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   Chapter 17 HILDA ARRIVES.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 14594

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Of course, Cricket went with Auntie Jean to the station on Friday afternoon to meet Hilda.

Hilda had never stayed at the seashore before, for her mother was very fond of the mountains, and went every summer to the Catskills. Therefore, there was everything to show her. Think of it. She had never even been in bathing in the ocean! This fact interested Cricket more than anything else, and so the very first morning she got Hilda up early to get a dip before breakfast.

"Ouch!" squealed Hilda, shrinking back, as the cold waves touched her bare toes. "Why, Cricket! it's cold!"

"It won't be as soon as you're fairly in," urged Cricket. "Just make a dash, and go in all over. Wade out to the raft, and dive off. You don't know what fun it is to go slap-dash into the water and get all gurgled," which was Cricket for choked.

"But I'll get all wet," objected Hilda, "besides, it's so cold, Cricket," and she drew back further up on the beach, and stood poking her toes into the warm sand.

"Get wet?" said Archie, politely. "No, you wouldn't. We keep dry water for any one making a first attempt."

"And if you should get wet, what would it matter? A bathing-suit isn't a party dress, Hilda," urged Cricket. "We usually expect to get wet when we go into the water, anyway."

"Mother, may I go out to swim?" sang Archie, teasingly.

"Come on, Hilda. Just go right forward, ker-chunk," and Cricket made a run and threw herself full length in the shallow water. She rolled over and over, and came up sputtering, and laughing. "Don't be afraid, you goosey girl."

"I'm not a goosey girl. Suppose I should go out there and get drowned?"

"You can't drown. Archie, and Will, and I, all can swim, and we'll save you. Will taught me this summer. It's lovely," and Cricket led Hilda, hanging back and protesting, into the water, ankle deep.

The truth really was, that Hilda did not want to wet her pretty new bathing-suit. She was such a careful, orderly little person, that she did not like the idea of doing anything so untidy. Besides, Cricket's dripping, clinging skirt looked very uncomfortable.

Just then, Will and Archie, at a private signal, threw themselves, splash, into the water on each side of her, spattering her well, and Cricket, seizing the opportunity, cried out:

"Now, you're a little wet, you must go under right away, or else you'll take cold," and Hilda yielded very unwillingly, and protesting that she was freezing to death. She squealed and choked as the boys ducked her under the water, and she really thought for one dreadful minute that her last hour had come.

"If this is bathing, I think it's awful," she said, with emphasis, as soon as she could speak. The boys had piloted her as far as the swimming raft, and, imitating Cricket's example, she climbed up on it, trying to rub off her wet face with her wetter sleeve, and looking perfectly miserable. "Archie, I've got to have a handkerchief, or a towel, or something, to dry my face. Please bring me one."

The boys both laughed at her. "Oh, certainly," said Archie. "I'll telephone to the laundry to send down a cartload right away. We usually have Luke put a supply of clean ones on the raft, all ready for us. He must have forgotten it this morning."

"You needn't laugh at me. I do hate to have my face stay wet."

"Dive again, then," advised Will, setting the example. "Come, Cricket, race me to the rock and back again."

Cricket promptly dived, but Hilda could not be coaxed off her perch till the others were ready to go in. So, altogether, the first bath was not a great success, and Hilda almost made up her mind that she would never try it again, for it was, by no means, such fun as it was reported to be. But over Sunday she had time to forget her sensations, and when Cricket sprang up early Monday morning, as usual, Hilda finally concluded she would try it again. To her great surprise-perhaps it was partly because the first newness was worn off her bathing-suit-she found that she enjoyed it a great deal more than the first time. She actually waded around with the water nearly up to her shoulders, and half learned to float, with Will supporting her. The next morning completed the lesson, and she began to feel very independent.

On Monday morning Auntie Jean drove the four girls over to Plymouth, to see the sights there. Hilda was full of eagerness and curiosity to see the famous Rock on which the Pilgrim Fathers landed.

"What! that little thing?" she exclaimed, in surprise and disgust, when a small affair was pointed out to her, a rock not even very near the water, but well up on the land, with a stone canopy over it. "How could they land on that little thing?"

"Archie says they came up on stilts," said Cricket. "Of course they had to land on Plymouth Rock, 'cause the histories said they must."

"I never believed that," said literal Edna. "How could they get the stilts?"

"Oh, Edna!" cried Eunice, while the rest laughed.

"Then they cut a piece off, and carried it up in front of Pilgrim Hall, and put it in front of it, and built a railing round it, the first thing they did," went on Cricket.

"But there wasn't any Pilgrim Hall, then," persisted Edna.

"Edna, you're a goose," said Eunice. "Now auntie, can we go and see the Statue of Faith, and the Pilgrim Hall, and the burying-ground, and all?"

They had a merry day in the quaint old town, with all its relics and curiosities. They went all over Pilgrim Hall, and saw the famous sword of Captain Myles Standish, the cradle of Peregrine White,-the little baby who was born at sea on that famous voyage,-and hosts of other interesting things.

Then they did a little shopping, and bought some candy to eat on the way home. This was always part of the fun.

"When will they have Captain Myles Standish's statue up?" asked Eunice, with her mouth full of caramels, as they passed Captain's Hill.

"Very soon, I believe, now. The pedestal is nearly done, and the statue is already there."

"Yes, I know," nodded Cricket. "We walked over there one day last week. Hilda, the statue is there waiting, and it's all boxed up like a chicken-coop. You can see the statue right between the slats. And, oh, auntie! Archie made such a funny joke. Will had just asked Eunice why it would be the highest statue in the world, but she knew the answer-'cause it's Myles above the sea, of course. Then Archie stooped over and poked a stick through the slats, and said: 'Let's tickle his feet and see if he smiles.' Wasn't that good?"

"I don't see a bit of sense to it," declared Edna, "and I didn't then. Eunice and Cricket just laughed and laughed, mamma. Of course a statue couldn't smile."

"Edna, you wouldn't see a joke if one walked up and bit you," said Eunice. "Archie said: 'Let's tickle his feet and see if he's-Myles.' Don't you see?"

"If he's Myles. If he smiles. Oh, yes!" cried Edna, looking really excited. "I see! you can take it in two ways."

"Edna, it's easy to see your great-grandfather was a Scotchman," said Mrs. Somers, when she could speak for laughing at her very practical little daughter.

"Why, I don't see what that has to do with it. People laugh at such silly things, mamma. Eunice and Cricket just double up over some things that are too

stupid for anything."

"That's your misfortune, dear. If there was a School of Jokes I should certainly send you to it."

"Well, for instance," went on Edna, "I'll leave it to Hilda if this wasn't silly. That day when we all walked over to Captain's Hill, we all sat down on some stones to rest. Nobody happened to be saying anything just then, and Cricket began to sing. Archie listened a moment, then he jumped up and started off on a run, as fast as he could go, all around the top of the hill, and came back all puffing and panting, and he said: 'Cricket, I've run all around the hill, and I can't catch that tune.' The girls thought it was awfully funny; what, do you think it was funny, too?" for Hilda went off in a peal of laughter, as well as auntie.

"Of course," went on Edna, "he couldn't tell the tune if he didn't stay and listen to it; and, perhaps, he wouldn't have known then," she added, thoughtfully.

Cricket grew very red, as she always did when any slighting allusion was made to her singing.

"Archie is a very funny boy, I think," she remarked quickly, to turn the attention of the others from this sore subject. "He isn't as nice as Will, but he's generally funnier. He gets so mad when Edna says, 'What's the sense to that?' when he makes a joke."

"Like yesterday, Mrs. Somers," said Hilda, "when Archie asked us a conundrum, 'How does a sculptor die?' do you know it? The answer is, 'He makes faces and busts.' And he got so mad when Edna only told him that busts wasn't correct. He ought to say, 'He makes faces and bursts.'"

"Well, he ought, oughtn't he, mamma? Nobody says busts."

"Edna, you're hopeless," answered her mother. "And here we are at home again."

At the supper-table Will announced that he and Archie and the Gentle Jane were all ready to take a sailing party to the Gurnet Lights the next day, if the party so desired. By the clapping of hands it was judged that the party did so desire.

"But about grandma?" asked Mrs. Somers, when she could make herself heard. "I can't go and leave her for all day when she is so helpless."

Cricket coloured at the allusion, but she instantly said, bravely:

"If you will go with the others, auntie, I'll stay with grandma."

"If you stay, Cricket, I'll stay, too," said Hilda, quickly.

"But you can't, Hilda. You're the party, don't you see? We've all been to the Gurnet, and we're going to get up this picnic on purpose for you. You've got to go."

"Yes, you've got to go," struck in Archie. "It's like the man who was on his way to be executed. He saw people all running along the street, and he called out to some one, 'No hurry, friend. It can't go on till I get there. I'm the man to be hung.'"

"Then, since Hilda is the man to be hung she'll have to go. That's certain. And besides, children, you can't go to-morrow, for we must give cook a day's notice if she is to provide luncheon enough to last you entirely hollow young people for a whole day. Then I'll see Mrs. Emmons, and perhaps she will come and spend the day with grandma on Wednesday, and we'll set sail then for the Gurnet Lights. Will that do? I'll go over directly after supper and see her, so you can put your minds at rest."

Mrs. Emmons would be delighted to come and spend the day with grandma, it proved, so the plans for Wednesday instantly began, as if they did not have a whole day before them. The hour of the start must be settled at once. As it would be low tide at eleven, they must be off at eight in the morning, to get well over the mud-flats before they were exposed. They would go outside the point for a little cruise, if it was not too rough, and then come back and land at the Gurnet, and show all the sights there to Hilda, and eat their luncheon either before or after, as they liked.

The boys were both good sailors, and understood a boat perfectly. Their grandfather Maxwell had trained them well from the time they were wee bits of boys, and even before his death, three years before, he had trusted them to go out alone.

But the next day the excitement began in earnest, and there was hurrying to and fro, and consultations over what to take, and what to wear, and what to do, and proposals for this, and objections to that, till the whole house was in a whirl.

"Children, you couldn't make more preparation if you were going to Europe," cried distracted auntie, finally, as all the girls burst into her room for the fortieth time, as she was trying to take a nap that afternoon. "I don't know where your sketch-book is, Edna. Yes, wear your sailor caps. Of course you'll wear your sailor suits, and not ginghams. Yours is torn, Edna? Then, my dear, please go and mend it directly. Your fishing-tackle is in the lobby, by the side kitchen door, Cricket. You left it in Billy's room, and he brought it over. Yes, I told cook to make some chocolate cake, Eunice. Now scamper, every one of you. I'm going to lock my door now, and don't anybody dare to come and disturb for an hour."

But within five minutes a small voice called through the keyhole, imploringly:

"'Scuse me, auntie dear, but couldn't we take George W.? he's just begging to go, and I know he'll be good."

"Scat!" cried auntie, and Cricket scatted.

"Sha'n't we take some books, in case we get becalmed?" suggested Eunice, as they all finally rested on the piazza, and tried to think of something else to get ready.

"Of course. Sometimes we are becalmed for an hour, Hilda, and it's awfully stupid."

"I'll take 'Jack and Jill,'" said Cricket. "And, oh, girls, let's take our blank books and pencils, so we can write on our stories for the 'Echo' if we want to."

"I won't, and that's flat!" said Edna, decidedly. "Going on a picnic for fun, and writing stories! What do you think I'm made of, Cricket?"

"Sugar and spice, and all that's nice," returned Cricket, cheerfully. "Did I tell you, girls, that Hilda is going to write a story for our next 'Echo?' 'Our estinguished contributor, Miss Hilda Mason!' Doesn't that sound fine? And she's written some poetry, too! Isn't she lovely?" and Cricket hugged Hilda in a sudden burst of affection.

"This is the first poetry I ever wrote," said Hilda, trying not to look conscious.

"And it's lovely!" said Cricket, approvingly. "Read it to the girls, please, Hilda." And Hilda, waiting for a little urging, though she was really dying to read it, produced her "poem," and read:

"It was Christmas eve, now remember,

And out in the cold world alone,

A cold night, too, in December,

There wandered a poor little one.

"Waiting in sorrow and weeping,

Waiting out there in the cold,

Why should she have cause to sorrow?

Why, her mother lay there in the mould.

"And where was the child's own father?

Was he in the cold ground, too?

No, her father was in the billiard-room.

I pity the poor child, don't you?"

"That's too sweet for anything, Hilda! All you girls are clever but me," sighed Edna, half enviously.

"I've just decided that I'll be a poetess like Mrs. Browning, when I grow up," said Hilda, calmly. "I never tried writing poetry before, but it's just as easy. It would be very interesting to be a poetess," added Hilda, who was given to day-dreams, in which she was always famous.

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