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   Chapter 18 A SAILING PARTY.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 16199

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was not long after dawn, early as that was, when the younger fry were all astir in the Maxwell household. The boys were up to see that everything was in order about the boat, and to transport the necessary number of cushions and rugs for the comfort of their passengers. Cricket dragged reluctant Hilda, who dearly loved her morning snooze, out of bed almost as early, though Eunice and Edna lazily turned over for another scrap of a nap. Still, they were not long able to withstand the general buzz of excitement, and long before seven they also were up and about, gathering together their various belongings. Cook had the generous luncheon-baskets all packed, with provision sufficient for a small regiment. Before breakfast everything was on board, the luncheon was packed away in the little locker, and cushions and extra wrappings were all in place.

Breakfast was a hasty ceremony, for the boys were eagerly watching the time, and tide, and breeze, and so would hardly give the rest time to eat. It was not quite eight when they mustered their party on the dock. At the last moment Cricket appeared with a small bundle, carefully wrapped in newspaper, the contents of which she absolutely refused to reveal.

"You'll know by and by," was all she would say, "and you needn't try to solve into the mystery now."

The breeze favoured the start, and the swelling sails swept the Gentle Jane along at a scudding pace. Hilda, who had never been sailing before, was delighted at the swift motion. The sky was as blue as blue could be, with flecks of white clouds all over it, the water was sparkling and clear, and dashed with a delightful little swish against the bow.

"But what do you do if the breeze stops?" she asked.

"We stop, too," said Archie, "unless somebody gets out and drags the boat along."

"Really? could any one drag this heavy boat along? would they swim? oh, you're teasing me!"

"Yes, of course he's teasing you," said Edna; "we have to row, if the breeze stops. Do you see these long oars? Why, boys! you haven't brought but one oar!"

"Yes, we have," answered the boys in chorus. Then they looked at where the oars should be, and then at each other. "I thought you brought the other oar," said Archie.

"And I thought you did," said Will. "Never mind. It looks as if we'd have a good breeze all day."

"But will the breeze turn for you to come home again?" asked Hilda. "For if the breeze blows us out, how can it blow us back again?"

"Tack, young woman, tack, but not with a hammer or nails. You'll see, coming home, if this breeze holds out."

"I'll bet you anything that the breeze won't hold, because you've forgotten the other oar," said Edna.

"Then we'll put Cricket up in the bow, to whistle up a breeze. That always brings it."

"It's so funny I can't whistle, when I'd love to, so," said Cricket, meditatively, for whistling was one boyish accomplishment which she could not manage.

"You needn't wish to," said Edna, who, strange to say, could whistle like a blackbird. "You would only have people always telling you, it is not ladylike. I don't know I'm whistling half the time when mamma tells me not to. It just whistles itself."

"Why don't I whistle right?" asked Cricket, dolefully, for the hundredth time. "I pucker my lips up so-and I blow-so-and I can give one straight whistle, but I can't make it go up and down. It doesn't twinkle as Edna's does."

Edna broke out into a perfect bird song of twittering and chirping and trilling.

"There, I just enjoyed that!" she said, at last, stopping breathlessly. "When I'm way out at sea, mamma lets me whistle all I like."

"Isn't it getting near luncheon-time, auntie?" asked Eunice. "I'm dreadfully hungry."

"Luncheon-time, dear child! It's only nine o'clock," said auntie, consulting her watch.

"Don't get mixed up in the time as you did last summer, when you went blackberrying and came home at ten o'clock in the morning and thought it was six at night. Hard-a-lee!" as the boom swung around and they changed their course. Hilda, not realizing what this meant, did not duck her head in time, and consequently got a smart rap. Her hat was knocked off, but, being Hilda's, it did not go in the water. She never had any accidents.

"You must duck, instanter, when you hear me call," said Will. "Sometimes the boom has to go around very suddenly, and you have to look out for yourselves. Archie, you steer now for a while," and Archie took the helm.

The little sailboat skimmed along over the glittering water, and now they were well past Clark's Island. As they came near the Gurnet lights they decided that they would touch there first, and show Hilda the lighthouse, and then they could take as much time as they liked for their cruise outside.

The tide was out, and they could not get the little boat up near enough the shore to land dry-shod. So Will and Archie, having anchored the boat, pulled off shoes and stockings, rolled up their trousers, and jumped overboard.

"What are they going to do?" asked Hilda, watching with much interest these preparations, which the rest seemed to take as a matter of course.

"They will carry us ashore, because we don't want to get our feet wet," said Edna. "They often do."

"Carry us! why, I'd be scared to death!" exclaimed Hilda. "Are you really going to let them take you, Mrs. Somers?"

"Yes, indeed, and they know just how to manage," said Mrs. Somers. "I'll go now, children, so they can take the heaviest weight first."

Will and Archie, knee deep in water, stood up by the boat, and Will easily lifted his mother from the side of the boat, where she was standing. Then Archie got hold of her also, in some mysterious way, and, in a moment, she was safely sitting on a "lady's chair," made by the boys' clasped hands. They went carefully up over the rocks and stones, and deposited her, dry-shod. Then they came back for the girls.

"I can take these kids better alone, Arch," said Will, taking Eunice like a baby.

"I'll take Cricket," said Archie.

"No, you won't, sir, not one step," said that young lady, sitting down, resolutely. "I know you. I'd find myself in a crab hole in about a minute. I'll wait for Will."

"Come on, Hilda, then. That's a base libel, you know."

But it ended by Will's carrying them all in.

"There are drawbacks to being so popular," said Will, setting down Edna, who was the last, and wiping his face.

A lighthouse is always an interesting place to visit, and many times as the Somers children had been there, they always enjoyed the trip. Cricket and Eunice had never been there but three or four times before. The good-natured keeper took them all over and showed them everything, from the twin-lights at the top to the life-boats, for Hilda's benefit.

When they had seen everything that was to be seen they went down to the shore again, to re?mbark. It was easier getting back, for the boys made a lady's chair for each passenger, and together carried her safely over the shallows, where the water was beginning to rise. They sailed outside the bar for a short distance, and then it was time to eat their luncheon.

The luncheon was a royal banquet in point of plenty and variety, for Mrs. Maxwell's old cook knew, by long experience, just what sort of appetites the salt air made, and there were seven hungry mouths to feed. They feasted and chattered, until Auntie Jean suddenly announced that it was time to turn about, and go in.

"It's too early," said Edna.

"Not with this wind," said her mother. "We'll have to tack all the way, and I want to get in by five or six."

"It's such fun," sighed Cricket. "I hate to go in. I love the water out here, when it's all rough and rock-y. I'd like to keep right on to Cape Cod." She stood in the bow of the boat, with one arm around the mast-it was a catboat-with the breeze fluttering her curly hair about, and her dress blowing back stiffly.

"Cricket, please don't stand there any longer," called Auntie Jean. "You make me nervous. You'll be overboard in a minute, I know."

"No

, I won't, auntie, I've stood here heaps of times. I do love to feel the wind on my face. It makes one feel so gay."

"No, come back, please, dear. I feel safer with all my birds under my wings," answered auntie, for she knew Cricket of old.

Cricket turned, reluctantly, and at the same moment Will called "Hard-a-lee!" as the boom swung over, and the boat obeyed her helm, and came round. Cricket was still facing outward, and, as the boat keeled, she suddenly lost her balance, grasped at the mast which she had let go, missed it, and disappeared over the bows with a great splash. The boat swung away from her, fortunately, otherwise she might have been seriously hurt.

"Take the helm, Archie," shouted Will, as he tore off his shoes, and was over after her in a twinkling. Cricket rose to the surface, and struck out bravely, but her clothes hampered her, and she could do little more than keep herself up. In a few moments Will reached her, and Archie brought the boat around, so there were but a few strokes to swim before they could reach the oar which Edna and Eunice had seized and held out. By this they drew themselves up to the gunwale of the boat.

It all passed so quickly that in five minutes from the time when Auntie Jean had first spoken to Cricket, the dripping adventurers were in the boat again. There had been no real danger, for Cricket could easily have kept herself up till one of the boys could come to her, but the children felt very much excited, for all that, over the "rescue," as they called it.

In the small quarters of a little catboat, it is not exactly pleasant to have two dripping individuals as members of the crew, and the others began to draw themselves, feet and all, up on to the seat.

"Now, water-babies," began Auntie Jean, but Archie interrupted:

"Do pitch them out again, and let them swim home. They'll swamp the boat directly. Here, bail out, Edna," tossing her the sponge, which she caught and threw at Cricket, saying, "I can't get down in all that water. Your feet are wet, already, Cricket."

"It's too bad," said Cricket, meekly. "Couldn't you really tie a rope around me, auntie, and drag me along? I wouldn't mind. I couldn't swim all the way in, for I'd get tired, but I wouldn't mind being tied on behind."

"You're pretty bad, but we won't make a tow of you this time," said auntie, merrily. "I can't say what I'll do next time, though. Now we must get off those wet clothes, and wring them out, and hang them up to dry. You can put on your mackintosh."

Mackintoshes and shawls always formed part of the equipment of an all day's sail, since at any time a squall might come up. Edna and Eunice and Hilda held up a long shawl in a triangular fence around Cricket, while she got out of most of her clothes. Auntie rubbed her dry, and wrung out what she still had on, as best she could with another shawl, and then she put on her mackintosh. Will had also been getting rid of some of the superfluous water, but a boy's sailing dress is so beautifully simple that a wetting more or less does not matter. He took off his stockings, and hung them over the boom to dry, and presently Cricket's dress and petticoats fluttered beside them.

"Regular canal-boat style. Family wash drying on deck," said Archie, and then he hooted at Cricket as she appeared from behind the shawl. A little figure draped in a mackintosh is not a model for an artist.

"That's very becoming, young one," said Archie. "You look as fat as a match."

"A match for you, then," returned Cricket, serenely, for Archie had the proportions of a hairpin.

"I want to call a meeting of the Echo Club, immediately," said Will, standing up, "and I put the motion as president pro tem; that on any expedition in the future, of which Miss Jean Ward, usually called Cricket, is a member, that a wringing-machine be furnished and carried, at the club's expense."

"Who would you have to poke fun at, if you didn't have me?" demanded Cricket, quite undisturbed. "But I'll second the motion about the wringing-machine. I wonder why you didn't get as wet as I did?"

Another shout at this.

"I only got a little damp on the outside," said Will, politely. "I'll soon evaporate."

"You needn't all laugh," said Cricket, defensively. "I was in the water longer than he was, and so I didn't suppose he'd had time to get as wet through."

"I didn't," said Will, "only as far as my skin. I'm not porous."

They had been tacking all the time, back and forth, much to Hilda's amazement, who could not understand how that crab-like motion would ever bring them home. They were now coming past the Gurnet Lights.

"We can put in there, mother, if you like," suggested Archie, "and get the mermaid dried off, if you think best."

"It's really not necessary. Cricket is rubbed pretty dry, and one rarely takes cold in sea-water. Keep down in the bottom of the boat, Cricket, out of the breeze as much as you can."

"I'm just thinking to myself," said Will, "that in five minutes you'll be hunting for a breeze to sit in. It's certainly dying down."

"Will, if you becalm us out here in this broiling sun when you've forgotten to bring the other oar to row with, I'll never forgive you," exclaimed Edna.

"I haven't the least desire to do it, my lady," said Will, scanning the now cloudless sky, "but I think it's what we're in for. Have you anything left to eat in case we make a night of it, mother?"

"A night of it?" cried Hilda, in dismay. "Where would we sleep?"

"All curled up in little bundles in the bottom of the boat," cut in Archie. "It's not bad. Only it takes some time next day to get the kinks out of your legs."

"He's teasing you, my dear," said Mrs. Somers. "We won't be here all night, but it often happens that we are becalmed for several hours, and I really don't enjoy the prospect. Come, Will, whistle up the breeze."

"It's Cricket that does that," said Archie; "she always scares the wind into coming up immediately. There's a puff now. The very mention of Cricket's whistling does the business."

But the wind only freshened for a moment, then died down, and in ten minutes more they lay motionless on a glassy sea.

"Now here we'll stay," said Edna with a sigh, "until the sea-breeze springs up this afternoon at four or five. What time is it now? Two o'clock! Think of it!"

"The tide takes us along a little," said Mrs. Somers. "If we only had the other oar now!"

"Scull," suggested Edna.

"Too much work," said Archie; but, nevertheless, he adjusted the oar at the stern, and sculled a little. The boat moved very slowly forward.

"If we go six feet in an hour, how long will it take us to go seven miles?" propounded Eunice.

"Those questions are too difficult to be answered off-hand," said Will, sculling in his turn. "Sounds like Alice in Wonderland. If two boys eat a turkey at Thanksgiving, how many girls will eat a plum-pudding at Christmas?"

"I know a better one than that," put in Archie. "Two men set out simultaneously, at different times, on a journey, both being unable to travel. For two hours they kept ahead of each other, and then a snow-storm came up, and they both lost their way. Query: Which got there first?"

"How silly!" said Edna. "How could they set out simultaneously, at different times, mamma?"

"That's the question for your deep brain, Miss Wiseacre," said Archie. "Perhaps you're equal to this. If three men work all day on a fertile farm, what is the logarithm?"

"The lager-in-'em?" echoed Cricket. "Depends on how much they drank."

Whereupon Mrs. Somers and the boys laughed themselves sore, and the girls clamoured to know the joke.

"Cricket's a born joke," said Will, resuming his sculling. "You'll be the death of me, young one."

"I always see jokes when there are any to see," Cricket answered, with dignity. "You know I do, Mr. Will. I'm not just as worse as Edna."

"Just as bad, you mean," retorted Edna.

"Let's play some games, children," Mrs. Somers said, coming to the rescue. The children were all fond of games.

* * *

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