Chapter X. The Shell Hunt




"Now, all ready for the hunting expedition," called Uncle William, very early the next morning, he having taken a day away from his office in the city, to enjoy himself with the Bobbseys at the seashore.

It was to be a long journey, so Aunt Emily thought it wise to take the donkey cart, so that the weary travelers, as they fell by the wayside, might be put in the cart until refreshed. Besides, the shells and things could be brought home in the cart. Freddie expected to capture a real sea serpent, and Dorothy declared she would bring back a whale. Nellie had an idea she would find something valuable, maybe a diamond, that some fish had swallowed in mistake for a lump of sugar at the bottom of the sea. So, with pleasant expectations, the party started off, Bert and Hal acting as guides, and leading the way.

"If you feel like climbing down the rocks here we can walk all along the edge," said Hal. "But be careful!" he cautioned, "the rocks are awfully slippery. Dorothy will have to go on ahead down the road with the donkeys, and we can meet her at the Point."

Freddie and Flossie went along with Dorothy, as the descent was considered too dangerous for the little ones. Dorothy let Freddie drive to make up for the fun the others had sliding down the rocks.

Uncle Daniel started down the cliffs first, and close behind him came Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Emily. Nan and Nellie took another path, if a small strip of jagged rock could be called a path, while Hal and Bert scaled down over the very roughest part, it seemed to the girls.

"Oh, mercy!" called Nan, as a rock slipped from under her foot and she promptly slipped after it. "Nellie, give me your hand or I'll slide into the ocean!"

Nellie tried to cross over to Nan, but in doing so she lost her footing and fell, then turned over twice, and only stopped as she came in contact with Uncle William's heels.

"Are you hurt?" everybody asked at once, but Nellie promptly jumped up, showing the toss had not injured her in the least.

"I thought I was going to get an unexpected bath that time," she said, laughing, "only for Mr. Minturn interfering. I saw a star in each heel of his shoe," she declared' "and I was never before glad to bump my nose."

Without further accident the party reached the sands, and saw Dorothy and the little ones a short distance away. Freddie had already filled his cap with little shells, and Flossie was busy selecting some of the finest from a collection she had made.

"Let's dig," said Hal to Bert. "There are all sorts of mussels, crabs, clams, and oysters around here. The fisheries are just above that point."

So the boys began searching in the wet sand, now and then bringing up a "fairy crab" or a baby clam.

"Here's an oyster," called Nellie, coming up with the shellfish in her hand. It was a large oyster and had been washed quite clean by the noisy waves.

"Let's open it," said Hal. "Shall I, Nellie?"

"Yes, if you want to," replied the girl, indifferently, for she did not care about the little morsel. Hal opened it easily with his knife, and then he asked who was hungry.

"Oh, see here!" he called, suddenly. "What this? It looks like a pearl."

"Let me see," said Mr. Minturn, taking the little shell in his hand, and turning out the oyster. "Yes, that surely is a pearl. Now, Nellie, you have a prize. Sometimes these little pearls are quite valuable. At any rate, you can have it set in a ring," declared Mr. Minturn.

"Oh, let me see," pleaded Dorothy. "I've always looked for pearls, and never could find one. How lucky you are, Nellie. It's worth some money."

"Maybe it isn't a pearl at all," objected Nellie, hardly believing that anything of value could be picked up so easily.

"Yes, it is," declared Mr. Minturn. "I've seen that kind before. I'll take care of it for you, and find out what it is worth," and he very carefully sealed the tiny speck in an envelope which he put in his pocketbook.

After that everybody wanted to dig for oysters, but it seemed the one that Nellie found had been washed in somehow, for the oyster beds were out in deeper water. Yet, every time Freddie found a clam or a mussel, he wanted it opened to look for pearls.

"Let us get a box of very small shells and we can string them for necklaces," suggested Nan. "We can keep them for Christmas gifts too, if we string them well."

"Oh, I've got enough for beads and bracelets," declared Flossie, for, indeed, she had lost no time in filling her box with the prettiest shells to be found on the sands.

"Oh, I see a net," called Bert, running toward a lot of driftwood in which an old net was tangled. Bert soon disentangled it and it proved to be a large piece of seine, the kind that is often used to decorate walls in libraries.

"Just what I wanted!" he declared. "And smell the salt. I will always have the ocean in my room now, for I can close my eyes and smell the salt water."

"It is a good piece," declared Hal. "You were lucky to find it. Those sell for a couple of dollars to art dealers."

"Well, I won't sell mine at any price," Bert said. "I've been wishing for a net to put back of my swords and Indian arrows. They make a fine decoration."

The grown folks had come up now, and all agreed the seine was a very pretty one.

"Well, I declare!" said Uncle William, "I have often looked for a piece of net and never could get that kind. You and Nellie were the lucky ones to-day."

"Oh, oh, oh!" screamed Freddie. "What's that?" and before he had a chance to think, he ran down to the edge of the water to meet a big barrel that had been washed in.

"Look out!" screamed Bert, but Freddie was looking in, and at that moment the water washed in right over Freddie's shoes, stockings, and all.

"Oh!" screamed everybody in chorus, for the next instant a stronger wave came in and knocked Freddie down. Quick as a flash Dorothy, who was nearest the edge, jumped in after Freddie, for as the wave receded the little boy fell in again, and might have been washed out into real danger if he had not been promptly rescued.

But as it was he was dripping wet, even his curls had been washed, and his linen suit looked just like one of Dinah's dish towels. Dorothy, too, was wet to the knees, but she did not mind that. The day was warming up and she could get along without shoes or stockings until she reached home.

"Freddie's always fallin' in," gasped Flossie, who was always getting frightened at her twin brother's accidents.

"Well, I get out, don't I?" pouted Freddie, not feeling very happy in his wet clothing.

"Now we must hurry home," insisted Mrs. Bobbsey, as she put Freddie in the donkey cart, while Dorothy, after pulling off her wet shoes and stockings, put a robe over her feet, whipped up the donkeys, Doodle and Dandy, and with Freddie and Flossie in the seat of the cart, the shells and net in the bottom, started off towards the cliffs, there to fix Freddie up in dry clothing. Of course he was not "wet to the skin," as he said, but his shoes and stockings were soaked, and his waist was wet, and that was enough. Five minutes later Dorothy pulled up the donkeys at the kitchen door, where Dinah took Freddie in her arms, and soon after fixed him up.

"You is de greatest boy for fallin' in," she declared. "Nebber saw sech a faller. But all de same you'se Dinah's baby boy," and kind-hearted Dinah rubbed Freddie's feet well, so he would not take cold; then, with fresh clothing, she made him just as comfortable and happy as he had been when he had started out shell hunting.



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