FictionForest

Chapter 22 – A Happy Day

Louisa May AlcottNov 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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"Oh dear! Only a week more, and then we must go back. Don’t you
hate the thoughts of it?" said Jack, as he was giving Jill her early
walk on the beach one August morning.

"Yes, it will be dreadful to leave Gerty and Mamie and all the nice
people. But I’m so much better I won’t have to be shut up again,
even if I don’t go to school. How I long to see Merry and Molly.
Dear things, if it wasn’t for them I should hate going home more
than you do," answered Jill, stepping along quite briskly, and
finding it very hard to resist breaking into a skip or a run, she felt
so well and gay.

"Wish they could be here to-day to see the fun," said Jack, for it
was the anniversary of the founding of the place, and the people
celebrated it by all sorts of festivity.

"I did want to ask Molly, but your mother is so good to me I
couldn’t find courage to do it. Mammy told me not to ask for a
thing, and I’m sure I don’t get a chance. I feel just as if I was your
truly born sister, Jack."

"That’s all right, I’m glad you do," answered Jack, comfortably,
though his mind seemed a little absent and his eyes twinkled when
she spoke of Molly. "Now, you sit in the cubby-house, and keep
quiet till the boat comes in. Then the fun will begin, and you must
be fresh and ready to enjoy it. Don’t run off, now, I shall want to
know where to find you by and by."

"No more running off, thank you. I’ll stay here till you come, and
finish this box for Molly; she has a birthday this week, and I’ve
written to ask what day, so I can send it right up and surprise her."

Jack’s eyes twinkled more than ever as he helped Jill settle herself
in the boat, and then with a whoop he tore over the beach, as if
practising for the race which was to come off in the afternoon.

Jill was so busy with her work that time went quickly, and the
early boat came in just as the last pink shell was stuck in its place.
Putting the box in the sun to dry, she leaned out of her nook to
watch the gay parties land, and go streaming up the pier along the
road that went behind the bank that sheltered her. Flocks of
children were running about on the sand, and presently strangers
appeared, eager to see and enjoy all the delights of this gala-day.

"There’s a fat little boy who looks ever so much like Boo," said Jill
to herself, watching the people and hoping they would not come
and find her, since she had promised to stay till Jack returned.

The fat little boy was staring about him in a blissful sort of maze,
holding a wooden shovel in one hand and the skirts of a young girl
with the other. Her back was turned to Jill, but something in the
long brown braid with a fly-away blue bow hanging down her back
looked very familiar to Jill. So did the gray suit and the Japanese
umbrella; but the hat was strange, and while she was thinking how
natural the boots looked, the girl turned round.

"Why, how much she looks like Molly! It can’t be – yes, it might, I
do believe it is!" cried Jill, starting up and hardly daring to trust
her own eyes.

As she came out of her nest and showed herself, there could be no
doubt about the other girl, for she gave one shout and came racing
over the beach with both arms out, while her hat blew off
unheeded, and the gay umbrella flew away, to the great delight of
all the little people except Boo, who was upset by his sister’s
impetuous rush, and lay upon his back howling. Molly did not do
all the running, though, and Jill got her wish, for, never stopping to
think of herself, she was off at once, and met her friend half-way
with an answering cry. It was a pretty sight to see them run into
one another’s arms and hug and kiss and talk and skip in such a
state of girlish joy they never cared who saw or laughed at their
innocent raptures.

"You darling dear! where did you come from?" cried Jill, holding
Molly by both shoulders, and shaking her a little to be sure she was
real.

"Mrs. Minot sent for us to spend a week. You look so well, I can’t
believe my eyes!" answered Molly, patting Jill’s cheeks and kissing
them over and over, as if to make sure the bright color would not
come off.

"A week? How splendid! Oh, I’ve such heaps to tell and show you;
come right over to my cubby and see how lovely it is," said Jill,
forgetting everybody else in her delight at getting Molly.

"I must get poor Boo, and my hat and umbrella, I left them all
behind me when I saw you," laughed Molly, looking back.

But Mrs. Minot and Jack had consoled Boo and collected the
scattered property, so the girls went on arm in arm, and had a fine
time before any one had the heart to disturb them. Molly was
charmed with the boat, and Jill very glad the box was done in
season. Both had so much to tell and hear and plan, that they
would have sat there for ever if bathing-time had not come, and
the beach suddenly looked like a bed of red and yellow tulips, for
every one took a dip, and the strangers added much to the fun.

Molly could swim like a duck, and quite covered herself with glory
by diving off the pier. Jack undertook to teach Boo, who was a
promising pupil, being so plump that he could not sink if he tried.
Jill was soon through, and lay on the sand enjoying the antics of
the bathers till she was so faint with laughter she was glad to hear
the dinner-horn and do the honors of the Willows to Molly, whose
room was next hers.

Boat-races came first in the afternoon, and the girls watched them,
sitting luxuriously in the nest, with the ladies and children close
by. The sailing-matches were very pretty to see; but Molly and Jill
were more interested in the rowing, for Frank and the bicycle boy
pulled one boat, and the friends felt that this one must win. It did,
though the race was not very exciting nor the prize of great worth;
but the boys and girls were satisfied, and Jack was much exalted,
for he always told Frank he could do great things if he would only
drop books and "go in on his muscle."

Foot-races followed, and, burning to distinguish himself also, Jack
insisted on trying, though his mother warned him that the weak leg
might be harmed, and he had his own doubts about it, as he was all
out of practice. However, he took his place with a handkerchief
tied round his head, red shirt and stockings, and his sleeves rolled
up as if he meant business. Jill and Molly could not sit still during
this race, and stood on the bank quite trembling with excitement as
the half-dozen runners stood in a line at the starting-post waiting
for the word "Go!"

Off they went at last over the smooth beach to the pole with the
flag at the further end, and every one watched them with mingled
interest and merriment, for they were a droll set, and the running
not at all scientific with most of them. One young fisherman with
big boots over his trousers started off at a great pace, pounding
along in the most dogged way, while a little chap in a tight
bathing-suit with very thin legs skimmed by him, looking so like a
sand-piper it was impossible to help laughing at both. Jack’s
former training stood him in good stead now; for he went to work
in professional style, and kept a steady trot till the flagpole had
been passed, then he put on his speed and shot ahead of all the
rest, several of whom broke down and gave up. But Cox and
Bacon held on gallantly; and soon it was evident that the sturdy
legs in the knickerbockers were gaining fast, for Jack gave his
ankle an ugly wrench on a round pebble, and the weak knee began
to fail. He did his best, however, and quite a breeze of enthusiasm
stirred the spectators as the three boys came down the course like
mettlesome horses, panting, pale, or purple, but each bound to win
at any cost.

"Now, Bacon!" "Go it, Minot!" "Hit him up, Cox!" "Jack’s ahead!" "No,
he isn’t!" "Here they come!" "Bacon’s done it!" shouted the other
boys, and they were right; Bacon had won, for the gray legs came
in just half a yard ahead of the red ones, and Minot tumbled into
his brother’s arms with hardly breath enough left to gasp out,
good-humoredly, "All right, I’m glad he beat!"

Then the victor was congratulated and borne off by his friends to
refresh himself, while the lookers-on scattered to see a game of
tennis and the shooting of the Archery Club up at the hotel. Jack
was soon rested, and, making light of his defeat, insisted on taking
the girls to see the fun. So they drove up in the old omnibus, and
enjoyed the pretty sight very much; for the young ladies were in
uniform, and the broad green ribbons over the white dresses, the
gay quivers, long bows, and big targets, made a lively scene. The
shooting was good; a handsome damsel got the prize of a dozen
arrows, and every one clapped in the most enthusiastic manner.

Molly and Jill did not care about tennis, so they went home to rest
and dress for the evening, because to their minds the dancing, the
illumination, and the fireworks were the best fun of all. Jill’s white
bunting with cherry ribbons was very becoming, and the lively feet
in the new slippers patted the floor impatiently as the sound of
dance music came down to the Willows after tea, and the other
girls waltzed on the wide piazza because they could not keep still.

"No dancing for me, but Molly must have a good time. You’ll see
that she does, won’t you, boys?" said Jill, who knew that her share
of the fun would be lying on a settee and watching the rest enjoy
her favorite pastime.

Frank and Jack promised, and kept their word handsomely; for
there was plenty of room in the great dancing-hall at the hotel, and
the band in the pavilion played such inspiring music that, as the
bicycle boy said, "Every one who had a leg couldn’t help shaking
it." Molly was twirled about to her heart’s content, and flew hither
and thither like a blue butterfly; for all the lads liked her, and she
kept running up to tell Jill the funny things they said and did.

As night darkened from all the houses in the valley, on the cliffs
and along the shore lights shone and sparkled; for every one
decorated with gay lanterns, and several yachts in the bay strung
colored lamps about the little vessels, making a pretty picture on
the quiet sea. Jill thought she had never seen anything so like
fairy-land, and felt very like one in a dream as she drove slowly up
and down with Mamie, Gerty, Molly, and Mrs. Cox in the carriage,
so that she might see it all without too much fatigue. It was very
lovely; and when rockets began to whizz, filling the air with
golden rain, a shower of colored stars, fiery dragons, or glittering
wheels, the girls could only shriek with delight, and beg to stay a
little longer each time the prudent lady proposed going home.

It had to be at last; but Molly and Jill comforted themselves by a
long talk in bed, for it was impossible to sleep with glares of light
coming every few minutes, flocks of people talking and tramping
by in the road, and bursts of music floating down to them as the
older but not wiser revellers kept up the merriment till a late hour.
They dropped off at last; but Jill had the nightmare, and Molly
was waked up by a violent jerking of her braid as Jill tried to tow
her along, dreaming she was a boat.

They were too sleepy to laugh much then, but next morning they
made merry over it, and went to breakfast with such happy faces
that all the young folks pronounced Jill’s friend a most delightful
girl. What a good time Molly did have that week! Other people
were going to leave also, and therefore much picnicking, boating,
and driving was crowded into the last days. Clambakes on the
shore, charades in the studio, sewing-parties at the boat, evening
frolics in the big dining-room, farewell calls, gifts, and invitations,
all sorts of plans for next summer, and vows of eternal friendship
exchanged between people who would soon forget each other. It
was very pleasant, till poor Boo innocently added to the
excitement by poisoning a few of his neighbors with a bad lobster.

The ambitious little soul pined to catch one of these mysterious
but lovely red creatures, and spent days fishing on the beach,
investigating holes and corners, and tagging after the old man who
supplied the house. One day after a high wind he found several
"lobs" washed up on the beach, and, though disappointed at their
color, he picked out a big one, and set off to show his prize to
Molly. Half-way home he met the old man on his way with a
basket of fish, and being tired of lugging his contribution laid it
with the others, meaning to explain later. No one saw him do it, as
the old man was busy with his pipe; and Boo ran back to get more
dear lobs, leaving his treasure to go into the kettle and appear at
supper, by which time he had forgotten all about it.

Fortunately none of the children ate any, but several older people
were made ill, and quite a panic prevailed that night as one after
the other called up the doctor, who was boarding close by; and
good Mrs. Grey, the hostess, ran about with hot flannels, bottles of
medicine, and distracted messages from room to room. All were
comfortable by morning, but the friends of the sufferers lay in wait
for the old fisherman, and gave him a good scolding for his
carelessness. The poor man was protesting his innocence when
Boo, who was passing by, looked into the basket, and asked what
had become of his lob. A few questions brought the truth to light,
and a general laugh put every one in good humor, when poor Boo
mildly said, by way of explanation, –

"I fought I was helpin’ Mrs. Dray, and I did want to see the dreen
lob come out all red when she boiled him. But I fordot, and I don’t
fink I’ll ever find such a nice big one any more."

"For our sakes, I hope you won’t, my dear," said Mrs. Hammond,
who had been nursing one of the sufferers.

"It’s lucky we are going home to-morrow, or that child would be
the death of himself and everybody else. He is perfectly crazy
about fish, and I’ve pulled him out of that old lobster-pot on the
beach a dozen times," groaned Molly, much afflicted by the
mishaps of her young charge.

There was a great breaking up next day, and the old omnibus went
off to the station with Bacon hanging on behind, the bicycle boy
and his iron whirligig atop, and heads popping out of all the
windows for last good-byes. Our party and the Hammonds were
going by boat, and were all ready to start for the pier when Boo
and little Harry were missing. Molly, the maid, and both boys ran
different ways to find them; and all sorts of dreadful suggestions
were being made when shouts of laughter were heard from the
beach, and the truants appeared, proudly dragging in Harry’s little
wagon a dead devil-fish, as the natives call that ugly thing which
looks like a magnified tadpole – all head and no body.

"We’ve dot him!" called the innocents, tugging up their prize with
such solemn satisfaction it was impossible to help laughing.

"I always wanted to tatch a whale, and this is a baby one, I fink. A
boy said, when they wanted to die they comed on the sand and did
it, and we saw this one go dead just now. Ain’t he pretty?" asked
Boo, displaying the immense mouth with fond pride, while his
friend flapped the tail.

"What are you going to do with him?" said Mrs. Hammond,
regarding her infant as if she often asked herself the same question
about her boy.

"Wap him up in a paper and tate him home to pay wid," answered
Harry, with such confidence in his big blue eyes that it was very
hard to disappoint his hopes and tell him the treasure must be left
behind.

Wails of despair burst from both children as the hard-hearted boys
tipped out the little whale, and hustled the indignant fishermen on
board the boat, which had been whistling for them impatiently.
Boo recovered his spirits first, and gulping down a sob that nearly
shook his hat off, consoled his companion in affliction and
convulsed his friends by taking from his pocket several little crabs,
the remains of a jelly-fish, and such a collection of pebbles that
Frank understood why he found the fat boy such a burden when he
shouldered him, kicking and howling, in the late run to the boat.
These delicate toys healed the wounds of Boo and Harry, and they
were soon happily walking the little "trabs" about inside a stone
wall of their own building, while the others rested after their
exertions, and laid plans for coming to the Willows another year,
as people usually did who had once tasted the wholesome delights
and cordial hospitality of this charming place.

 

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