A party of people, young and old, sat on the piazza of a seaside hotel one summer morning, discussing plans for the day as they waited for the mail.
“Hullo! here comes Christie Johnstone,” exclaimed one of the young men perched on the railing, who was poisoning the fresh air with the sickly scent of a cigarette.
“So ‘tis, with ‘Flucker, the baddish boy,’ in tow, as large as life,” added another, with a pleasant laugh as he turned to look.
The new-comers certainly looked somewhat like Charles Reade’s picturesque pair, and every one watched them with idle interest as they drew nearer. A tall, robust girl of seventeen, with dark eyes and hair, a fine color on her brown cheek, and vigor in every movement, came up the rocky path from the beach with a basket of lobsters on one arm, of fish on the other, and a wicker tray of water-lilies on her head. The scarlet and silver of the fish contrasted prettily with the dark blue of her rough dress, and the pile of water flowers made a fitting crown for this bonny young fish-wife. A sturdy lad of twelve came lurching after her in a pair of very large rubber boots, with a dilapidated straw hat on the back of his head and a pail on either arm.
Straight on went the girl, never turning head or eyes as she passed the group on the piazza and vanished round the corner, though it was evident that she heard the laugh the last speech produced, for the color deepened in her cheeks and her step quickened. The boy, however, returned the glances bent upon him, and answered the smiles with such a cheerful grin that the youth with the cigarette called out, —
“Good-morning, Skipper! Where do you hail from?”
“Island, yender,” answered the boy, with a gesture of his thumb over his shoulder.
“Oh, you are the lighthouse-keeper, are you?”
“No, I ain’t; me and Gramper’s fishermen now.”
“Your name is Flucker Johnstone, and your sister’s Christie, I think?” added the youth, enjoying the amusement of the young ladies about him.
“It’s Sammy Bowen, and hern’s Ruth.”
“Have you got a Boaz over there for her?”
“No, we’ve got a devil-fish, a real whacker.”
This unexpected reply produced a roar from the gentlemen, while the boy grinned good-naturedly, though without the least idea what the joke was. Pretty Miss Ellery, who had been told that she had “a rippling laugh,” rippled sweetly as she leaned over the railing to ask, —
“Are those lilies in your pails? I want some if they are for sale.”
“Sister’ll fetch ‘em round when she’s left the lobs. I ain’t got none; this is bait for them fellers.” And, as if reminded of business by the yells of several boys who had just caught sight of him, Sammy abruptly weighed anchor and ran before the wind toward the stable.