Our Runaway Kite by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Of course there was nobody for us to play with on the Big Half Moon, but then, as Claude says, you can't have everything. We just had to make the most of each other, and we did.
The Big Half Moon is miles from anywhere, except the Little Half Moon. But nobody lives there, so that doesn't count.
We live on the Big Half Moon. "We" are Father and Claude and I and Aunt Esther and Mimi and Dick. It used to be only Father and Claude and I. It is all on account of the kite that there are more of us. This is what I want to tell you about.
Father is the keeper of the Big Half Moon lighthouse. He has always been the keeper ever since I can remember, although that isn't very long. I am only eleven years old. Claude is twelve.
In winter, when the harbour is frozen over, there isn't any need of a light on the Big Half Moon, and we all move over to the mainland, and Claude and Mimi and Dick and I go to school. But as soon as spring comes, back we sail to our own dear island, so glad that we don't know what to do with ourselves.
The funny part used to be that people always pitied us when the time came for us to return. They said we must be so lonesome over there, with no other children near us, and not even a woman to look after us.
Why, Claude and I were never lonesome. There was always so much to do, and Claude is splendid at making believe. He makes the very best pirate chief I ever saw. Dick is pretty good, but he can never roar out his orders in the bloodcurdling tones that Claude can.
Of course Claude and I would have liked to have someone to play with us, because it is hard to run pirate caves and things like that with only two. But we used to quarrel a good deal with the mainland children in winter, so perhaps it was just as well that there were none of them on the Big Half Moon. Claude and I never quarrelled. We used to argue sometimes and get excited, but that was as far as it ever went. When I saw Claude getting too excited I gave in to him. He is a boy, you know, and they have to be humoured; they are not like girls.
As for having a woman to look after us, I thought that just too silly, and so did Claude. What did we need with a woman when we had Father? He could cook all we wanted to eat and make molasses taffy that was just like a dream. He kept our clothes all mended, and everything about the lighthouse was neat as wax. Of course I helped him lots. I like pottering round.
He used to hear our lessons and tell us splendid stories and saw that we always said our prayers. Claude and I wouldn't have done anything to make him feel bad for the world. Father is just lovely.
To be sure, he didn't seem to have any relations except us. This used to puzzle Claude and me. Everybody on the mainland had relations; why hadn't we? Was it because we lived on an island? We thought it would be so jolly to have an uncle and aunt and some cousins. Once we asked Father about it, but he looked so sorrowful all of a sudden that we wished we hadn't. He said it was all his fault. I didn't see how that could be, but I never said anything more about it to Father. Still, I did wish we had some relations.
It is always lovely out here on the Big Half Moon in summer. When it is fine the harbour is blue and calm, with little winds and ripples purring over it, and the mainland shores look like long blue lands where fairies dwell. Away out over the bar, where the big ships go, it is always hazy and pearl-tinted, like the inside of the mussel shells. Claude says he is going to sail out there when he grows up. I would like to too, but Claude says I can't because I'm a girl. It is dreadfully inconvenient to be a girl at times.
When it storms it is grand to see the great waves come crashing up against the Big Half Moon as if they meant to swallow it right down. You can't see the Little Half Moon at all then; it is hidden by the mist and spume.
We had our pirate cave away up among the rocks, where we kept an old pistol with the lock broken, a rusty cutlass, a pair of knee boots, and Claude's jute beard and wig. Down on the shore, around one of the horns of the Half Moon, was the Mermaid's Pool, where we sailed our toy boats and watched for sea kelpies. We never saw any. Dick says there is no such thing as a kelpy. But then Dick has no imagination. It is no argument against a thing that you've never seen it. I have never seen the pyramids, either, but I know that there are pyramids.
Every summer we had some hobby. The last summer before Dick and Mimi came we were crazy about kites. A winter boy on the mainland showed Claude how to make them, and when we went back to the Big Half Moon we made kites galore. Even pirating wasn't such good fun. Claude would go around to the other side of the Big Half Moon and we would play shipwrecked mariners signalling to each other with kites. Oh, it was very exciting.
We had one kite that was a dandy. It was as big as we could make it and covered with lovely red paper; we had pasted gold tinsel stars all over it and written our names out in full on it--Claude Martin Leete and Philippa Brewster Leete, Big Half Moon Lighthouse. That kite had the most magnificent tail, too.
It used to scare the gulls nearly to death when we sent up our kites. They didn't know what to make of them. And the Big Half Moon is such a place for gulls--there are hundreds of them here.
One day there was a grand wind for kite-flying, and Claude and I were having a splendid time. We used our smaller kites for signalling, and when we got tired of that Claude sent me to the house for the big one. I'm sure I don't know how it happened, but when I was coming back over the rocks I tripped and fell, and my elbow went clear through that lovely kite. You would never have believed that one small elbow could make such a big hole. Claude said it was just like a girl to fall and stick her elbow through a kite, but I don't see why it should be any more like a girl than a boy. Do you?
We had to hurry to fix the kite if we wanted to send it up before the wind fell, so we rushed into the lighthouse to get some paper. We knew there was no more red paper, and the looks of the kite were spoiled, anyhow, so we just took the first thing that came handy--an old letter that was lying on the bookcase in the sitting-room. I suppose we shouldn't have taken it, although, as matters turned out, it was the best thing we could have done; but Father was away to the mainland to buy things, and we never thought it could make any difference about an old yellow letter. It was one Father had taken from a drawer in the bookcase which he had cleaned out the night before. We patched the kite up with the letter, a sheet on each side, and dried it by the fire. Then we started out, and up went the kite like a bird. The wind was glorious, and it soared and strained like something alive. All at once--snap! And there was Claude, standing with a bit of cord in his hand, looking as foolish as a flatfish, and our kite sailing along at a fearful rate of speed over to the mainland.
I might have said to Claude, So like a boy! but I didn't. Instead, I sympathized with him, and pointed out that it really didn't matter because I had spoiled it by jabbing my elbow through it. By this time the kite was out of sight, and we never expected to see or hear of it again.
* * * * *
A month later a letter came to the Big Half Moon for Father. Jake Wiggins brought it over in his sloop. Father went off by himself to read it, and such a queer-looking face as he had when he came back! His eyes looked as if he had been crying, but that couldn't be, I suppose, because Claude says men never cry. Anyhow, his face was all glad and soft and smiley.
"Do you two young pirates and freebooters want to know what has become of your kite?" he said.
Then he sat down beside us on the rocks at the Mermaid's Pool and told us the whole story, and read his letter to us. It was the most amazing thing.
It seems Father had had relations after all--a brother and a sister in particular. But when he was a young man he quarrelled with his brother, who didn't treat him very well--but he's been dead for years, so I won't say a word against him--and had gone away from home. He never went back, and he never even let them know he was living.
Father says that this was very wrong of him, and I suppose it was, since he says so; but I don't see how Father could do anything wrong.
Anyway, he had a sister Esther whom he loved very much; but he felt bitter against her too, because he thought she took his brother's part too much. So, though a letter of hers, asking him to go back, did reach him, he never answered it, and he never heard anything more. Years afterward he felt sorry and went back, but his brother was dead and his sister had gone away, and he couldn't find out a single thing about her.
So much for that; and now about the kite. The letter Father had just received was from his sister, our Aunt Esther and the mother of Dick and Mimi. She was living at a place hundreds of miles inland. Her husband was dead and, as we found out later, although she did not say a word about it in the letter, she was very poor. One day when Dick and Mimi were out in the woods looking for botany specimens they saw something funny in the top of a tree. Dick climbed up and got it. It was a big red kite with a patch on each side and names written on it. They carried it home to their mother. Dick has since told us that she turned as pale as the dead when she saw our names on it. You see, Philippa was her mother's name and Claude was her father's. And when she read the letter that was pasted over the hole in the kite she knew who we must be, for it was the very letter she had written to her brother so long ago. So she sat right down and wrote again, and this was the letter Jake Wiggins brought to the Big Half Moon. It was a beautiful letter. I loved Aunt Esther before I ever saw her, just from that letter.
Next day Father got Jake to take his place for a few days, and he left Claude and me over on the mainland while he went to see Aunt Esther. When he came back he brought Aunt Esther and Dick and Mimi with him, and they have been here ever since.
You don't know how splendid it is! Aunt Esther is such a dear, and Dick and Mimi are too jolly for words. They love the Big Half Moon as well as Claude and I do, and Dick makes a perfectly elegant shipwrecked mariner.
But the best of it all is that we have relations now!