Chapter XI. Downy on the Ocean




"Harry is coming to-day," Bert told Freddie, on the morning following the shell hunt, "and maybe Aunt Sarah will come with him. I'm going to get the cart now to drive over to the station. You may come along, Freddie, mother said so. Get your cap and hurry up," and Bert rushed off to the donkey barn to put Doodle and Dandy in harness.

Freddie was with Bert as quickly as he could grab his cap off the rack, and the two brothers promptly started for the station.

"I hope they bring peaches," Freddie said, thinking of the beautiful peaches in the Meadow Brook orchard that had not been quite ripe when the Bobbseys left the country for the seaside.

Numbers of people were crowded around the station when the boys got there, as the summer season was fast waning, so that Bert and Freddie had hard work to get a place near the platform for their cart.

"That's the train!" cried Bert. "Now watch out so that we don't miss them in the crowd," and the older brother jumped out of the cart to watch the faces as they passed along.

"There he is," cried Freddie, clapping his hands. "Harry! Harry! Aunt Sarah!" he called, until everybody around the station was looking at him.

"Here we are!" exclaimed Aunt Sarah the next minute, having heard Freddie's voice, and followed it to the cart.

"I'm so glad you came," declared Bert to Harry.

"And I'm awfully glad you came," Freddie told Aunt Sarah, when she stopped kissing him.

"But we cannot ride in that little cart," Aunt Sarah said, as Bert offered to help her in.

"Oh, yes, you can," Bert assured her. "These donkeys are very strong, and so is the cart. Put your satchel right in here," and he shoved the valise up in front, under the seat.

"But we have a basket of peaches somewhere," said Aunt Sarah. "They came in the baggage car."

"Oh goody! goody!" cried Freddie, clapping his little brown hands. "Let's get them."

"No, we had better have them sent over," Bert insisted, knowing that the basket would take up too much room, also that Freddie might want to sample the peaches first, and so make trouble in the small cart. Much against his will the little fellow left the peaches, and started off for the cliffs.

The girls, Dorothy, Nellie, and Nan, were waiting at the driveway, and all shouted a welcome to the people from Meadow Brook.

"You just came in time," declared Dorothy. "We are going to have a boat carnival tomorrow, and they expect it will be lovely this year."

Aunt Emily and Mrs. Bobbsey met the others now, and extended such a hearty welcome, there could be no mistaking how pleased they all were to see Harry and Aunt Sarah. As soon as Harry had a chance to lay his traveling things aside Bert and Freddie began showing him around.

"Come on down to the lake, first," Bert insisted. "Hal Bingham may have his canoe out. He's a fine fellow, and we have splendid times together."

"And you'll see my duck, Downy," said Freddie. "Oh, he's growed so big--he's just like a turkey."

Harry thought Downy must be a queer duck if he looked that way, but, of course, he did not question Freddie's description.

"Here, Downy, Downy!" called Freddie, as they came to the little stream where the duck always swam around. But there was no duck to be seen.

"Where is he?" Freddie asked, anxiously.

"Maybe back of some stones," ventured Harry. Then he and Bert joined in the search, but no duck was to be found.

"That's strange," Bert reflected. "He's always around here."

"Where does the lake run to?" Harry inquired.

"Into the ocean," answered Bert; "but Downy never goes far. There's Hal now. We'll get in his boat and see if we can find the duck."

Hal, seeing his friends, rowed in to the shore with his father's new rowboat that he was just trying.

"We have lost Freddie's duck," said Bert. "Have you seen him anywhere?"

"No, I just came out," replied Hal. "But get in and we'll go look for him."

"This is my Cousin Harry I told you about," said Bert, introducing Harry, and the two boys greeted each other, cordially.

All four got into the boat, and Harry took care of Freddie while the other boys rowed.

"Oh. I'm afraid someone has stoled Downy," cried Freddie, "and maybe they'll make--make--pudding out of him."

"No danger," said Hal, laughing. "No one around here would touch your duck. But he might have gotten curious to see the ocean. He certainly doesn't seem to be around here."

The boys had reached the line where the little lake went in a tunnel under a road, and then opened out into the ocean.

"We'll have to leave the boat here," said Hal, "and go and ask people if Downy came down this way."

Tying up the boat to a stake, the boys crossed the bridge, and made their way through the crowd of bathers down to the waves.

"Oh, oh!" screamed Freddie. "I see him! There he is!" and sure enough, there was Downy, like a tiny speck, rolling up and down on the waves, evidently having a fine swim, and not being in the least alarmed at the mountains of water that came rolling in.

"Oh, how can we get him?" cried Freddie, nearly running into the water in his excitement.

"I don't know," Hal admitted. "He's pretty far out."

Just then a life-saver came along. Freddie always insisted the life-guards were not white people, because they were so awfully browned from the sun, and really, this one looked like some foreigner, for he was almost black.

"What's the trouble?" he asked, seeing Freddie's distress.

"Oh, Downy is gone!" cried the little fellow in tears now.

"Gone!" exclaimed the guard, thinking Downy was some boy who had swam out too far.

"Yes, see him out there," sobbed Freddie, and before the other boys had a chance to tell the guard that Downy was only a duck, the life-saver was in his boat, and pulling out toward the spot where Freddie said Downy was "downing"!

"There's someone drowning!" went up the cry all around. Then numbers of men and boys, who had been bathing, plunged into the waves, and followed the life-saver out to the deeper water.

It was useless for Harry, Hal, or Bert to try to explain to anyone about the duck, for the action of the life-saver told a different story. Another guard had come down to the beach now, and was getting his ropes ready, besides opening up the emergency case, that was locked in the boat on the shore.

"Wait till they find out," whispered Hal to Bert, watching the guard in the boat nearing the white speck on the waves. It was a long ways out, but the boys could see the guard stop rowing.

"He's got him," shouted the crowd, also seeing the guard pick something out of the water. "I guess he had to lay him in the bottom of the boat."

"Maybe he's dead!" the people said, still believing the life-saver had been after some unfortunate swimmer.

"Oh, he's got him! He's got him!" cried Freddie, joyfully, still keeping up the mistake for the sightseers.

As the guard in the boat had his back to shore, and pulled in that way, even his companion on land had not yet discovered his mistake, and he waited to help revive whoever lay in the bottom of the boat.

The crowd pressed around so closely now that Freddie's toes were painfully trampled upon.

"He's mine," cried the little fellow. "Let me have him."

"It's his brother," whispered a sympathetic boy, almost in tears. "Let him get over by the boat," and so the crowd made room for Freddie, as the life-saver pulled up on the beach.

The people held their breath.

"He's dead!" insisted a number, when there was no move in the bottom of the boat. Then the guard stooped down and brought up--Downy!

"Only a duck!" screamed all the boys in the crowd, while the other life-saver laughed heartily over his preparations to restore a duck to consciousness.

"He's mine! He's mine!" insisted Freddie, as the life-saver fondled the pretty white duck, and the crowd cheered.

"Yes, he does belong to my little brother," Bert said, "and he didn't mean to fool you at all. It was just a mistake," the older brother apologized.

"Oh, I know that," laughed the guard. "But when we think there is any danger we don't wait for particulars. He's a very pretty duck all the same, and a fine swimmer, and I'm glad I got him for the little fellow, for likely he would have kept on straight out to smooth water. Then he would never have tried to get back."

The guard now handed Downy over to his young owner, and without further remarks than "Thank you," Freddie started off through the crowd, while everybody wanted to see the wonderful duck. The joke caused no end of fun, and it took Harry, Hal, and Bert to save Freddie and Downy from being too roughly treated, by the boys who were over-curious to see both the wonderful duck and the happy owner.



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