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"Beach Junction! All off for the Junction!" called the train men, while the Bobbseys and Mrs. Manily hurried out to the small station, where numbers of carriages waited to take passengers to their cottages on the cliffs or by the sea.
"Sure we haven't forgotten anything?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, taking a hasty inventory of the hand baggage.
"Bert's got Snoop and I've got Downy," answered Freddie, as if the animals were all that counted.
"And I've got my hatbox and flowers," added Nan.
"And I have my ferns," said little Flossie.
"I guess we're all here this time," Mr. Bobbsey finished, for nothing at all seemed to be missing.
It was almost nightfall, and the beautiful glow of an ocean sunset rested over the place. At the rear of the station an aged stage driver sat nodding on his turnout. The stage coach was an "old timer," and had carried many a merry party of sightseers through the sandy roads of Oceanport and Sunset Beach, while Hank, the driver, called out all spots of interest along the way. And Hank had a way of making things interesting.
"Pike's Peak," he would call out for Cliff Hill.
"The Giant's Causeway," he would announce for Rocky Turn.
And so Hank was a very popular stage driver, and never had to look for trade--it always came to him.
"That's our coach," said Mr. Bobbsey, espying Hank. "Hello there! Going to the beach?" he called to the sleepy driver.
"That's for you to say," replied Hank, straightening up.
"Could we get to Ocean Cliff--Minturn's place--before dark?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, noticing how rickety the old stagecoach was.
"Can't promise," answered Hank, "but you can just pile in and we'll try it."
There was no choice, so the party "piled" into the carryall.
"Isn't this fun?" remarked Mrs. Manily, taking her seat up under the front window. "It's like going on a May ride."
"I'm afraid it will be a moonlight ride at this rate," laughed Mr. Bobbsey, as the stagecoach started to rattle on. Freddie wanted to sit in front with Hank but Mrs. Bobbsey thought it safer inside, for, indeed, the ride was risky enough, inside or out. As they joggled on the noise of the wheels grew louder and louder, until our friends could only make themselves heard by screaming at each other.
"Night is coming," called Mrs. Bobbsey, and Dinah said: "Suah 'nough we be out in de night dis time."
It seemed as if the old horses wanted to stand still, they moved so slowly, and the old wagon creaked and cracked until Hank, himself, turned round, looked in the window, and shouted:
"All right there?"
"Guess so," called back Mr. Bobbsey, "but we don't see the ocean yet."
"Oh, we'll get there," drawled Hank, lazily.
"We should have gone all the way by train," declared Mrs. Bobbsey, in alarm, as the stage gave one squeak louder than the others.
"Haven't you got any lanterns?" shouted Mr. Bobbsey to Hank, for it was pitch-dark now.
"Never use one," answered the driver. "When it's good and dark the moon will come up, but we'll be there 'fore that. Get 'long there, Doll!" he called to one horse. "Go 'long, Kit!" he urged the other.
The horses did move a little faster at that, then suddenly something snapped and the horses turned to one side.
"Whoa! Whoa!" called Hank, jerking on the reins. But it was too late! The stage coach was in a hole! Several screamed.
"Sit still!" called Mr. Bobbsey to the excited party. "It's only a broken shaft and the coach can't upset now."
Flossie began to cry. It was so dark and black in that hole.
Hank looked at the broken wagon.
"Well, we're done now," he announced, with as little concern as if the party had been safely landed on Aunt Emily's piazza, instead of in a hole on the roadside.
"Do you mean to say you can't fix it up?" Mr. Bobbsey almost gasped.
"Not till I get the stage to the blacksmith's," replied Hank.
"Then, what are we going to do?" Mr. Bobbsey asked, impatiently.
"Well, there's an empty barn over there," Hank answered. "The best thing you can do is pitch your tent there till I get back with another wagon."
"Barn!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey.
"How long will it take you to get a wagon?" demanded Mr. Bobbsey.
"Not long," said Hank, sprucing up a trifle. "You just get yourselves comfortable in that there barn. I'll get the coach to one side, and take a horse down to Sterritt's. He'll let me have a horse and a wagon, and I'll be back as soon as I kin make it."
"There seems nothing else to do," Mr. Bobbsey said. "We may as well make the best of it."
"Why, yes," Mrs. Manily spoke up, "we can pretend we are having a barn dance." And she smiled, faintly.
Nevertheless, it was not very jolly to make their way to the barn in the dark. Dinah had to carry Freddie, he was so sleepy; Mrs. Manily took good care of Flossie. But, of course, there was the duck and the cat, that could not be very safely left in the broken-down stagecoach.
"Say, papa!" Bert exclaimed, suddenly, "I saw an old lantern up under the seat in that stagecoach. Maybe it has some oil in it. I'll go back and see."
"All right, son," replied the father, "we won't get far ahead of you." And while Bert made his way back to the wagon, the others bumped up and down through the fields that led to the vacant barn.
There was no house within sight. The barn belonged to a house up the road that the owners had not moved into that season.
"I got one!" called Bert, running up from the road. "This lantern has oil in, I can hear it rattle. Have you a match, pa?"
Mr. Bobbsey had, and when the lantern had been lighted, Bert marched on ahead of the party, swinging it in real signal fashion.
"You ought to be a brakeman," Nan told her twin brother, at which remark Bert swung his light above his head and made all sorts of funny railroad gestures.
The barn door was found unlocked, and excepting for the awful stillness about, it was not really so bad to find refuge in a good, clean place like that, for outside it was very damp--almost wet with the ocean spray. Mr. Bobbsey found seats for all, and with the big carriage doors swung open, the party sat and listened for every sound that might mean the return of the stage driver.
"Come, Freddie chile," said Dinah, "put yer head down on Dinah's lap. She won't let nothin' tech you. An' youse kin jest go to sleep if youse a mind ter. I'se a-watchin' out."
The invitation was welcome to the tired little youngster, and it was not long before he had followed Dinah's invitation.
Next, Flossie cuddled up in Mrs. Manily's arms and stopped thinking for a while.
"It is awfully lonely," whispered Nan, to her mother, "I do wish that man would come back."
"So do I," agreed the mother. "This is not a very comfortable hotel, especially as we are all tired out from a day's journey."
"What was that?" asked Bert, as a strange sound, like a howl, was heard.
"A dog," lightly answered the father.
"I don't think so," said Bert. "Listen!"
"Oh!" cried Flossie, starting up and clinging closer to Mrs. Manily, "I'm just scared to death!"
"Dinah, I want to go home," cried Freddie. "Take me right straight home."
"Hush, children, you are safe," insisted their mother. "The stage driver will be back in a few minutes."
"But what is that funny noise?" asked Freddie. "It ain't no cow, nor no dog."
The queer "Whoo-oo-oo" came louder each time. It went up and down like a scale, and "left a hole in the air," Bert declared.
"It's an owl!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, and she was right, for up in the abandoned hay loft the queer old birds had found a quiet place, and had not been disturbed before by visitors.
"Let's get after them," proposed Bert, with lantern in hand.
"You would have a queer hunt," his father told him; "I guess you had better not think of it. Hark! there's a wagon! I guess Hank is coming back to us," and the welcome sound of wheels on the road brought the party to their feet again.
"Hello there!" called Hank. "Here you are. Come along now, we'll make it this time."
It did not take the Bobbseys long to reach the roadside and there they found Hank with a big farm wagon. The seats were made of boards, and there was nothing to hold on to but the edge of the boards.
But the prospect of getting to Aunt Emily's at last made up for all their inconveniences, and when finally Hank pulled the reins again, our friends gave a sigh of relief.
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