SWIMMING WITH DADDY
“BUT I didn’t!” said Honey Bunch.
She was standing beside the lifeboat and she looked very small and forlorn.
The tall life guard looked down at her earnestly.
“Weren’t you playing with those young rascals who ran away?” he asked her.
Honey Bunch shook her head till her yellow curls jumped.
“I was hunting for Anne’s pail and shovel,” she said. “And one boy said I might find it in the boat, so he lifted me inside; and then they pushed the boat in the water to make it sail.”
“Couldn’t catch them!” said the other life guard, coming up quite out of breath. “This the little girl they were scaring?”
“From what she says, they must have dumped her in the boat for a joke,” declared the guard who had swum out to the boat “ ’Tisn’t my idea of a joke, but I suppose as long as the child is all right it doesn’t really matter.”
Then he shook hands with Honey Bunch and told her he was glad to hear she had not been playing in his boat.
“I’ll see you again, if you are staying down here,” he said, with a pleasant smile. “George and I like little people who don’t meddle in things they shouldn’t.”
Honey Bunch went off to find Julie and Anne, and the two guards sat down by their boat. Although it seemed a long time to Honey Bunch since she had been to sea and back again, it had not really been longer than twenty minutes. Julie and Anne, when she found them on the edge of the crowd watching the sand artist, had not even missed her.
For some reason she could not explain, Honey Bunch did not feel like telling her cousin and Anne about her experience. She was very quiet the rest of the afternoon, and Julie thought it was because she was disappointed that they had not succeeded in finding the pail and shovel. When that night Honey Bunch told her mother what had happened, Mrs. Morton held her close and said over and over how glad she was that nothing had happened to her little girl.
But the tanned young life guard had made a mistake when he said that he supposed it “didn’t matter.” For Honey Bunch could not be induced to go in another boat for a long time. She was afraid. She would not go even with her mother and Julie’s mother. Indeed it was not till her daddy came down that they could persuade her to go near enough to a boat to touch it.
Honey Bunch had been at Glenhaven two weeks—and her nose had turned from pink to brown—when her daddy gave them all a delightful surprise by coming down for the week-end. He drove up to the curb Friday evening in his car and almost the first thing Honey Bunch asked him was whether he had seen Sarah and Jane and whether he had bought their wild flowers.
“I haven’t seen them, dear,” he told her. “I don’t think they try to sell flowers every afternoon. Then, too, they may go to different places. Are you going swimming with me to-morrow, Honey Bunch?”
“Oh, yes,” replied Honey Bunch. “Let’s go swimming, Daddy.”
Honey Bunch had a brand new bathing suit—blue with white trimming—but she had not been in the ocean yet. She had been wading many times with Julie and Anne and she had watched Anne and her cousin frolic in the water in their bathing suits. But each time they asked her to come in with them, Honey Bunch always said politely: “Please, I would rather not.”
But the next morning after breakfast she and Daddy and Mother put on their bathing suits. Aunt Norma—who said she wouldn’t go in that day but would sit on the beach and hold their sweaters and handkerchiefs—and Julie, who looked like a pretty little bumble bee in her yellow suit, went with them down to the beach.
“I spect it’s pretty wet,” said Honey Bunch, holding fast to her daddy’s hand.
“Why, yes, it is wet, Honey Bunch,” he answered cheerfully. “But, you see, we get used to it gradually. We don’t go in with a rush and let the ocean surprise us; we get acquainted a little at a time.”
This sounded wise to Honey Bunch, and so, while Julie sat down beside her mother on the sand to watch, Honey Bunch gave one hand to Daddy and one to Mother and walked right into that beautiful blue ocean.
“It—it’s a little cold,” she said. “And it is wet. But I like it, don’t I, Daddy?”
“Of course you do!” he told her. “Now let Daddy hold you where a wave can go over you, darling, and you won’t feel cold. Daddy will hold you fast—see, here comes a breaker —we’ll let it go right over our heads.”
And that is just what that big, white-topped wave did. It came rushing at them like a high wall, and then, with a crash and a roar, it went over their heads while Honey Bunch clung to her daddy’s neck with both hands.
How she sputtered! There was water in her eyes and water running down off her chin. She opened her eyes and tried to see where the wave had gone. It was running back to the sea as fast as it could go.
Honey Bunch put out her pink tongue and tasted the water on her lips. It was salty—oh, very salty.
“Daddy!” cried Honey Bunch, having made a discovery, “I like it! Do it again, Daddy!”
So then Daddy Morton held her and let several more waves wash over her, and next he took her back to the sand and put her down to play with Julie while he and Mother went out, as far as any one went, as far as the girl with her surf board had gone.
“They can swim,” said Julie. “I can swim a little. Some day I mean to swim out to the lifeboat and back.”
When Mr. Morton came in, Mrs. Morton sat down beside Aunt Norma to rest, and the two little girls went into the water with Honey Bunch’s daddy.
“You can’t make Honey Bunch go near a boat,” said Julie, looking out to where the life guards sat in their bobbing boat, watching the bathers. “She won’t even touch a boat when it is tied to the pier.”
“I know—her mother wrote me,” replied Daddy Morton. “But you will go with Daddy, won’t you, Honey Bunch?”
“Please,” said Honey Bunch, “I would rather not.”
“When a little girl has her daddy to take care of her, it is quite different,” explained Mr. Morton, lifting Honey Bunch to his shoulder and wading ashore while Julie hopped along, almost running to keep up with him. “You wouldn’t be afraid if Daddy took you out to the life guards’ boat and put you in it, would you, dear?”
“No-o,” said Honey Bunch, but she did not seem to be at all sure.
“The first moment you want to come back, we’ll come,” her daddy promised her. “Come now, and we’ll show Mother how far we can swim, Honey Bunch.”
Even with the restless waves all about her and now and then breaking over her head, Honey Bunch felt quite safe. She knew that in Daddy’s arms nothing could hurt her or frighten her. But when they reached the boat, dear me, how uncomfortable Honey Bunch felt.
“Well, if it isn’t Honey Bunch!” said the black-haired life guard, who knew her very well by this time. “Did you swim out to see us?”
Honey Bunch and Julie had talked many times to him on the beach, though Honey Bunch had never been near his boat since the day the boy had lifted her in. Now she tried to smile, but she was nearer crying.
“I want to show a little girl that boats may be pleasant places,” said Daddy Morton. “Honey Bunch might want to go sailing when she grows up, and it will never do for her to have the wrong idea of boats and ships.”
Then the guard leaned down and lifted Honey Bunch in his strong arms and put her on the seat beside him. The other life guard—whose name was George—smiled at her, and Daddy Morton floated comfortably in the water, holding fast to one end of the rowboat.
At first Honey Bunch shut her eyes. Nothing happened. She opened them. Three smiling faces greeted her. Over her head was the beautiful blue sky with pretty white clouds lazily drifting across it. All about her spread the sparkling water. There was scarcely a ripple under the boat. It swayed just a little, as the rocking chair on Aunt Norma’s porch sometimes swayed in the wind when no one was sitting in it.
Honey Bunch gave a little sigh. She smiled. After all, there was nothing to fear about a boat—if you had your daddy with you and two strong life guards to hold the oars.
“It is a nice boat,” said Honey Bunch.
Daddy Morton reached up his arms and the two guards gently lowered Honey Bunch into them and waved good-bye to her as her daddy swam away with her. They were both glad that Honey Bunch was no longer afraid of boats.
After she and Julie had played a little while on the beach, it was time to go back to the house and dress. And as soon as they were dressed, Pauline came to tell them that lunch was ready.
“I feel like celebrating,” announced Mr. Morton at the lunch table. “Here I am with an unexpected vacation handed to me—I thought I couldn’t get away till I came down with Peter next month—and if anything is worth celebrating, it is a vacation. Where does one go, Norma, when an occasion like this demands a party?”
Julie’s mother laughed and said she thought he would be glad to rest.
“I’ll ask Julie,” said Mr. Morton, smiling. “After all, it is the children who know how to have a good time. Julie, where would you go if you wanted to have an exciting afternoon and wanted to take two little girls and two mothers with you?”
“Happydays Park,” replied Julie instantly.
She bounced about in her chair and almost upset her glass of milk.
“Oh, Julie I” Mrs. Somerset looked dismayed. “That’s an amusement park, David,” she explained to Mr. Morton. “You know what that means—merry-go-rounds and chutes and all kinds of queer things to eat.”
“It’s perfectly lovely, Uncle David,” said Julie. “The horses on the merry-go-round go up and down and the chutes are so exciting! And there is a scenic railway, and fat mirrors—”
“We must go,” declared Mr. Morton, his eyes twinkling. “Nothing short of a fat mirror will satisfy my desire to celebrate. I’ll get the car and be around for you in five minutes.”
Honey Bunch and Julie went with him to get the car, and when the two mothers came out the children were talking as fast as they could about the things to be seen at Happydays Park.
“We’ll go on everything there is,” said Mr. Morton, helping Honey Bunch into her sweater, which her mother said she would need. “We’ll go into everything and on to everything and through everything. And whatever there is to eat, we’ll eat it.”
“Then don’t blame me for your feelings to-morrow,” said Julie’s mother, but she looked at Honey Bunch’s mother, and they both laughed.
Julie knew the way to the Park, and twenty minutes’ driving brought them to the great whitewashed gates. Spelled out in huge red letters over the arch were the words “Happydays Park.”