A JOLLY GOOD GAME
"What do you say, King, railroad smash-up or shipwreck?"
"I say shipwreck, with an awfully desert island."
"I say shipwreck, too," said Kitty, "but I don't want to swim ashore."
"All right," agreed Marjorie, "shipwreck, then. I'll get the cocoanuts."
"Me, too," chimed in Rosy Posy. "Me tumble in the wet water, too!"
The speakers in this somewhat enigmatical conversation were the four Maynard children, and they were deciding on their morning's occupation. It was a gorgeous day in early September. The air, without being too cool, was just crisp enough to make one feel energetic, though indeed no special atmospheric conditions were required to make the four Maynards feel energetic. That was their normal state, and if they were specially gay and lively this morning, it was not because of the brisk, breezy day, but because they were reunited after their summer's separation.
Though they had many friends among the neighboring children, the Maynards were a congenial quartette, and had equally good times playing by themselves or with others. Their home occupied a whole block in the prettiest residential part of Rockwell, and the big square house sat in the midst of about seven acres of lawn and garden.
There were many fine old trees, grassy paths, and informal flower-beds, and here the children were allowed to do whatever they chose, but outside the place, without permission, they must not go.
There was a playground, a tennis court, and a fountain, but better than these they liked the corner full of fruit trees, called "the orchard," and another corner, where grapes grew on trellises, called "the vineyard." The barn and its surroundings, too, often proved attractive, for the Maynards' idea of playing were by no means confined to quiet or decorous games.
The house itself was surrounded by broad verandas, and on the southern one of these, in the morning sunshine, the four held conclave.
Kingdon, the eldest, was the only boy, and oftener than not his will was law. But this was usually because he had such splendid ideas about games and how to play them, that his sisters gladly fell in with his plans.
But Marjorie was not far behind her brother in ingenuity, and when they all set to work, or rather, set to play, the games often became very elaborate and exciting. "Shipwreck" was always a favorite, because it could develop in so many ways. Once they were shipwrecked no rescue was possible, unless help appeared from some unexpected quarter. It might be a neighbor's child coming to see them, or it might be a servant, or one of their own parents, but really rescued they must be by actual outsiders. Unless, indeed, they could build a raft and save themselves, but this they had never accomplished.
The desert island was selected, and this time they chose a certain grassy knoll under an immense old maple tree.
Marjorie disappeared in the direction of the kitchen, and, after a time, came back with a small basket, apparently well-filled.
With this she scampered away to the "desert island," and soon returned, swinging the empty basket. Tossing this into the house, she announced that she was ready.
Then the four went to the big, double, wooden swing, and got in.
Kitty carried her doll, Arabella, from which she was seldom separated, and Rosy Posy hugged her big white Teddy Bear, who was named Boffin and who accompanied the baby on all expeditions.
The swing, today, was an ocean steamer.
"Have your tickets ready!" called out Kingdon, as his passengers swarmed up the gangplank, which he had thoughtfully laid from the ground to the low step of the swing.
Soon they were all on board, the gangplank drawn in, and the ship started.
At first all went smoothly. The swing swayed gently back and forth, and the passengers admired the beautiful scenery on either side. The Captain had never crossed an ocean, and the nearest he had come to it had been a sail up the Hudson and a trip to Coney Island.
"On the right, we see West Point!" the Captain shouted, pointing to their own house. "That's where the soldiers come from. The noble soldiers who fight for the land of the free and the home of the brave."
"Are you a soldier, sir?" asked Marjorie.
"Yes, madam; I am a veteran of the Civil War. But as there's no fighting to do now, I run this steamer."
"A fine ship it is," observed Kitty.
"It is that! No finer craft sails the waves than this."
"What is that mountain in the distance?" asked Marjorie, shading her eyes with her hand as she looked across the street.
"That's a—a peak of the Rockies, ma'am. And now we are passing the famous statue of 'Liberty Enlightening the World.'"
As the statue to which Kingdon pointed was really Mrs. Maynard, who had come out on the veranda, and stood with her hand high against a post, the children shouted with laughter.
But this was quickly suppressed, as part of the fun of making-believe was to keep grave about it.
"Is your daughter ill, madam?" asked Marjorie of Kitty, whose doll hung over her arm in a dejected way.
"No, indeed!" cried Kitty, righting poor Arabella. "She is as well as anything. Only she's a little afraid of the ocean. It seems to be getting rougher."
It did seem so. The swing was not only going more rapidly, but was joggling from side to side.
"Don't be alarmed, ladies," said the gallant Captain; "there's no danger, I assure you."
"I'm not afraid of the sea," said Marjorie, "as much as I am of that fearful wild bear. Will he bite?"
"No," said Kingdon, looking at Rosy Posy. "That's his trainer who is holding him. He's a wonderful man with wild beasts. He's—he's Buffalo Bill. Speak up, Rosy Posy; you're Buffalo Bill, and that's a bear you're taking home to your show."
"Ess," said Rosamond, who was somewhat versed in make-believe plays, "I'se Buffaro Bill; an' 'is is my big, big bear."
"Will he bite?" asked Kitty, shrinking away in fear, and protecting Arabella with one arm.
"Ess! He bites awful!" Rosy Posy's eyes opened wide as she exploited her Bear's ferocity, and Boffin made mad dashes at Arabella, who duly shrieked with fear.
But now the ship began to pitch and toss fearfully. The Captain stood up in his excitement, but that only seemed to make the motion worse.
"Is there danger?" cried Marjorie, in tragic tones, as she gripped the belt of King's Norfolk jacket. "Give me this life-preserver; I don't see any other."
"They are under the seats!" shouted the Captain, who was now greatly excited. "I cannot deceive you! We are in great danger! We may strike a rock any minute! Put on life-preservers, all of you. They are under the seats."
The other three scrambled for imaginary life-preservers, and vigorously put them on, when, with a terrific yell, Kingdon cried out:
"We have struck! We're on a rock! The ship is settling; we must all be drowned. We are lost! Launch the boats!"
This was a signal for shrieks and wails from the others, and in a minute it was pandemonium. The four screamed and groaned, the swing shook violently, and then came almost to a standstill.
Kingdon fell out with a bounce and lay prone on the ground. Marjorie sprang out, and as she reached the ground, struck out like a swimmer in the water.
Kitty daintily stepped out, remarking: "This is a fine life-preserver. I can stand straight up in the water."
Baby Rosamond bundled out backward, dropping Boffin as she did so.
"The bear, the bear!" screamed Kingdon, and swimming a few strokes along the soft, green grass, he grabbed the bear and waved him aloft.
"What can we do!" stammered Marjorie, panting for breath. "I've swum till I'm exhausted. Must I drown!" With a wail, she turned on her eyes on the grass, and closing her eyes, prepared to sink beneath the waves.
"Do not despair," urged Kingdon, as he grasped her arm. "Perhaps we can find a plank or a raft. Or perhaps we can yet swim ashore."
"How many survivors are we?" asked Marjorie, sitting up in the water and looking about.
"Four," responded Kitty; "but I won't swim. It makes my dress all greeny, and stubs my shoes out."
Kitty was the only Maynard who was finicky about her clothes. It called forth much derision from her elder brother and sister, but she stood firm. She would play their plays, until it came to "swimming" across grass and earth, and there she rebelled.
"All right," said Kingdon, good-naturedly, "you needn't. There's a raft," pointing to what had been the gangplank. "Cannot you and your infant daughter manage to get ashore on that? This other lady is an expert swimmer, and I think she can reach land, while Buffalo Bill will, of course, save himself."
"Me save myself!" exclaimed Rosy Posy, gleefully. She had no objections to swimming on land, and throwing her fat self down flat, kicked vigorously, and assisted Boffin to swim by her side.
Kitty and Arabella arranged themselves on the raft, which Kitty propelled by a series of hitches. The shipwrecked sufferers thus made their way toward the desert island. There were several narrow escapes from drowning, but they generously assisted each other, and once when Kitty fell off her raft, the noble Captain offered to take Arabella on his own broad and stalwart back.
Buffalo Bill frequently forgot she was in the tossing ocean, and walked upright on her own fat legs.
But King said she was only "treading water," go that was all right.
At last they sighted land, and by a mighty effort, and much encouraging of one another, they managed to reach the shore of the island. Exhausted, Marjorie threw herself on the beach, and the half-drowned Captain also dragged himself up on dry land. Kitty skilfully brought her raft ashore, and stepped out, exclaiming: "Saved! But to what a fate!"
This was one of their favorite lines, and Marjorie weakly opened her eyes to respond:
"Methinks I shall not see to-morrow's sun!"
"Hist!" whispered Kingdon, "say no word, lady. There may be cannibals here!"
"Tannibals!" cried Buffalo Bill. "I 'ike Tannibals. Where is zey?"
Somewhat revived, Kingdon began to look round the desert island to see what its nature might be.
"We have escaped one terrible death!" he declared, "only to meet another. We must starve! This is a desert island exactly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No steamers pass here; no sailing vessels or ferryboats or,—or anything!"
"Oh! What shall we do?" moaned Kitty, clasping her hands in despair. "My precious Arabella! Already she is begging for food."
"We must consider," said Marjorie, sitting up, and looking about her. "If there is nothing else, we must kill the bear and eat him."
"No, no!" screamed Rosy Posy. "No, no eat my Boffin Bear."
"I will explore," said Kingdon. "Come, Buffalo Bill, we are the men of this party, we will go all over the island and see what may be found in the way of food. Perhaps we will find cocoanuts."
"Ess," said Buffalo Bill, slipping her little hand in her brother's, "an' we'll take Boffin, so he won't get all killded."
"And while you're gone," said Marjorie, "we will dry our dripping garments and mend them."
"Yes," said Kitty, "with needles and thread out of my bag. I brought a big bag of all sorts of things, like Robinson Crusoe."
"That wasn't Robinson Crusoe," said King, "it was Mrs. Swiss Robinson."
"Oh, so it was! Well, it doesn't matter, I brought the bag, anyway."
The two brave men went away, and returned in a surprisingly short time with a surprising amount of food.
"These are cocoanuts," announced Kingdon, as he displayed four oranges. "I had to climb the tall palm trees to reach them. But no hardships or dangers are too great to assist fair ladies."
The fair ladies expressed great delight at the gallant Captain's deed, and asked Buffalo Bill what she had secured.
"Edds," said Rosy Posy, triumphantly, and, sure enough, in her tiny skirt, which she held gathered up before her, were three eggs and a cracker.
The eggs were hard-boiled, and were promptly appropriated by the three elder victims of the shipwreck, while the cracker fell to the share of Buffalo Bill, who was not yet of an age to eat hard-boiled eggs.
"I, too, will make search!" cried Marjorie. "Methinks there may yet be food which you overlooked."
As Marjorie had brought the food to the desert island only an hour before, it was not impossible that she might find some more, so they let her go to make search. She returned with a paper bag of crackers and another of pears.
"These are bread fruit," she announced, showing the crackers; "and these are wild pears. This is indeed a fruitful island, and we're lucky to be wrecked on such a good one."
"Lucky, indeed!" agreed the Captain. "Why, when I discovered those eggs on a rocky ledge, I knew at once they were gulls' eggs."
"And how fortunate that they're boiled," said Kitty. "I can't bear raw eggs."
The shipwrecked sufferers then spread out their food, and sat down to a pleasant meal, for the Maynard children had convenient appetites, and could eat at almost any hour of the day.