CHAPTER IRICK WANTS A DOG
Rick Dalton sat on the sandy beach tossing white stones and bits of shell into the little waves that broke almost at his feet. The tide was just on the turn; soon it would come in, and the big, booming rollers would drive Rick farther up toward the dunes, where the wind was making a queer, whistling sound as it bent the long spears of saw-edged grass, whipping off venturesome, gray hoppers, that had boldly crawled up, perhaps to get a better view of the heaving ocean.
"I don't care!" murmured Rick, but, from the tone of his voice, and the look on his face, one might have said that he did care, and very much, too, about something. But still Rick said: "I don't care!" And he said it over and over, until it was almost like the song the waves seemed to sing as they swished up the beach, rolling over and over the white sand, pebbles and bits of shell, swishing them along as if they, too, didn't care what happened.
"I don't care!" exclaimed Rick again, as he tossed a larger stone out so that it fell with a splash near a floating bit of wood, and frightened away an osprey that was about to swoop down and catch a sea bass which had ventured too near the surface. "I want a dog! I just want a dog, and I think mother might let me have one! I don't care!"
Just why he said that Rick didn't know, for he did care very much about something—and that was to have a dog. He dug his fingers deep in the sand, scooped up a wet mass of it in his palm, and tossed it high into the air. It fell about him in a little shower, and then, as Rick was about to repeat this, a wave, larger than any of the others, rolled up and nearly wet his feet.
And as Rick had on his shoes and stockings, he hastily scrambled back out of the way of the ocean, for salt water is bad for leather, as everyone knows who has ever been to the seashore.
"Tide's coming in!" mused Rick. "Must be four o'clock. If I had a dog now——"
He rose slowly to his feet, looked up and down the beach and out across the sea. In the distance was a smudge of smoke from a coast steamer.
"Wish I was on her!" murmured the boy. "If I was maybe mother'd let me have a dog. There's most always a dog on a ship. Oh, why can't I have a dog?"
No one answered Rick Dalton. There was no one there to speak, unless, perhaps, it was the fish hawk, and, if he could have talked Rick's language he might have told the small boy what he thought about him for having spoiled his dinner. For the dinner of the osprey depended on his catch of fish—and, not only his dinner, but the dinner of the hungry, little whistling birds in the dead pine tree farther inland.
But all the boy heard was the swish of the waves as they whispered among the bits of shell and white pebbles—that and the whistle of the wind in the rank grass that grew atop the sand dunes.
"Tide's coming in," mused Rick. "Four o'clock, and I've got to go to the store. If I had a dog he could carry the things for me. Oh, I wish I had a dog!"
Rick dug the toe of his shoe into the sand, turned for a last look at the ocean and then trudged over the little hills that bordered the shore and soon was on his way to the village. It was when he was at home again, after having gone to the store, as his mother had told him to do at 4 o'clock—when the tide turned—it was then that Rick again voiced his wish.
"Why can't I have a dog, mother?" he asked. "I'm old enough now, and lots of the boys have 'em! Henry Blake, he's got a dog he says I can have. Why can't I have him?"
"Doesn't Henry want his dog any more?" asked Mrs. Dalton, as she took the bundle of groceries Rick had brought.
"No!" was the eager answer, and Rick seemed to seize on the question as a ray of hope....