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   Chapter 2 A BROKEN WHEEL.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 10667

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"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."

Billy grinned.

"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, absolute

ly 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 TELLS HIS STORY TO THE TWINS"

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