagerly report if the "coast was clear," but, after all, all this was more for fun than anything else. This morning they had a clear three hours before them, for Luke had gone to drive grandma and auntie over to Plymouth, and they would not be back till almost dinner-time. Of course the time must be improved by a grand romp in the barn.
Eliza sat in the doorway crocheting. The older girls climbed the ladder to a high beam, and then would shoot off on to the soft hay far below. Zaidee ambitiously tried to follow. But half-way up the ladder her courage invariably failed her, and she would sit still and shriek till one of her sisters came and carried her down.
"Zaidee, don't climb up this ladder again," said Eunice, sharply, after she had rescued her small sister for the tenth time. "If you do, I'll leave you there. It's too high for you, and you're always afraid."
"I isn't a bit afraid," returned Zaidee, stoutly. "It's only when I get up there, the ladder gets so dizzy."
"You get dizzy, you mean. At any rate, don't climb up there again."
"You mustn't speak cross to me," said Zaidee, who was a born rebel, and resented any orders of her older sisters. "If you speak cross to me I'll run away."
"Oh, don't, Zaidee!" begged Helen, in alarm.
"Yes, I will. I'll run away, and then she'll be sorry. Let's jump on this little hay, Helen."
But after a time the high ladder looked so very tempting, and it was such wild excitement to see the girls flying off that great, high beam, with shrieks of fun and laughter, that Zaidee tried the experiment again, of climbing up herself. She went up eight rounds bravely, and then it suddenly looked so very far to the bottom that she screamed for help, as usual.
"You're a naughty little girl, to climb up there again, after I had told you not to," said Eunice, severely. "Now you must stay there and scream till you promise me not to try it again." She knew there was really no danger, and Zaidee was always trying to do what she could not.
"Take me down, 'Liza! take me down, Eunice!" she shrieked, till Edna said:
"Oh, do take her down, Eunice, and have her stop."
So Eunice helped her off her high perch once more, with the warning that if she did it again she would certainly leave her there and go away where she couldn't hear her call. Then the older girls resumed their fun. Zaidee and Helen ran out into the yard.
Presently, Helen came flying back in a great panic.
"Do come here, 'Liza! do come quick, Eunice! Zaidee's eating worms! She's eaten two woolly ones, and one plain one. I'm afraid they'll make her sick. Do come, 'Liza, and make her stop."
"Isn't she the funniest child!" exclaimed Eunice, as Eliza hurried off to rescue the worms.
"If somebody won't give her what she wants, or if anything makes her cross, she always does something disagreeable to herself. Sometimes she says she won't eat any luncheon or dinner, or won't go to walk. Think of eating those worms, just because I scolded her about climbing up on the ladder. Ugh!"
"I should think she was funny. Girls, let's go up to Simon's, and buy some peppermints," suggested Edna. "It's such a hot day, and peppermints make your throat so cool when you breathe, don't you know? I've five cents in my pocket."
Zaidee, having reluctantly consented to forego her diet of worms, watched the three girls go out into the road, and ran after them.
"Let me go, too," she called, toiling after.
"No, you can't go, my dear. It's too far. You stay with 'Liza," said Eunice, but speaking very pleasantly, to avoid another scene.
"It isn't a bit too far, Eunice. We go there lots of times with 'Liza. If you're going for peppermints, I want some, too."
"Run and ask Billy to give you some of his, then. Zaidee, you can't go. Now, run back."
"Then I'll run away," said Zaidee, repeating her former threat. She had lately heard some one speaking of running away, and it seemed a very nice punishment to inflict on Eunice.
"Very well," said Eunice, turning away. "Only don't eat any more worms;" for the way to manage Zaidee was not to take much notice of her. She was a headstrong little thing, and grew very obstinate if she was opposed.
"Run back to 'Liza, children," repeated Eunice, looking back. "Come on, girls."
"It's awfully hot walking up this road," observed Edna, as they went up the slight incline to the village. The treeless road was made of white sea-shells, powdered fine, and reflected the glare of the sun powerfully.
"Don't your feet burn, walking along here? Mine do, awfully," said Cricket. "I wish I had wooden legs like Maggie Sampson's father's. His feet can't burn."
"He can't feel the heat through the soles of his feet, 'cause he ain't built that way," chanted Eunice, instantly, for she shared the family failing for rhyme.
"We might have stilts, I suppose," said Cricket. "I love stilts. Here we are. Let's rest and get cool before we go back."
It was half an hour before the girls strolled leisurely into the yard again, munching their peppermints.
"Where are the children?" asked Eliza, hastily, seeing the girls come back alone.
"Not with us. We sent them back to you," said Eunice, quickly. "What have those tiresome children done now? They ought to be put in barrels and kept there. It's the only way to be sure of them. When did you miss them?"
"Ever since you've been gone. Zaidee ran past, saying she was going with you, so I let her."
"They must be somewhere around the house or barn," answered Eunice, beginning to call "Helen! Helen!" She knew that Helen would answer if she were within earshot, but Zaidee was quite equal to letting them call, if she were in a fit of temper. But they searched in vain. Kenneth insisted they went "that way," pointing down the beach, but Billy thought he had seen them going up the beach. They searched the house and barn, and then, as it was near dinner-time, Will and Archie appeared and joined the detective force.
"This is getting serious," said Will, presently. "I think the little skivers have really run off."
"Could they have fallen off the dock?" asked Cricket, anxiously. But, fortunately, it was low tide, and there was no water to fall into. They inquired of all passers-by, and of the immediate neighbours, with no better result. The children had not been seen. Faces began to grow grave, and feet began to fly faster in every direction. Archie saddled the ponies, and Cricket started off in one direction, Eunice in another, while he and Will went back into the woodland roads.
Meanwhile, the twins, after being sent back by Eunice, had marched disconsolately down on the beach, without Eliza's seeing them.
"I'm going to run away now," said Zaidee, firmly. She must have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed that morning, for everything seemed to go wrong. She was usually a sunny little soul.
"Where shall we run to?" asked Helen, hanging back.
"Let's go this way," said Zaidee, selecting "this way," for no particular reason. It led them back of the house, on to one of the woodland roads, out of sight of anybody.
They trudged on for half a mile or more, and then suddenly came upon a small cheese factory, which stood upon one side of a little brook. There was a dam here, and a small pond, and on the other side of the brook a little saw-mill stood.
Zaidee, of course, immediately wanted to go into this queer looking house, as she called it. Finding the door open, and no one there, she entered, boldly. As it was just noon, the few men employed were at dinner, and the place was deserted.
"What a queer house!" exclaimed Zaidee. It was a long bare place, with a platform on one side, and on that were three or four vats or tanks, only, of course, the children did not know what they were. These vats were for the milk. There was also the most remarkable number of new brooms decorating the walls.
The children ran here and there with the greatest interest and curiosity; and very soon discovered that there were spigots in the tanks. Of course Zaidee instantly proceeded to turn one, and out came a spurting deluge of whey, all over their feet. They jumped back, hastily.
"Oh, what pretty white water!" cried Zaidee, eagerly, stooping down and spatting her hands in the trough, and then throwing it up in the air. It came down all over herself and Helen.
"I don't like it. It smells so loud," said dainty Helen, drawing back.
Zaidee sniffed, critically.
"Yes, it does, Helen. But isn't it pretty? Let's look over the wall and see what it looks like."
They were not, however, quite tall enough to do this, but Zaidee's quick eyes, roving around, spied a wooden stool which she immediately dragged up on the little platform, to stand on. She climbed up and looked in. It was not the vat in which she had turned the spigot, and it was half full of whey with great pieces of the curd floating around on it.
"Here's more nice white water, with pretty white stones floating on it," Zaidee cried, eagerly. She stretched down her hand to grasp some. She could just reach it, but to her surprise the "white stone" separated as she grasped it.
"I can't pick it up," she cried, puzzled, as she tried again and again.
"Let me see," begged Helen. But the stool was not big enough for both to stand on, and Zaidee was too interested to get down. A bigger piece of curd came floating towards her, and she leaned quickly forward to reach it. She lost her balance, and went headlong into the milky pool.
In a moment, sputtering and screaming, she found her feet, for the liquid was only up to her waist, but the top of the tank being even with her head, of course she could not get out. Helen stood open-mouthed with astonishment at Zaidee's sudden disappearance; then she quickly climbed upon the stool to see for herself. Zaidee stood immersed to her waist, with her short, silky black hair plastered to her head with the whey, and small lumps of curd sticking all over her head and shoulders, so that she looked as if she had been out in a sharp-cornered snow storm. She tried to rub her streaming eyes dry with her wet fists.
"I don't like this white water," she said, wiping her wet face on her wetter sleeve. "It's nasty stuff. It's worse than the ocean. It's sour water, Helen. Just taste it."
"I can't," said Helen. "How can you get out? Can you step on those white stones?"
"They won't hold me up. They're such funny stones. They all go to pieces when you squeeze them," said Zaidee, grasping some with both hands, to illustrate. "Could you put the stool over for me to stand on?"
"I can't, 'cause I'm standing on it. P'raps I can pull you out, Zaidee. See if I can."
Zaidee waded over to the side of the tank, and tried to climb up the smooth, tin-lined surface, while Helen tugged from above.
When this did not work, the children stared at each other wistfully.
"Do you s'pose you'll have to stay there always?" said Helen, at last, in a half whisper.
"No. I'll holler," said Zaidee, with confidence, "and somebody will come. If only I could get boosted a little bit! Helen!" with a sudden inspiration, "you jump over here and I'll stand on your knee as I do on 'Liza's when she boosts me up into the apple-tree. Then I could climb right over."
Helen hesitated. This plan did not strike her favourably.
"Oh, Zaidee! I don't want to get down there into that white water. It smells so loud, and I'd get my feet all wet, and my dress wet, too." Helen was one of the children whom dirt distresses, and no soil ever seemed to cling to her clothes or hands. Zaidee was not in the least particular, or, perhaps, she would not have lunched on woolly worms.
"But I've got to get out, Helen," she persisted. "I'm all sticky inside. I don't like it. Please jump in and boost me out;" for the problem of getting Helen out never occurred to either of these young philosophers.
Helen looked very unwilling, but she was too used to doing as Zaidee ordered to object further; she slowly put one leg over the edge of the tank till her foot touched the whey. Then she shivered, and hesitated. Zaidee took hold of her leg for fear she would draw it back, but, pulling it a little harder than she intended, Helen immediately fell over on to Zaidee, who, unable to keep her footing on the smooth tin bottom, took a second plunge, dragging Helen with her.
Then two curded and wheyey heads arose.
"Oh, Helen, you look so funny!" said Zaidee, as Helen spluttered in her turn. "Doesn't it feel awful nasty? And see how funny these little stones look now!"
The curd being pretty thoroughly churned up now, with the gyrations of the two children, it was settling in a smooth, even layer over the top of the whey. Zaidee slapped and splashed it about in high glee, perfectly satisfied to stay in the tank any length of time, now that she had Helen beside her there.
Just then steps sounded on the planks outside, and the voices of men were heard.
"Great guns! Who left this 'ere spigot a-runnin'!" exclaimed one, coming hastily forward. "Look at the whey goin' galumphin out. Suthin' must hev gorn bust."
A breathless silence settled on Zaidee and Helen.
"There warn't nothin' a-runnin' when I went off to dinner," said another, "and I was the last feller out."
The next moment the astonished men were gazing at the pair of guilty-looking little mermaids, who wore curds for seaweeds. Helen's floating golden hair, all stringy with whey, was a funnier sight even than Zaidee's short plastered locks. The two frightened, dirty, streaming little faces, were raised appealingly.
"Wal, I vum! We've caught suthin' in this cheese, for sure," said one man, coming nearer.
"We falled in," said Zaidee, regaining her courage, which never long deserted her. "We don't like this white water, and it's all smelly. Please take us out."
"I swan," said the other man. "Where did you come from, young uns?"
"We live at the beach, at grandma's. Take us out, please. Take Helen first."
"What are you doin' around here, then, a-tumblin' into our vats, and a-spilin' good curds and whey? You don't suppose we want to flavour it with little gals, do you?"
Zaidee wasn't sure of anything but that she wanted to get out of her new bath-tub, so she only repeated:
"Please take us out, Mr. Man, and we won't fall in again, ever, 'cause we don't like this white water, truly we don't. There are such funny little snow stones in it. We like really truly water best. Please take us out."
"Was it you turned my spigot?" demanded her jailer, very sternly.
Zaidee quaked. She had forgotten about turning the spigot.
"We won't ever turn it again," she promised, hastily.
"Oh, come, Steve, take the kid out," said the other man.
"Ef it was one of our children they'd get a trouncin', but they belong to some of them city folks down by the beach. Them city children dunno nothin'—can't expect 'em to. Come, young uns," and, in a moment, Zaidee and Helen stood on the planks.
"Sech capers!" grumbled the other man, setting down the dripping little figures he had lifted out. "Hull batch spiled. Now, scoot." And the children hastily scooted, leaving a milky track behind.
They had no idea of the way home, but, as Zaidee was not ready to return yet, that did not trouble her. Once outside of the cheese factory they got leaves and wiped off each other's dripping faces and hair, as best they could.
"My shoes are all soppy," said Helen, tiptoeing along, uncomfortably.
"Let's take 'em off," said Zaidee, instantly, sitting down and tugging at the wet buttonholes, which would not yield to her small fingers. Helen's were loose, and unbuttoned easily. When she got her shoes off, however, she found she could not walk, for the sticks and prickles on the ground hurt her tender feet.
"I'll have to put my shoes on again," she said. "The palms of my feet hurt so. Don't take yours off, Zaidee."
So Zaidee got up out of the little pool of whey that had dripped from her dress while she had been sitting, and after Helen had, with some difficulty, crowded her feet into her wet shoes again, the children started off in search of a new adventure. The hot sun on their clothes was fast making them very unpleasant objects to a sensitive nose, but they were getting used to the odour of sour milk.
There was a little foot-bridge above the dam, for on the other side of the stream stood a little sawmill. The children ran across the bridge, gaily. Back of the sawmill were high heaps of delightful yellow sawdust.
"See those beautiful yellow hills!" cried Zaidee, rapturously, running forward and throwing herself full length into one, bringing a cloud of yellow powder about her. "It's awfully nice, Helen; come on."
Helen, nothing loth, came on, and in a moment the children were wallowing in the soft, light dust. In the somewhat damp state of their clothes, the immediate result can be imagined.
"You look just like a woolly worm, Helen," said Zaidee, gleefully. "You're all fuzzy with sawdust. Lie down and I'll bury you all up."
Helen obediently sat down, and Zaidee heaped a yellow mound over her.
"You're like a yellow Santa Claus," cried Zaidee, as Helen emerged, presently, somewhat smothered. "Now, bury me!"
"I love to feel it all running down my back like ants," Zaidee said, wriggling, but enjoying the sensation, as Helen let the dry dust drop through her fingers on her head.
A little later, Will, running through the woods, came past the sawmill, and stopped to listen, at the sound of children's voices. Following this, he immediately discovered two strange looking objects, rolling, with shrieks of laughter, down the sawdust heaps.
"You're a pretty pair of kids," he said, approaching them. "Scaring people into fits, for two hours! By Jove! where have you been?" he broke off, holding his nose, as he drew nearer.
"Let's go home, now; I'm hungry," was all the answer Zaidee deigned.
And so it happened that just as auntie and grandma drove up in front of the gate the first thing they saw was two remarkable little figures coming slowly around the house, golden hair and black all of a colour, faces begrimed with dust and streaked with sour milk, draggled dresses, with plasters of sawdust here and there, and odorous,—but the less said about that, the better.
Eunice and Edna were devoted little friends. Edna came just between the two sisters. But, as she had always been somewhat delicate, Cricket's tireless energy often wearied her, and Eunice's naturally quieter temperament suited her much better. Edna was more deliberate in everything than her little cousins were, more literal, less full of fun and frolic, and sometimes fretful under the mere burden of not feeling quite well and strong, as they always did. But she was neither selfish nor exacting, as delicate children often are; she was always gentle and polite, never reckless and forgetful of consequences, as Cricket so often was, and so she made an excellent balance for her little cousins.
Cricket sometimes found herself rather in the cold, when Eunice and Edna were together, however, for Edna loved to get Eunice down in some cool, shady corner, or under the rocks on the beach, to chatter or do fancy work together. Cricket thought this was dreadfully stupid, and whenever the other girls settled themselves for what Edna called a "cozy hour," she would slip off by herself, to find the boys, or go off with old Billy, with whom she had struck up such a comical friendship, for he followed her round like a big dog, and permitted all sorts of liberties with his possessions from her, that he was very chary of allowing the others. Or else she would go alone for a scamper on Mopsie, or even perch herself up on a branch of some tree in the orchard, and pore over the pages of her beloved "Little Women," or some other of her favourites. Reading was the sole sitting-down occupation that Cricket did not think was intolerably stupid, and a sheer waste of time. Fortunately, she always had boundless resources of amusement within herself, and she would not have been lonely on a desert island.
"Come for a row, girls," said Eunice, the next morning. "The water is like glass."
"Suppose we row over to Bear Island," said Edna. "I'll take my embroidery, and you can take a book and read to me, Eunice. If we take the boat off the boys can't get to us and tease us."
"All right," assented Eunice. "We'll take the 'Light-house Girl.' I'm dying to finish it. Cricket, you bring your knitting, won't you, and we'll take some cookies and things to eat, and stay all the morning."
"'Not mush,' as baby says," responded Cricket, with decision. "Think I'm going to waste this glorious day, knitting washrags?" with ineffable scorn. "You two old grandmothers can knit and read all you want to. I've too much else to do."
"Cricket is afraid she'll get her washrag done, if she works on it," laughed Eunice.
"Well, what if I am?" returned Cricket, defensively. "As long as I have that on hand, nobody can ask me to do anything else. If I'm careful how I work on it, I can make it last till I'm grown up."
They all laughed at Cricket's scheme. Her knitting was a standing joke. Mamma had insisted on her learning how to knit, when she was quite small, telling her that it would be a very useful accomplishment when she was grown up, and that it was very much easier to learn to knit quickly, if one learns very young. So Cricket had toiled her way through a pair of reins for Kenneth, and had also accomplished a red and white striped washrag for Helen. Her present undertaking was a blue and white one for Zaidee. It was now a year old.
"If Zaidee was in need of that washrag, she'd be a blackamoor before she gets it," said Eunice.
"She isn't starving for it," returned Cricket, comfortably. "And I've dropped so many stitches, anyway, and couldn't find them, that it isn't much but holes. The knitting only just holds the holes together. 'Liza will have to darn it a lot, before she can use it for Zaidee."
"You're old enough to like to sew and embroider things," said Edna, reprovingly.
"No, I'm not," said Cricket, quickly. "When I have to wear plaguy long dresses, and when I can't play football, nor climb trees, nor perform on the trapeze, nor do anything nice, then I'll get some glasses and store teeth, and sit down and consolate myself by knitting and sewing all day. Ugh! I wish I were a boy! I mean, sometimes I wish I were," with a quick glance around, to see if those omnipresent cousins of hers were within earshot, for, before them, nothing would have induced her to admit anything of the kind.
"You and I will go, then, Edna," said Eunice. "I'll run down and get the boat ready, while you bring the cushions, and get something to eat for a lunch. Better come, Cricket."
"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll row you over, and then I'll row round a little, for fun, myself, while you two are having a nice stupid time, all by yourselves. You can call me when you want me to come back.
"Oh, I'll tell you what let's do. Let's play we're shipwrecked. You get some luncheon, Edna, lots of it, and we'll have a very exciting time."
"You always want to play something," said Edna, who couldn't quite understand how Cricket could always change the aspect of everything—even of things she had to do, that she didn't like—by the magic formula, "Let's play."
"It's so much more fun to play things, than just plain do them," Cricket contented herself with saying now.
"I'll run the boat down, Eunice, if you'll go with Edna, and get all the things, cushions and books and luncheon, and don't forget your precious work, Edna," and Cricket skipped off to the dock, while the girls went to the house.
"Shall we be the 'Swiss Family Robinson,' or 'The Young Crusoes,' or shall we be a new set altogether?" asked Cricket, when they were all afloat.
"A new set, I say," answered Eunice. "We've played 'Swiss Family' so much I'm tired of it. Let us be two boys, and Edna our sister."
"No, our grandmother," said Cricket, soberly. "It's more appropriate. She likes to knit so much."
"I won't be a grandmother," said Edna, decidedly. "If I can't be a sister, I won't play."
"I was only in fun. I'd just as soon that you'd be a sister," said Cricket, pacifically. "I was only joking. We've escaped from a burning vessel, you know, and every one else is either burned or drowned. We've provisions for a month, if we don't eat too much, and we're in the South Sea Islands. South Sea Islands sound nice and shipwrecky, don't you think so?"
"Splendid. No sail is in sight," went on Eunice, striking in, "and a wild waste of waters stretch on every side," quoting freely, as she swept her hand around the expanse of the wide, calm bay, dotted with white sails and rowboats.
"A savage, rock-bound coast appears before us," she added, as Cricket's muscular little arms sent the light boat along towards the small island ahead of them. It consisted of little more than a mass of rocks, with a bit of shelving beach on the west side, and, here and there, a scrubby pine.
But it was a picturesque spot, and the children were very fond of coming over there, since no one else ever seemed to think of it, and they had it to themselves.
"Methinks this coast looks bare, indeed," said Cricket, in her character of shipwrecked mariner, as she rested on her oars. "Shall we land here, brother?"
"'Tis the only land in sight," returned Eunice, shielding her eyes, and looking forward. "What say you, sister?"
Edna giggled. "Suppose there are cannibals there?" she asked. "I don't want to be eaten up alive."
"We will defend you, with our last breath," promised Eunice, valiantly, as they shot up on the pebbly bit of beach. "Shall we explore it, brother?"
"You explore, and I'll row around the island, and see if there are any signs of cannibals or savages. Perhaps I'll find a settlement of white people," she said, as she pushed off with her oar, after the girls had disembarked with the baggage.
"Don't forget to come back, if you do," called Edna, over her shoulder.
"I'll row off," said Cricket, conveniently deaf to this remark, "and rencounter," aiming at reconnoitre, "and if you are in any trouble, give the call, and wave a handkerchief on a stick. Perhaps I'll row back to the burning vessel, and see if I can pick up any one who is floating around."
The call was a vigorous whoop, that had been long ago adopted. It consisted in drawing a deep breath, and then crying, "Wah-whoo-wah! wah-whoo-wah! Crick-et! Crick-et! wah-whoo-wah!" putting in the name of the person wanted.
Eunice and Edna watched Cricket off, and then sauntered slowly across the island, to a dear little spot, their favourite nook. It was a smooth bit of sand, under the shadow of a pine, and well sheltered by rugged overhanging rocks. They had an uninterrupted view of the bay outward, with the long tongue of land that partly enclosed it, and the lighthouse standing on the rocky point. Marbury lay behind them, out of sight.
They settled themselves comfortably, in the cushions, with the rocks at their backs. Edna took her work, a linen cover for her bureau, which she was embroidering exquisitely. Her deft little fingers accomplished really beautiful work, and she loved to do it.
She had done outline work when her tiny fingers were hardly firm enough to grasp the needle, and her kindergarten sewing, when she was a small child, had been the delight of her teachers, and the envy of her little companions. Eunice was fond of her needle, too, though she was not equal to such deft workmanship as Edna was.
"You do such lovely things," she said, now, taking up the strip of linen, on which graceful maidenhair fern was growing rapidly. "I don't see where you get time to do so much."
"I do suppose it makes a difference that, when I'm at home, I haven't any one to play with, as you have. Probably you and Cricket play games together, while I am doing my fancy work. What do you do in the winter evenings at home?"
"Different things," answered Eunice, lifting up the soft, pale-green silks, admiringly. "Sometimes I study. Not often, though, for papa doesn't like us to study in the evening much. You see, our school is out at one, and lunch is at half-past. Then, till half-past four, we can do anything we like out-of-doors. We skate, if there is any skating in the park, we coast down hill on Sawyer Street, or walk, or papa takes us to drive.
"In spring and fall days, we often walk out to Manton Lake for wild flowers or chestnuts. But we must always be in the house at half-past four in winter, and at five when the days get longer. Then we always study in the upper hall till quarter after six, and then we get ready for dinner."
"How nice it is always to have somebody to do things with. I am sure I could study better if I had somebody to talk things over with. Then if you do your studying in the afternoon, what do you do in the evening?"
"After dinner we are all in the back parlour for awhile, papa, and Donald, and Marjorie, and everybody, and we have fun then, I tell you, if there isn't any company. We play games, or papa plays with us. Then if I haven't gotten through my lessons in the afternoon, papa lets me study for half an hour. But we never can study after half-past eight, no matter what."
"But suppose you didn't study hard in the afternoon, and can't get through by half-past eight?" asked Edna.
"Oh, but we must study hard," said well-trained Eunice, surprised. "Papa hates dawdling."
"Does your mother help you with your lessons?"
"Not much. Sometimes she explains something we don't understand, but papa says we should not need help. Well, then, generally we read for a little while, or mamma reads to us, and if she does, I embroider something. Sometimes we sew on Saturday mornings. What do you do?"
"Nothing, much," sighed Edna, dolefully. "It's so stupid to be an only daughter. The boys are older, you see, and they have each other, and they do study very hard in the winter. You see, I've no one to go out with, after luncheon, unless I go with some of the girls. Of course mamma often takes me with her, but lots of times she can't. And if she's out when I come in, the house is so stupid. And evenings I just sit and do fancy work, all by myself, if mamma is invited out to dinner, or anything, and she is invited out such a lot. I wish you were my sister, Eunice."
"Poor Edna! I wish you were my sister, and could live with me all the time. I don't think I could leave Cricket and the rest to come and live with you. Wouldn't it be nice if one of your brothers was only a sister? I don't think boys mind nearly as much about being the only one. And sisters are such a comfort. Let's read now. I peeked ahead, and Jessica is an only child, too."
In the interest of their story the time slipped by. They munched some cookies, but decided to wait till Cricket's return before eating a regular luncheon. They always provided themselves with luncheons on the slightest pretext.
"Isn't it time for Cricket to turn up?" said Eunice, at last, suddenly interrupting herself. "She's been gone perfect ages. I really believe her cannibals have eaten her up."
"If they have," replied Edna, decidedly, "they would soon repent it. Nobody could digest her, for she would fly around so. I believe even the pieces of her would jump up and down in their stomachs."