ON THE SHORE

“IF only–” whispered Mary Frances to herself, as she closed the book
she had been reading, “if only one could find the ‘enchanted island,’
and the ‘hidden treasure of stories’–I wish–I wish the story told how
to get there!”

She was sitting on the branches of a tree, which were so bent that they
formed a sort of hammocky rocking chair. The tree was close to the
bank of the river, and away in the distance the whitecaps of the ocean
rolled up and broke upon the beach.

“It’s quite a journey,” said a small voice, “quite a long journey.”

Mary Frances looked all around, but could not find where the voice came
from.

“You see, it’s out at sea,” continued the voice; “and only one boat and
one passenger a year. What’s more—-”

This last was uttered with a deep sigh.

“Why, where are you? Who are you?” asked Mary Frances, springing up.

“Here I am, but I won’t be long,” continued the voice. “You’d better
look lively, for I can’t cling to this fence much longer. Besides, I am
almost out of element!”

Then the little girl saw a dolphin sitting on the top rail of the
fence, holding on with one fin.

“Oh!” she cried, “do you really know where the ‘enchanted island’ is?
Will you tell me how to get there?”

“That I will!” said the dolphin. “That I will, if you’ll get me a
little of my element first.”

“What is that?” asked Mary Frances.

“Why, you couldn’t live without yours for one minute! I’ll die if I
don’t get some soon!”

“Oh, dear, what can it be? Whatever in the world is your element? I
don’t want you to die!”

“Be quick!” cried the dolphin, fanning himself with the other fin. “I
feel very faint!”

“I’ll get some water!” Stooping quickly, Mary Frances filled her hat.
Before she could dash it over him, the dolphin ducked his head into the
hatful of water.

“Thank you,” he said, raising his head. “You’re not so dull after all.
Water is my element; air is yours.”

“Of course,” said Mary Frances; but she wondered why the dolphin didn’t
jump back into the water.

“The reason is that it takes me so long to climb a fence!”

“Oh!” said Mary Frances, although she didn’t see why the dolphin had to
sit on a fence to talk.

“So that there’ll be no offense!” said the dolphin, after staring at
her for a while; “but to refer to the trip–have you a ticket?”

“Why, no, I don’t think I have.” Mary Frances searched in her pockets,
and pulled out some ribbon, a doll’s wig, a thimble, and a piece of
paper.

“That’s the ticket!” exclaimed the dolphin, pointing with his fin. “All
you need to do is to sign it. Have you a pencil?”

Mary Frances searched again in her pockets, while the dolphin looked on
anxiously, but couldn’t find one.

“Well, never mind; just pull out one of my whiskers,” he said. “It will
write right well.”

“But I might hurt you!” cried Mary Frances.

“Not if you take that loose one,” he said, pointing with his fin.

Very gently Mary Frances pulled it, and out it came.

“Sign your name!” cried the dolphin excitedly. “Right at the end of the
paper!”

“Excuse me,” said Mary Frances; “my father says that no one should ever
sign a paper without reading it.”

“That’s good reading!” said the dolphin. “Read it!”

And Mary Frances read:

+——————————–+
| Good for |
| One First Class Passage |
| to |
| Story Island |
| |
| * * * |
| |
| I Believe in All Good Fairies. |
| Signed ———— |
| No. 1,234,567. |
+——————————–+

“Of course, I’ll sign that!” said Mary Frances, gravely using the
dolphin’s whisker.

At that, the dolphin fell over with a great splash into the water.

“Oh!” screamed Mary Frances, “you’ll be drowned!” But, just at that
moment, up came the dolphin’s head out of the water.

“My element!” he said. Then Mary Frances laughed to think how soon she
had forgotten.

“Hold your ticket and wait right where you are!” the dolphin called
out, swimming away.

Mary Frances watched the splashing tail and shining back flashing in
the sun. Two or three times he leaped playfully in the air, turned
somersaults in the water, and then disappeared from sight in the little
cove near the mouth of the river.

“OH, my,” thought Mary Frances; “oh, my, I hope he won’t forget!”

After a little while, she caught sight of the dolphin swimming around
the little high peninsula on one side of the cove. He seemed to be
piloting something, for every few seconds he would leap up and look
around as if to make sure that everything was as it should be.

Soon Mary Frances saw a beautiful little sailboat rounding the point.
Surely it was following the dolphin. As it drew nearer she could read
the name in gold letters on the prow, The Good Ferry.

A brisk wind filled the white sails and brought the boat so swiftly
up the river that the dolphin had to swim with all his might to keep
ahead. As she came to anchor in the shallow water near the bank, the
dolphin called out, “Have you your ticket?”

“Yes,” answered Mary Frances, holding it up to view.

“Then step on my back and jump aboard!” said the dolphin.

As Mary Frances placed her foot on the dolphin as on a bridge, he
suddenly arched his back and tossed her aboard.

“Take plenty of time to look the ship over,” he called out; “and don’t
lose your ticket!”

Then the dolphin, with The Good Ferry following in his wake, swam down
the river and put out to sea.

The Good Ferry was a charming little boat, graceful in every line. It
wasn’t any longer than a large rowboat, but it seemed to have every
comfort provided. There was on deck a comfortable deck chair; upon it
was spread a beautiful steamer rug.

“I’ll take a nice nap, after I look the boat over,” thought Mary
Frances.

As she made her way into the cabin, she uttered a cry of delight–and
no wonder. Any girl would have loved it. The walls and woodwork were
ivory white. Soft pink and light blue hangings fluttered at the
windows. A large bowl, filled with pink roses and turquoise blue
larkspurs, stood on the little golden dressing table with its folding
mirrors.

A little ivory-white princess dresser, with its full-length mirror,
stood across one corner, and an ivory-white bed across the other
corner. On the rocking-chair, and bed, and dresser were painted pink
and blue flowers, and the covers of the table, bed and dresser were
embroidered with the same designs.

There was a wardrobe in a corner, and in it Mary Frances found the
loveliest dressing gown of pink crêpe de chine, embroidered with sprays
of light blue forget-me-nots, and white daisies with yellow centers,
and pink roses; and a pair of light blue bedroom slippers and silk
stockings, and a boudoir cap and nightgown, and a big steamer coat and
cap–all just the right size.

“Just like a grown-up young lady,” she thought.

There were two more doors; one led to a pretty white bathroom, and the
other to a little dining-room, lined with mirrors.

“I can’t get lonesome,” thought Mary Frances, “with so many ‘me’s’
about me;” and she laughed, and, just as she laughed, food appeared
on the table. There were chicken soup, and celery, and olives, and
crackers.

“Oh, dear! How hungry I am!” she exclaimed. “I guess this is meant for
me;” and she sat down on the one chair at the table and began to eat
the soup.

“I feel lots better!” said she, finishing the last drop. “It’s not
good table manners to tip this plate,” she thought; “but I guess my
reflections will excuse me,” and she bowed to the pictures of herself
in the mirrors, and laughed.

Then suddenly the soup course disappeared from the table, and in its
place there were roast turkey and cranberry sauce, and roasted sweet
potatoes and apple sauce, and the many other things which go to make an
all-around feast.

“How wonderful!” exclaimed Mary Frances, helping herself to turkey.
“But how stupid to eat by myself, with only myself for company.”
Just then she looked out of the porthole window and saw the dolphin,
swimming ahead of the little ship.

“I’ll go invite the dolphin to dinner,” she thought; and went on deck.

Imagine her surprise to find that there was no land in sight. Neither
was there any ship. The only other thing than the dolphin was the
sea-gulls flying overhead.

“Hallo! Hallo!” shouted Mary Frances, making a trumpet of her hands.
“Mr. Dolphin, Mr. Dolphin, one moment, please!”

The dolphin turned and looked at her. “Yes?” he asked, raising one
eyebrow.

“Please, Mr. Dolphin, do you ever eat? I am lonesome, eating all alone.”

“I eat only fish,” said the dolphin. “They are in my element, you see.
I do not find my food out of my element.”

“Oh, as to that,” replied Mary Frances, “I will fill a bowl with your
element, if you will only accept the invitation.”

“Agreed!” said the dolphin, swimming to the rope ladder hanging over
the side of the ship. Mary Frances leaned down and caught hold of his
fins, when within reach, and helped him up.

When the dolphin reached the deck, she picked up a fire-pail with a
rope attached, threw it overside, and brought up a pail of water. Then
she hastened to the dining-room and brought a bowl.

After that she helped the dolphin to the dining table. The only chair
was clamped in place to the floor, just as on any steamer, and she
could not move it. So she changed her place to the side of the table.
As the chair was a revolving one, like a desk chair, she turned and
turned it until it reached the right height for the dolphin. She placed
the bowl of water, “element” she called it, at the dolphin’s place.

[Illustration: MARY FRANCES LEANED DOWN AND CAUGHT HOLD OF HIS
FINS]

“Is there anything on the table, Mr. Dolphin,” she asked, “which you
would like?”

“Yes,” sighed the dolphin, “I would like some more salt in my element
soup.”

Mary Frances gravely shook the salt-shaker over the bowl for a full
minute. The dolphin tasted the water. “A little more, please,” he said.

So Mary Frances emptied almost all the rest of the salt out of
the shaker into the bowl. The dolphin dipped in his head. “That’s
excellent,” he said, smacking his lips.

“Mercy,” thought Mary Frances, “I do hope he won’t turn into a salt
mackerel.”

“Salt Smackerel is my pet name,” said the dolphin, smacking his lips
again, and wiping them with his fin.

“I hardly dare think,” thought Mary Frances, “yet I can’t help
thinking, can I? What queer table manners he has! I suppose his mother
never taught him not to smack his lips when he eats–just to chew with
the lips closed.”

“I chew all I choose!” exclaimed the dolphin. “My mother never sat at a
table, you see.”

“Oh!” said Mary Frances, “did she stand?”

“Three feet high in her stocking feet,” solemnly declared the dolphin,
which Mary Frances didn’t consider an answer at all; but was too polite
to say anything that might be annoying to a guest.

“I wonder what I can give him for dessert?” she thought.

“If you please,” said the dolphin, and Mary Frances noticed that he
was very pale, “if you please, I do not care for any. You see, I have
deserted my post–that is enough dessert for me, and I shouldn’t wonder
if I’d be punished enough for it in a minute–Oh! Oh! what is that!
It’s the pirate’s cat!” and with a scream, he leaped out of the window
into the water.

“ME-OW! me-ow!” came the cat’s voice from the door.

“Oh, Kitty! Kitty!” cried Mary Frances, running toward it. “Why,
wherever did you come from? I thought I had looked all over the ship.”

“Indeed,” replied the cat, “even if you had, and you have not, you
wouldn’t have found me. The pirate’s been watching a year to throw me
on board The Good Ferry.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Mary Frances, “the pirate–why, I haven’t seen any
pirate!”

“Of course you haven’t,” said the cat; “he’s too smart for that. He’s
been watching for a time when the dolphin had deserted his post.”

“Oh, dear,” thought Mary Frances, “it was all my fault;” but out loud
she said, “Well, no great harm can come of it, anyway. Won’t you have
some dinner?”

“Yes, thank you,” said the cat, looking longingly at the table.

“Take this chair,” invited Mary Frances, pointing to the dolphin’s
place.

The cat leaped up on the chair, and carefully tucked a napkin into
the collar on its neck. Mary Frances filled a plate with turkey and
potatoes and gravy, and set it before the cat, who politely waited for
her to take her place and begin to eat.

“Do not wait for me, Kitty,” said his hostess; “I’ve finished this
course, thank you.”

Soon nothing was left on the plate.

Just as Mary Frances was going to suggest that ice cream might make a
nice dessert, the cat began to tremble. It trembled so that the ship
shook all over.

“Why, what is the matter?” asked Mary Frances. “Are you chilly?”

“Oh, dear, no,” replied the cat, its teeth chattering. “Oh, dear, no;
but I forgot! The pirate will hang me! He will! He will!”

“Why will he hang you?” asked Mary Frances, quite bewildered, and a
little frightened.

“Speak softly,” said the cat. “Come here, and I’ll whisper.” And behind
his upraised paw, he told, “The pirate ordered me to eat the dolphin;
and to bring his right fin to prove that I’d done it. And now I’m too
full of dinner to do it.”

“Eat him, indeed!” said Mary Frances, angrily. “I’d like to see you!”

“Oh, would you?” cried the cat. “If you only hadn’t given me so much
dinner, you might have had the pleasure–that is, if the dolphin had
come aboard again. You see, I can’t do it now; I can’t catch him in
the water. And the pirate said he’d come for me in an hour and nine
minutes. It’s close to that now,” glancing at the clock. “Oh, what
shall I do?”

“Why does the pirate want the dolphin killed?”

“Hush!” exclaimed the cat. “Speak softly! Come here! I’ll whisper the
reason to you. It’s on account of the lost story. He thinks you might
find it, and if the dolphin is destroyed, he can run down The Good
Ferry. He can’t do the work himself, for he is bound in chains on his
own ship, but he has prisoners on board whom he orders about, just as
he did me. He can’t get within miles of The Good Ferry if the dolphin
is guiding her. He was so mad that he didn’t notice when the dolphin
first came aboard that the foam from his mouth was strong soapsuds, and
washed the black decks of the pirate ship snow white.”

“But,” said Mary Frances, “you forget–if the dolphin guides the ship,
the pirate can’t get you!”

At that the cat began to laugh joyously, and it laughed so hard that
Mary Frances laughed too; and suddenly the meat course disappeared off
the table and a huge block of ice cream appeared in its place, and Mary
Frances and the cat–you know what they did.

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