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CHAPTER II Crab Fishing
 NOW there was going to be fun in plenty! Hadn’t they come out to Oxen Bay for the whole summer, Mother and the three sisters and himself? And wasn’t Father coming every Saturday to spend Sunday? They were living in Pilot Taraldsen’s small yellow house, and he and his boy Eric had moved out into a sort of woodshed for the summer. Johnny Blossom had turned somersaults all over the field near the house for pure joy, on his first arrival at Oxen Bay.  
One hot noontide he and Eric lay on the in the baking sunshine. It was not Pilot Taraldsen’s wharf near the house, but the old wharf beyond the woods.
Really it was a old wharf. Near the shore it was built on rocks and stones, but farther out there were thick piles on which the great heavy boards were laid. There was no railing, and at the extreme end a single board to which boats could be fastened projected far out over the water. The boards shone white and hot in the sun. The piles down in the water were covered with tiny shells, seaweed, and greenish slime.
What a clear light green the water was under the wharf! You could see every single shell, every starfish, and every tiniest stone on the smooth, light-colored bottom. Whole schools of small fish , quick as lightning, between the slimy old piles. Once in a while a lazy under the wharf, wound slowly in and out, lay still a moment as if to sun itself, then slowly, curve after curve, took itself out again.
The path leading down from the woods was so rough and steep that people never liked to walk on it; and no boats were kept at this wharf except the sail-boat belonging to a merchant from the city. The merchant’s boat was an unusually beautiful one. It was painted a dazzling white and had “Sea Mew” in golden letters on one side of it.
Johnny Blossom and Eric, the pilot’s son, lay on the wharf with their heads stretched out over the edge, gazing down into the water. “Shall we fish for ?” asked Eric. Of course Johnny thought this was just the thing to do. Eric took a long string from his pocket and tied a stone at the end.
“See that thundering big one away over there? I’m going to get her,” said Eric, pointing to a venerable looking that had been lying for a long time squeezed in between two rocks. The boys the string with the stone on it temptingly near the big crab. Crabs usually get excited over a stone swinging above them that way. They reach up for it, grip it tightly, and—a jerk and up they come! But this crab had seen too many such stones in its long life, and lay stock still without moving a claw.
“Come, old lady,” encouraged Eric.
“She’s dead,” said Johnny.
“Not a bit of it, Bub, she’s only sly.”
“Perhaps I can her out with a stick,” suggested Johnny. But not a stick could they find, though they looked all around. In the sail-boat, however, there was the finest kind of a boat-hook.
“I’ll get that boat-hook,” said Johnny, jumping on board the “Sea Mew.”
“Well, I’ll poke her out,” said Eric.
“No, I will,” said Johnny.
They disputed over this a long time.
“You must remember I got the boat-hook,” urged Johnny.
Finally they agreed to take turns at the crab, but it would not . It lay as if it were nailed fast to the rocks.
“Get out of that, you old grandmother!”
Johnny Blossom grew more and more excited. He stood on the tip end of the that extended out over the water.
“There! Now!” Eric cheered him on. “Reach farther out, Bub! She’s stirring a little. Farther out, I say.”
Splash! There lay Johnny Blossom and the boat-hook in the water. Oh, how angry he was! “Ugh—Ugh!” he .
Dropping the boat-hook, he swam the couple of strokes that would bring him to the wharf, and climbed up.
“Ugh, how wet I am!” said Johnny, and then,
“Catch that boat-hook there!” he shouted, as it floated almost to the edge of the wharf.
No—Eric could not catch the boat-hook—and there was no boat for them to go after it in; so Johnny Blossom had to jump into the water again, catch the boat-hook, and swim to shore with it. Ugh! how wet he was!
“Take your clothes off and dry them then,” said Eric.
Johnny himself out of his wet blouse and shirt and everything, them out, and spread them to dry upon the sun-warmed boards. In the meantime Eric had himself of the boat-hook and was poking at the crab.
“Ha! I’ll get her out!”
No—Johnny Blossom claimed that it was still his turn. They had a over it and Johnny won; and there he stood, naked in the sunshine on the projecting plank, poking and thrusting with the boat-hook.
Suddenly they heard voices. Who in the world was coming? The boys looked toward the forest.
Yes, there was a lady and a gentleman on the path—that rough path full of tree roots and stones; and another lady and gentleman—and following them two ladies—more ladies—in light dresses and with baskets.
My, oh, my! Here he stood without any clothes on and with the boat-hook from the “Sea Mew” in his hand! And here came the merchant who owned the sail-boat.
Eric took to his heels and sped like an arrow across the beach and up to the forest. Johnny Blossom sprang after him, throwing the boat-hook on the wharf as he went. He never thought of his clothes until he was in the woods.
My! how he ran! He was in such a fright that he did not once glance back. My, oh, my! Here he was running along in his bare skin; while his clothes, wet as wet could be, were lying down there among all those elegant ladies!
And home was a good way off; first through the forest, then along the stone wall, and all across the Karine place, where everybody could see him. How disgusting! Where Eric was, or even which way he had gone in the woods, Johnny had no idea.
From the wharf below came the sound of laughter. How those ladies were laughing and shouting! He could not see them because of the trees, but the talk and laughter was .
He threw himself down behind a wild rosebush. They would probably sail away soon and then he could go down after his clothes. Pretty lucky to have got away from that cross merchant! Eric had always said he was an cross man.
A long time Johnny lay there and all the while the sound of talk and laughter floated up to him, so he knew that the picnic party must still be on the wharf. The wind began to blow harder; it blew colder, too, cold in fact, and he felt almost frozen. Shivering and with his teeth , he crept back a little way toward the wharf and gazed down from behind a tree trunk.
Just think! There they sat, in the sunshine on the wharf, eating from their baskets and having such a good time; and here was he, alone, naked, and so frightfully cold. Boo-hoo-hoo! He wanted to go home to Mother. He might crawl home through the gutters—but what would Mother say if he went home without any clothes? Boo-hoo-hoo!
“What’s the matter? What ye cryin’ fer?” It was Nils the fisherman who and whose coming over the soft grass Johnny had not noticed.
“Land’s sakes! Layin’ here naked, boy?”
Then Johnny Blossom cried in earnest.
“Yes”—sob, sob—“my clothes are down on the wharf and the ladies are sitting there eating and laughing and—boo-hoo-hoo!”
“Hev ye ben doin’ suthin’ bad? Dassn’t ye go git yer things?”
“I tumbled into the water”—sob—“and we took the boat-hook from ‘Sea Mew’—and then the people came and I ran”—
“Oh, well! See here. I’ll lend ye my blouse. Put it on and run down fer yer clo’es.”
How kind Nils was! The blouse came almost to Johnny’s knees, but now that he had something on there was no reason for not going to the wharf. Still, it was to go among all those strangers, rigged out in this fashion.
He took his way slowly down, hiding behind trees, looking out and then forward again, until he reached the open beach. The picnic party was still feasting merrily, making speeches and drinking one another’s health. Johnny stole along, from rock to rock. Suddenly one of the ladies called out: “Mercy! there he is!” Then they all clapped their hands and shouted to him and clapped their hands again.
“Come here, boy,” called a very gentleman, the cross merchant who owned the “Sea Mew.”
Oh, dear! How embarrassing it was—perfectly horrid! And how they roared again as he came on to the wharf!
“What kind of a are you?” asked the stout gentleman.
“I am not a specimen. I am Johnny Blossom.”
“No—are you really?”
Johnny did not see anything to laugh at, yet they laughed harder than ever.
“May I ask whether it was you that took the boat-hook out of my sail-boat?”
The stout gentleman had a tight grip on Johnny’s little red ear.
“Please excuse me about the boat-hook,” and a small brown hand was stretched out and laid in the merchant’s hand.
“Come now. He shall have a cake,” said one of the ladies. “Here, take more; take these, and these.”
“Why don’t you eat them?” asked another lady.
“Oh, I’m going to give them to Nils the fisherman.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he lent me his blouse.” Johnny Blossom was exceedingly serious throughout the whole conversation.
“Good-by.” He bowed, his little naked heels put together in most formal manner.
“Good-by, little Johnny Blossom, and thanks for the pleasure you have given us.”
Just what the pleasure was Johnny Blossom could not exactly understand.
“You mustn’t put those wet clothes on,” said one lady.
“Oh, they’re dry,” said Johnny, feeling of the clothes. “They’re as dry as tinder.”
At this they all laughed again. There was a very wet place on the wharf where the clothes had lain.
Fortunately Mother was out when he first got home, and Lisa the maid was very kind in him get dry clothes. It was queer, but perhaps his others had not been as dry as tinder, after all.
Johnny deliberated all the afternoon as to whether he should tell his mother what had happened or not. She was so anxious about such things. But when she came to his room to say good night, he burst out with it.
“Mother, I fell in the water today.”
“Oh, my boy!”
“Yes, I just tumbled right in.” He got up in bed, eager to show how he fell. “But it was horrid , because some fine ladies and gentlemen came, who ate and drank there on the wharf a long time; and then Nils the fisherman lent me his blouse, and they gave me some cream cakes”—
“Why in the world should Nils lend you his blouse?”
“Oh, because I was all naked and had been lying behind a bush ever so long”—
“But, John dear!”
“Nils was so happy over the cakes. He took them home to that sick boy of his.”
“Didn’t you eat any of them yourself?”
“No—I gave them all to Nils; but that stout man pinched my ear pretty hard, I can tell you.”
“Had you done something wrong, John?”
“Well—that was because of the boat-hook, you see; but I asked him to excuse me and we shook hands.”
“Rather an involved story,” thought Mother. But she said: “Well, now you must say your prayers and go to sleep.”
So Johnny Blossom repeated the little prayers he had said every night since he was two years old, and was soon sleeping peacefully.

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