"Now, Aunt Sarah," pleaded Nan the next morning, "you might just as well wait and go home on the excursion train. All Meadow Brook will be down, and it will be so much pleasanter for you. The train will be here by noon and leave at three o'clock."
"But think of the hour that would bring us to Meadow Brook!" objected Aunt Sarah.
"Well, you will have lots of company, and if Uncle Daniel shouldn't meet you, you can ride up with the Hopkinses or anybody along your road."
Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Emily added their entreaties to Nan's, and Aunt Sarah finally agreed to wait.
"If I keep on," she said, "I'll be here all summer. And think of the fruit that's waiting to be preserved!"
"Hurrah!" shouted Bert, giving his aunt a good hug. "Then Harry and I can have a fine time with the Meadow Brook boys," and Bert dashed out to take the good news to Harry and Hal Bingham, who were out at the donkey house.
"Come on, fellows!" he called. "Down to the beach! We can have a swim before the crowd gets there." And with renewed interest the trio started off for the breakers.
"I would like to live at the beach all summer," remarked Harry. "Even in winter it must be fine here."
"It is," said Hal. "But the winds blow everything away regularly, and they all have to be carted back again each spring. This shore, with all its trimmings now, will look like a bald head by the first of December."
All three boys were fine swimmers, and they promptly struck off for the water that was "straightened out," as Bert said, beyond the tearing of the breakers at the edge. There were few people in the surf and the boys made their way around as if they owned the ocean.
Suddenly Hal thought he heard a call!
Then a man's arm appeared above the water's surface, a few yards away.
"Cramps," yelled Hal to Harry and Bert, while all three hurried to where the man's hand had been seen.
But it did not come up again.
"I'll dive down!" spluttered Hal, who had the reputation of being able to stay a long time under water.
It seemed quite a while to Bert and Harry before Hal came up again, but when he did he was trying to pull with him a big, fat man, who was all but unconscious.
"Can't move," gasped Hal, as the heavy burden was pulling him down.
Bit by bit the man with cramps gained a little strength, and with the boys' help he was towed in to shore.
There was not a life-guard in sight, and Hal had to hurry off to the pier for some restoratives, for the man was very weak. On his way, Hal met a guard who, of course, ran to the spot where Harry and Bert were giving the man artificial respiration.
"You boys did well!" declared the guard, promptly, seeing how hard they worked with the sick man.
"Yes--they saved--my life!" gasped the half-drowned man. "This little fellow"--pointing to Hal--"brought--me up--almost--from--the bottom!" and he caught his breath, painfully.
The man was assisted to a room at the end of the pier, and after a little while he became much better. Of course the boys did not stand around, being satisfied they could be of no more use.
"I must get those lads' names," declared the man to the guard. "Mine is ----," and he gave the name of the famous millionaire who had a magnificent summer home in another colony, three miles away.
"And you swam from the Cedars, Mr. Black," exclaimed the guard. "No wonder you got cramps."
An hour later the millionaire was walking the beach looking for the life-savers. He finally spied Hal.
"Here, there, you boy," he called, and Hal came in to the edge, but hardly recognized the man in street clothes.
"I want your name," demanded the stranger. "Do you know there are medals given to young heroes like you?"
"Oh, that was nothing," stammered Hal, quite confused now.
"Nothing! Why, I was about dead, and pulled on you with all my two hundred pounds. You knew, too, you had hardly a chance to bring me up. Yes, indeed, I want your name," and as he insisted, Hal reluctantly gave it, but felt quite foolish to make such a fuss "over nothing," as he said.
It was now about time for the excursion train to come in, so the boys left the water and prepared to meet their old friends.
"I hope Jack Hopkins comes," said Bert, for Jack was a great friend.
"Oh, he will be along," Harry remarked. "Nobody likes a good time better than Jack."
"Here they come!" announced Hal, the next minute, as a crowd of children with many lunch boxes came running down to the ocean.
"Hello there! Hello there!" called everybody at once, for, of course, all the children knew Harry and many also knew Bert.
There were Tom Mason, Jack Hopkins, August Stout, and Ned Prentice in the first crowd, while a number of girls, friends of Nan's, were in another group. Nan, Nellie, and Dorothy had been detained by somebody further up on the road, but were now coming down, slowly.
Such a delight as the ocean was to the country children!
As each roller slipped out on the sands the children unconsciously followed it, and so, many unsuspected pairs of shoes were caught by the next wave that washed in.
"Well, here comes Uncle Daniel!" called Bert, as, sure enough, down to the edge came Uncle Daniel with Dorothy holding on one arm, Nan clinging to the other, while Nellie carried his small satchel.
Santa Claus could hardly have been more welcome to the Bobbseys at that moment than was Uncle Daniel. They simply overpowered him, as the surprise of his coming made the treat so much better. The girls had "dragged him" down to the ocean, he said, when he had intended first going to Aunt Emily's.
"I must see the others," he insisted; "Freddie and Flossie."
"Oh, they are all coming down," Nan assured him. "Aunt Sarah, too, is coming."
"All right, then," agreed Uncle Daniel. "I'll wait awhile. Well, Harry, you look like an Indian. Can you see through that coat of tan?"
Harry laughed and said he had been an Indian in having a good time.
Presently somebody jumped up on Uncle Daniel's back. As he was sitting on the sands the shock almost brought him down. Of course it was Freddie, who was so overjoyed he really treated the good-natured uncle a little roughly.
"Freddie boy! Freddie boy!" exclaimed Uncle Daniel, giving his nephew a good long hug. "And you have turned Indian, too! Where's that sea-serpent you were going to catch for me?"
"I'll get him yet," declared the little fellow. "It hasn't rained hardly since we came down, and they only come in to land out of the rain."
This explanation made Uncle Daniel laugh heartily. The whole family sat around on the sands, and it was like being in the country and at the seashore at the one time, Flossie declared.
The boys, of course, were in the water. August Stout had not learned much about swimming since he fell off the plank while fishing in Meadow Brook, so that out in the waves the other boys had great fun with their fat friend.
"And there is Nettie Prentice!" exclaimed Nan, suddenly, as she espied her little country friend looking through the crowd, evidently searching for friends.
"Oh, Nan!" called Nettie, in delight, "I'm just as glad to see you as I am to see the ocean, and I never saw that before," and the two little girls exchanged greetings of genuine love for each other.
"Won't we have a perfectly splendid time?" declared Nan. "Dorothy, my cousin, is so jolly, and here's Nellie--you remember her?"
Of course Nettie did remember her, and now all the little girls went around hunting for fun in every possible corner where fun might be hidden.
As soon as the boys were satisfied with their bath they went in search of the big sun umbrellas, so that Uncle William, Aunt Emily, Mrs. Bobbsey, and Aunt Sarah might sit under the sunshades, while eating lunch. Then the boys got long boards and arranged them from bench to bench in picnic style, so that all the Meadow Brook friends might have a pleasant time eating their box lunches.
"Let's make lemonade," suggested Hal. "I know where I can get a pail of nice clean water."
"I'll buy the lemons," offered Harry.
"I'll look after sugar," put in Bert.
"And I'll do the mixing," declared August Stout, while all set to work to produce the wonderful picnic lemonade.
"Now, don't go putting in white sand instead of sugar," teased Uncle Daniel, as the "caterers," with sleeves rolled up, worked hard over the lemonade.
"What can we use for cups ?" asked Nan.
"Oh, I know," said Harry, "over at the Indian stand they have a lot of gourds, the kind of mock oranges that Mexicans drink out of. I can buy them for five cents each, and after the picnic we can bring them home and hang them up for souvenirs."
"Just the thing!" declared Hal, who had a great regard for things that hang up and look like curios. "I'll go along and help you make the bargain."
When the boys came back they had a dozen of the funny drinking cups.
The long crooked handles were so queer that each person tried to get the cup to his or her mouth in a different way.
"We stopped at the hydrant and washed the gourds thoroughly," declared Hal, "so you need not expect to find any Mexican diamonds in them."
"Or tarantulas," put in Uncle Daniel.
"What's them?" asked Freddie, with an ear for anything that sounded like a menagerie.
"A very bad kind of spider, that sometimes comes in fruit from other countries," explained Uncle Daniel. Then Nan filled his gourd from the dipper that stood in the big pail of lemonade, and he smacked his lips in appreciation.
There was so much to do and so much to see that the few hours allowed the excursionists slipped by all too quickly. Dorothy ran away and soon returned with her donkey cart, to take Nettie Prentice and a few of Nettie's friends for a ride along the beach. Nan and Nellie did not go, preferring to give the treat to the little country girls.
"Now don't go far," directed Aunt Emily, for Aunt Sarah and Uncle Daniel were already leaving the beach to make ready for the train. Of course Harry and Aunt Sarah were all "packed up" and had very little to do at Aunt Emily's before starting.
Hal and Bert were sorry, indeed, to have Harry go, for Harry was such a good leader in outdoor sports, his country training always standing by him in emergencies.
Finally Dorothy came back with the girls from their ride, and the people were beginning to crowd into the long line of cars that waited on a switch near the station.
"Now, Nettie, be sure to write to me," said Nan, bidding her little friend good-by.
"And come down next year," insisted Dorothy.
"I had such a lovely time," declared Nettie. "I'm sure I will come again if I can."
The Meadow Brook Bobbseys had secured good seats in the middle car,--Aunt Sarah thought that the safest,--and now the locomotive whistle was tooting, calling the few stragglers who insisted on waiting at the beach until the very last minute.
Freddie wanted to cry when he realized that Uncle Daniel, Aunt Sarah, and even Harry were going away, but with the promises of meeting again Christmas, and possibly Thanksgiving, all the good-bys were said, and the excursion train puffed out on its long trip to dear old Meadow Brook, and beyond.
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