Chapter XXIX. We Go A-Fishing
 

The following day, happily, proved all that we could desire. The children were up with the dawn, and Junior was not long in joining us. By eight o'clock we had finished breakfast and the morning work, our lunch-basket was packed, and the market-wagon stood at the door. Mr. Jones had good-naturedly promised to take a look at the premises occasionally to see that all was right. I had put but one seat in the wagon for my wife and myself, since the young people decided that a straw-ride to the river would be "more fun than a parlor- car."

My wife entered into the spirit of this little outing with a zest which gave me deep content. Her face indicated no regretful thoughts turning toward the Egypt of the city; her mother love was so strong that she was happy with the children. The robins, of which there seemed no end about the house, gave us a tuneful and hilarious send- off; the grown people and children whom we met smiled and cheered, following us with envious eyes. Each of the children held a pole aloft, and Merton said that "the wagon looked as if our Lima-bean patch was off on a visit."

In the village we increased our stock of lines and hooks, and bought a few corks for floats. We soon reached the mouth of the Moodna Creek, where stood a weather-beaten boat-house, with a stable adjoining, in which old Bay could enjoy himself in his quiet, prosaic way. A good-sized boat was hired, and, as the tide was in, we at first decided to go up the creek as far as possible and float down with the ebb. This, to the children, was like a voyage of discovery, and there was a general airing of geography, each little bay, point, and gulf receiving some noted name. At last we reached a deep, shaded pool, which was eventually dubbed "Bobsey's Luck;" for he nearly fell into it in his eagerness to take off a minnow that had managed to fasten itself to his hook.

Merton and Junior, being more experienced anglers, went ashore to make some casts on the ripples and rapids of the stream above, and secured several fine "winfish." The rest of us were content to take it easy in the shade and hook an occasional cat and sun fish. At last the younger children wanted variety, so I permitted them to land on the wooded bank, kindle a little fire, and roast some clams that we had bought at the boat-house. The smoke and the tempting odors lured Merton and Junior, who soon proved that boys' appetites can always be depended upon.

Time passed rapidly, and I at last noticed that the tide had fallen to such a degree as to fill me with alarm.

"Come, youngsters," I cried, "we must go back at once, or we shall have to stay here till almost night."

They scrambled on board, and we started down-stream, but soon came to shallow water, as was proved by the swift current and the ripples. A moment later we were hard aground. In vain we pushed with the oars; the boat would not budge. Then Junior sat down and coolly began to take off shoes and stockings. In a flash Merton followed his example. There was no help for it, and we had no time to lose. Over they splashed, lightening the boat, and taking the "painter," or tie-rope, at the bow, they pulled manfully. Slowly at first, but with increasing progress, the keel grated over the stones, and at last we were again afloat. A round of applause greeted the boys as they sprung back into the boat, and away we went, cautiously avoiding shoals and sand-bars, until we reached Plum Point, where we expected to spend the remainder of the day. Here, for a time, we had excellent sport, and pulled up sunfish and white perch of a very fair size. Bobsey caught so large a specimen of the former variety that he had provided himself with a supper equal even to his capacity.

The day ended in unalloyed pleasure, and never had the old farm- house looked so like home as when it greeted us again in the evening glow of the late spring sun. Merton and Junior divided the finny spoils to their satisfaction, while Winnie and I visited the chicken-coops and found that there had been no mishaps during our absence. I told my boy that I would milk the cow while he cleaned the fish for supper, and when at last we sat down we formed a tired, hilarious, and hungry group. Surely, if fish were created to be eaten, our enjoyment of their browned sweetness must have rounded out their existence completely.

"O papa!" exclaimed Merton, at the breakfast table, on Monday morning; "we haven't planted any musk and water melons!"

"That is true," I replied. "I find that I overlooked melons in making out my list of seeds. Indeed, I passed them over, I imagine, as a luxury that we could dispense with the first year."

"I'll take care of 'em if you will only let us have some," persisted the boy; and the other children joined in his request.

"But the garden is all filled up," I said, thoughtfully; "and I fear it is too late to plant now."

Looks of disappointment led me to think further and I got one of my seed catalogues.

"Here are some early kinds named and perhaps they would mature; but where shall we put them?"

"Seems to me we had better have a little less corn, if room can be made for melons," was Merton's suggestion.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," I continued. "We've had such good fortune in accomplishing our early work, and you have helped so nicely, that you shall try your hand at melons. Drive your mother and Mousie down to the village this morning, and get some seeds of the nutmeg musk-melon and Phinney's early watermelon. I'll take two rows in the early corn on the warm garden slope, pull up every third hill, and make, in their places, nice, warm, rich beds for the seed which we will plant as soon as you come back. I don't believe the corn will shade the melon vines too much; and as soon as we have taken off the green ears we will cut away the stalks. Thus we shall get two crops from the same ground."

This plan was carried out, and the melon seed came up in a very promising way.