The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII


NELLIE


"Shall I take my cart over to meet Nellie and Mrs. Manily, mother?" Dorothy asked Mrs. Minturn, that afternoon, when the city train was about due.

"Why, yes, daughter, I think that would be very nice," replied the mother. "I intended to send the depot wagon, but the cart would be very enjoyable."

Bert had the donkeys hitched up and at the door for Nan and Dorothy in a very few minutes, and within a half-hour from that time Nan was greeting Nellie at the station, and making her acquainted with Dorothy.

If Dorothy had expected to find in the little cash girl a poor, sickly, ill child, she must have been disappointed, for the girl that came with Mrs. Manily had none of these failings. She was tall and graceful, very pale, but nicely dressed, thanks to Mrs. Manily's attention after she reached the city on the morning train. With a gift from Mrs. Bobbsey, Nellie was "fitted up from head to foot," and now looked quite as refined a little girl as might be met anywhere.

"You were so kind to invite me!" Nellie said to Dorothy, as she took her seat in the cart. "This is such a lovely place!" and she nodded toward the wonderful ocean, without giving a hint that she had never before seen it.

"Yes, you are sure the air is so strong you must swallow strength all the time," and Nellie knew from the remark that Dorothy was a jolly girl, and would not talk sickness, like the people who visit poor children at hospital tents.

Even Mrs. Manily, who knew Nellie to be a capable girl, was surprised at the way she "fell in" with Nan and Dorothy, and Mrs. Manily was quite charmed with her quiet, reserved manner. The fact was that Nellie had met so many strangers in the big department store, she was entirely at ease and accustomed to the little polite sayings of people in the fashionable world.

When Nellie unpacked her bag she brought out something for Freddie. It was a little milk wagon, with real cans, which Freddie could fill up with "milk" and deliver to customers.

"That is to make you think of Meadow Brook," said Nellie, when she gave him the little wagon.

"Yes, and when there's a fire," answered Freddie, "I can fill the cans with water and dump it on the fire like they do in Meadow Brook, too." Freddie always insisted on being a fireman and had a great idea of putting fires out and climbing ladders.

There was still an hour to spare before dinner, and Nan proposed that they take a walk down to the beach. Nellie went along, of course, but when they got to the great stretch of white sand, near the waves, the girls noticed Nellie was about to cry.

"Maybe she is too tired," Nan whispered to Dorothy, as they made some excuse to go back home again. All along the way Nellie was very quiet, almost in tears, and the other girls were disappointed, for they had expected her to enjoy the ocean so much. As soon as they reached home Nellie went to her room, and Nan and Dorothy told Mrs. Minturn about their friend's sudden sadness. Mrs. Minturn, of course, went up to see if she could do anything for Nellie.

There she found the little stranger crying as if her heart would break.

"Oh, I can't help it, Mrs. Minturn!" she sobbed. "It was the ocean. Father must be somewhere in that big, wild sea!" and again she cried almost hysterically.

"Tell me about it, dear," said Mrs. Minturn, with her arm around the child. "Was your father drowned at sea?"

"Oh no; that is, we hope he wasn't," said Nellie, through her tears, "but sometimes we feel he must be dead or he would write to poor mother."

"Now dry your tears, dear, or you will have a headache," said Mrs. Minturn, and Nellie soon recovered her composure.

"You see," she began, "we had such a nice home and father was always so good. But a man came and asked him to go to sea. The man said they would make lots of money in a short time. This man was a great friend of father and he said he needed someone he could trust on this voyage. First father said no, but when he talked it over with mother, they thought it would be best to go, if they could get so much money in a short time, so he went."

Here Nellie stopped again and her dark eyes tried hard to keep back the tears.

"When was that?" Mrs. Minturn asked.

"A year ago," Nellie replied, "and he was only to be away six months at the most."

"And that was why you had to leave school, wasn't it?" Mrs. Minturn questioned further.

"Yes, we had not much money saved, and mother got sick from worrying, so I did not mind going to work. I'm going back to the store again as soon as the doctor says I can," and the little girl showed how anxious she was to help her mother.

"But your father may come back," said Mrs. Minturn; "sailors are often out drifting about for months, and come in finally. I would not be discouraged—you cannot tell what day your father may come back with all the money, and even more than he expected."

"Oh, I know," said NelHe. "I won't feel like that again. It was only because it was the first time I saw the ocean. I'm never homesick or blue. I don't believe in making people pity you all the time." And the brave little girl jumped up, dried her eyes, and looked as if she would never cry again as long as she lived—like one who had cried it out and done with it.

"Yes, you must have a good time with the girls," said Mrs. Minturn. "I guess you need fun more than any medicine."

That evening at dinner Nellie was her bright happy self again, and the three girls chatted merrily about all the good times they would have at the seashore.

There was a ride to the depot after dinner, for Mrs. Manily insisted that she had to leave for the city that evening, and after a game of ball on the lawn, in which everybody, even Flossie and Freddie, had a hand, the children prepared to retire. There was to be a shell hunt very early in the morning (that was a long walk on the beach, looking for choice shells), so the girls wanted to go to bed an hour before the usual time.

"Wait till the clock strikes, Nellie," sang Dorothy, as they went upstairs, and, of course, no one but Nan knew what she meant.

Two hours after this the house was all quiet, when suddenly, there was the buzz of an alarm clock.

"What was that?" asked Mrs. Minturn, coming out in the hall.

"An alarm clock," called Nellie, in whose room the disturbance was. "I found it under my pillow," she added innocently, never suspecting that Dorothy had put it there purposely.

By and by everything was quiet again, when another gong went off.

"Well, I declare!" said Mrs. Minturn. "I do believe Dorothy has been up to some pranks."

"Ding—a-ling—a-long—a-ling!" went the clock, and Nellie was laughing outright, as she searched about the room for the newest alarm. She had a good hunt, too, for the clock was in the shoe box in the farthest corner of the room.

After that there was quite an intermission, as Dorothy expressed it. Even Nellie had stopped laughing and felt very sleepy, when another clock started.

This was the big gong that belonged in Susan's room, and at the sound of it Freddie rushed out in the hall, yelling.

"That's a fire bell! Fire! fire! fire!" he shouted, while everybody else came out this time to investigate the disturbance.

"Now, Dorothy!" said Mrs. Minturn, "I know you have done this. Where did you put those clocks?"

Dorothy only laughed in reply, for the big bell was ringing ftiriously all the time. Nellie had her dressing robe on, and opened the door to those outside her room.

"I guess it's ghosts," she laughed. "They are all over."

"A serenade," called Bert, from his door.

"What ails dem der clocks?" shouted Dinah. "'Pears like as if dey had a fit, suah. Nebber heard such clockin' since we was in de country," and Susan, who had discovered the loss of her clock, laughed heartily, knowing very well who had taken the alarm away.

When the fifteen minutes were up that clock stopped, and another started. Then there was a regularly cannonading, Bert said, for there was scarcely a moment's quiet until every one of the six clocks had gone off "bing, bang, biff," as Freddie said.

There was no use trying to locate them, for they went off so rapidly that Nellie knew they would go until they were "all done," so she just sat down and waited.

"Think you'll wake up in time?" asked Dorothy, full of mischief as she came into the clock corner.

"I guess so," Nellie answered, laughing. "We surely were alarmed to-night." Then aside to Nan, Nellie whispered: "Wait, we'll get even with her, won't we?" And Nan nodded with a sparkle in her eyes.