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   Chapter 6 BEAR ISLAND.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 18204

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


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.

LANDING ON BEAR ISLAND

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 w

ork 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."

"I thought she would just row around the island, and then come back and hail us, at all events," said Eunice, laying down her book and standing up to give the call. The "wah-whoo-wah!" rang across the water, but brought no answering cry. They gave it again and again, with no better success.

"What geese we were to let that child go away with the boat!" exclaimed Edna, vexedly. "We should have known better. Likely as not she's rowed over to Plymouth and forgotten us entirely. Let's go up and see if we can see her from the top of the rocks."

Accordingly they climbed to the highest point. It was high noon now, by the sun, and very hot. Not a sail was in sight, nor even a rowboat anywhere.

Everybody had evidently been driven in by the heat, which was intense. The tide was going out, and soon a mud-flat would lie between them and the home shore.

"Gracious, isn't it sizzling hot!" cried Eunice, shading her eyes. "The heat just quavers up from these rocks. I believe a coffee-pot would boil if you put it on top of my head. Where is Cricket?"

"The tide is going out very fast," said Edna, anxiously. "Look at the high-water mark. If we're not off here in less than half an hour we have to wait till the tide is up again. That's a nice prospect, too, to stay here and broil all the afternoon."

"Horrors!" cried Eunice. "I like to stay here when I want to, but I don't want to be made to. When could we get off, then?" for Eunice knew much less accurately the times and tides than Edna, who always spent her summers at Marbury.

"It was high tide at eight this morning, so it won't be entirely out till two. But you know there is about an hour and a half before ebb tide that the flats are bare, and, of course, it's the same time after that before enough water comes in to float a boat. I don't believe it's more than twelve now. Think of staying here till, say, four o'clock. Let's call again. She might be over on the other side of Clark's Island."

"Wah-whoo-wah! Wah-whoo-wah! Come back, Cricket! Wah-whoo-wah!" Eunice sent her clear, strong voice ringing across the smooth waters, but with no better success than before.

"You don't suppose she's purposely hiding somewhere, do you?" asked Edna, doubtfully.

"No, indeed," returned Eunice, promptly. "She's only forgotten, if anything, unless something has happened to her," she added, somewhat anxiously.

"Nothing could happen in Marbury Bay," replied Edna, positively. "It's the safest old hole. And since we are not really in the South Sea Islands, there aren't any cannibals to eat her up."

The island was only about a mile and a half from shore, and they could plainly see grandma's house on the Neck. Not a soul was in sight, not even Eliza and the children.

"Let's wave a handkerchief," suggested Eunice, looking for hers, "for the boys may see it and come out for us."

"It's not much use," said Edna, "for I don't believe any one would notice a little white handkerchief fluttering over here, and, besides, I'm getting dreadfully afraid that there isn't time for any one to pull out here and get us in before the tide would be so far out that we would stick in the mud. You see the bottom is so flat that the water goes out very quickly. But let's try a handkerchief."

"I haven't any with me," said Eunice. "Take yours."

"Bother! I haven't either. Oh, there's a boat coming past. If that man would take us in, we might just get to the shore. Wave something. Call! Call!"

The girls shouted vigorously, but the little rowboat aggravatingly kept on its way, the oarsman having his back towards them. Then he turned his course a little, keeping in the channel where the water was deeper.

"What can we wave?"

"Take your work, Edna. Tie it to a stick."

"Tie my work to a stick? Why, it would ruin it."

"No, it wouldn't. What if it did? We don't want to stay here all day;" and Eunice caught the linen scarf from Edna's half-unwilling hand, and, tying it to a stick, waved it furiously.

"Oh, dear, I wonder if it will ruin it? Wave harder, Eunice. Wah-whoo-wah! Why don't you turn, whoever you are! I wonder if I can iron it out," went on poor Edna, distracted between the fear of injury to her beloved work and her desire to get off the island. But the little boat pulled swiftly down the channel, its owner evidently not desirous of being caught himself on the mud-flats, and was soon a speck on the water.

"Where can Cricket be?" wondered Eunice, for the hundredth time. "Edna, I am afraid she's drowned or something," for she began to be much more worried over Cricket's non-appearance than at the prospect of spending a few more hours than they had intended on the island.

"I'm sure nothing has happened to her. Cricket will never be drowned, don't be afraid. I think she's just plain gone off and forgotten us-that bad girl! Won't I make the boys tease her for this! There! perhaps I can iron that out smooth."

"THE EXILES"

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