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CHAPTER V The Red Buoy
 ANY ONE would be sick of it! thought Johnny Blossom. He couldn’t even appear in the street without people rushing to him to question and as to how it had happened, and how he had felt that time he lay out on the red and they all thought at home that he was drowned. He was completely sick of it.  
Even the minister had stopped him and questioned and quizzed like the rest; and when he had finished, he hit Johnny Blossom on the back with his (not hard, you know) and said: “You surely are a little , Johnny Blossom!”
Indeed he wasn’t a rascal. The whole thing had just happened of itself. It was no plan of his, but it was just as unlucky as if it had been.
The new postmaster’s sons were at the bottom of it really. Such pipestems from Christiania don’t know anything anyway—and they get scared so easily! That’s why they lose their wits when they get into trouble. No one would believe how silly they were! Still, they were good-natured and ready to join in anything, so they were jolly enough playfellows after all.
Early one afternoon the three boys, Olaf, Herman, and Johnny, had a great desire to go rowing. They peered everywhere around the for a boat that they could use. Not a sign of one was to be seen; not a boat of any kind—to say nothing of one that they could borrow in such a hurry. So they went round to the Custom House wharf. True as you live, there lay a dory, with and everything, right down at the foot of the little steps. They wouldn’t have dared to think of taking the boat if it had been at the big Custom House steps, but since it was at the little steps near the , it was probably not a Custom House boat at all. Johnny Blossom, for his part, was quite sure it was not.
“Well, we’ll take her,” said Olaf.
It was a fine little boat. Johnny was captain and commanded grandly, giving many orders to the postmaster’s sons—those silly pipestems from Christiania, who did not know anything.
Oh! there was the big English coal steamer that had been lying at the wharf several days unloading coal. Too bad that he had not had a chance to go on board that steamer! He had tried to go a number of times, but there was always one or another grimy sailor who chased him . Ugh! Englishmen were ! The steamer was unloaded now and would surely sail tonight.
Farther out rowed the boys. Johnny Blossom boasted of the ships that sailed from the town, of the sea, and of the church tower that was the highest in Scandinavia, and the postmaster’s boys boasted of the wonders of Christiania; and everything was very jolly indeed. They rowed past the big red buoy that lay farthest out—the buoy that is like an immense red pear floating and rocking on the water.
“Would you dare sit up on the big red pear?” asked Olaf.
“Pooh! That’s nothing to do,” said Johnny Blossom.
“Yes, but sit there alone while we row away?” said Olaf.
“You shall soon see whether I dare or not,” returned Johnny.
They rowed to the buoy and he climbed out upon it.
“Now row away, row as far away as you like. It is glorious sitting here!”
Olaf and Herman the oars as hard as they could, while Johnny Blossom sat proudly upon the “red pear.” He had never thought of its being possible for any one to sit here. Just think, only water far and wide around him! Yet here he sat at his ease, could sit here just the same if a storm should blow up—that would be a small matter for Johnny Blossom. Now that the boys were away off behind the big coal steamer, any one might wonder how much farther they meant to row.
The wind began to blow and the pear rocked up and down. It was queer the way there came a from the sea against the buoy with every wave. The pear rocked more and more. My! oh, my! how the sea hit against it now! Almost hard enough to send the spray away up to him. What had become of those silly postmaster’s boys? He could see nothing of the boat anywhere. It was probably behind the wharf. Not a person was to be seen on the wharf now, either. It was so late that every one had gone home.
Johnny Blossom shouted: “Olaf! Herman!” No answer, only the sea’s pounding. A big wave dashed over his legs, and the pear rocked and frightfully.
All at once Johnny Blossom was afraid. Not a little afraid, but overwhelmed with great fear. Here he was alone out in the midst of the wide waters, with no one to see him, no one to hear him, and no one to help him. A great wave struck against the buoy, leaving his stockings dripping wet up to the knees.
“Oh, Mother! Mother!” screamed Johnny in terror.
Another wave came—a stronger one—and dashed even higher. He would be safer, perhaps, if he lay on his stomach and stuck his arms through the big ring that they fastened the ship’s ropes to.
Oh, if he were only at home! Oh, those wicked postmaster’s boys who had rowed away and left him! They should get their pay when—but suppose he should die now! “Our Father who art in heaven.” Johnny Blossom, with eyes closed, said the whole of the Lord’s Prayer as he lay on his stomach on the red buoy. Now surely God would help him.
The buoy swayed and dipped and the wind howled. Suddenly he heard a different sound and turned swiftly to look. There was a boat right off there. Oh, if only!—
It was some Englishmen from the big coal steamer, and they were rowing straight toward the buoy, talking fast. Pshaw! how stupid it is when people talk English. Without waiting to say, “By your leave,” they took Johnny Blossom from the buoy, put him into their boat, and rowed directly to the . One of the sailors up some salt water in his hand and splashed it over Johnny Blossom’s tear face and laughed. Then Johnny laughed, too.
If it were only German the men ! He had studied German for a half year now and could have managed with that language pretty well, he thought.
Here they were alongside the steamer. Well, Johnny Blossom hadn’t the least objection. How Olaf and Herman would envy him, that he should go on board the big ship after all! The steamer was full of sailors who talked and laughed and tumbled him about in rough play till Johnny Blossom bubbled over with merry laughter that rang through the whole ship.
Soon a man took him to the upper deck to the , ruddy captain whom Johnny Blossom knew from having seen him on the street in the town. He pinched Johnny’s ear and said a great many funny words to him, just as the other Englishmen had. Johnny to the red buoy and shook his head for “No,” and pointed toward the town and nodded for “Yes.” With this he felt sure that the captain must know how the matter stood.
An oldish looking man wished Johnny to go below with him, and naturally Johnny did not need to be asked twice, even by signs! It was wonderful down there. He had never imagined there could be anything so fine on the dirty coal steamer; and just think! some were brought out, and then if that funny man didn’t set a whole jar of preserves before him, too, and give him a spoon! My, oh, my! Mother ought to see him now, eating with a big spoon right from the preserve jar!
Johnny Blossom ate , while the strange man sat opposite with elbows on the table, looking at him and smiling. Suddenly the man took out a leather case and from it a photograph, which he handed across the table to Johnny. It showed two boys about Johnny’s age. The man pointed to the boys and then to himself and smiled again, and Johnny understood that these were his boys.
How curious to think that this man had two boys and that they were English! He certainly was very fond of them—this queer man with the gray beard. Now he put the photograph into the case again and into his pocket, slapped his breast and smiled. Englishmen were certainly odd, thought Johnny. And those boys—just boys like himself—could speak English without studying it. Think of that!
The man then showed Johnny over the whole steamer. Above one of the hammocks hung a picture of the same two boys; and when they came to this, the man laughed again and laid his hand upon his heart.
Then he gave Johnny a whistle—a regular boatswain’s whistle. He put it right into Johnny’s pocket, and of course that meant that he wanted to give it to him. So Johnny Blossom shook hands with him and bowed his thanks. Ah! this would be something to show to the boys at school. How he would blow and play on it.
How good to him this man was! Johnny would like to ask him to take his greeting to those two boys. So Johnny pointed to the picture over the hammock, then to himself, and then far out over the sea, with his little arm stretched at full length. There! the man must surely understand anything as plain as that.
At this moment one of the sailors came to take Johnny Blossom up on deck again, for the row boat was going to the shore and Johnny was to go in it. He shook hands with all the sailors and bowed and said “Thank you.” When he was in the row boat, the ship’s deck was full of grimy-faced men, who stretched over the railing to look down at him.
Johnny Blossom swung his cap, then suddenly remembering his whistle, took that out and blew it hard. Then he laughed and blew it once more. All the black faces up at the railing laughed also. After this farewell the boat was rowed to the shore and Johnny Blossom was soon running up the street.
Then began all the and cry. First, Levorson stopped him. “What in the world! Is this you? They are saying all over town that you are at the bottom of the sea.”
“Far from it,” answered Johnny Blossom, somewhat offended.
Next it was the telegraph operator, Mr. Nilsen. “Well, I must say! If here isn’t the person every one is talking about—and as large as life!”
Pshaw! how silly people were! And now came Olea, the cook from his own home, weeping and aloud. When she saw him she was ready to drop with . “Oh, you angel John! Are you risen from the dead? They brought us word that you were drowned.”
“Not a bit,” said John. “It was the fault of the postmaster’s boys entirely. See what I’ve got.” And Johnny Blossom took his English boatswain’s whistle out and blew it, with beaming face.
No one was in the sitting room at home, nor in the library; but from Mother’s room there came a sound as of some one crying. Johnny Blossom tramped in. There lay Mother on the couch, and Father sat by her side, and they were both as hard as they could.
“John!” screamed Mother, starting up. “Oh, Johnny! my boy, my boy! Is it really you?”
“Thought I was drowned, did you?” said Johnny Blossom loftily. “It never entered my head till afterwards that any one could get drowned sitting on the big red pear, you know. Mother, see here.”
A frightfully piercing whistle in the little room.
“Would you like to hear it again?” asked Johnny, radiant.
“No, no!” said Mother, with hands on both ears.
Just then Father grabbed John by the shoulder. Ugh! it was horrid when Father took hold that way, for it usually meant a whipping.
“Do you know what you deserve?” asked Father. Not a sound in reply. “You shall escape this time,” continued Father. “I think you will remember your Mother’s tears now better than a whipping; but another time—do you hear?”
“Yes.” Johnny stared at his mother’s tear-stained face.
“The postmaster and his boys came here and said that you had climbed up on the buoy farthest out. The boys had rowed back toward shore just for fun, but they met a man in a row boat who nabbed them because they had taken the Custom House boat. The boys didn’t say anything to him about you, sitting out there on the buoy”—
“There! Now you can see how stupid they are,” interrupted Johnny Blossom.
“They ran home, crying, and told that you were out on the ‘red pear’; but when the postmaster had got a boat and rowed out you were gone.”
“I was on board the coal steamer—that’s where I was. His name is Hobborn, Mother, and just listen! he set a big jar of preserves before me—I think it was raspberries—and I ate a lot, and then he gave me this whistle. Now I’ll blow it.” An ear-splitting blast followed.
Mother hugged him to her and kissed him. “But that was a horrible present, John,” she said, pointing to the whistle.
“Far from it,” said John, “for now I need never be in danger any more if I just whistle. If I had had this when I lay out on the red pear, no one would ever have imagined I was drowned. A very useful present, it seems to me, and .”
“I can scarcely call it delightful,” said Mother. All the rest of that afternoon, the sound of whistling, and , filled the pine . Blowing the English whistle in the house at any time was forbidden.
In Johnny Blossom’s opinion, after his experience on the coal steamer, Englishmen were the most delightful people on the face of the globe.

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