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A Jolly Day in the Park by F. E. Fryatt

 

"Hip, hip, hurrah! to-morrow's my birthday, Miss Eleanor," shouted Harry Lewis, bursting into my garden like a young hurricane. "Cousin Jack's coming over from New York, Nell's got a holiday, and father says if you'll decide and go with us, we may have a jollification somewhere."

"How delightful! Of course I'll go, with the greatest pleasure. Suppose we choose Prospect Park?"

"Capital! Miss Eleanor, good-by; excuse haste. I'm off to tell Nell, and hurry mother with the birthday cake and the fixin's."

Old Prob predicted fair weather, and he was as good as his word, for the sun shone in the bluest of skies, and the morning was fresh and breezy, when Nell and I stepped into an open car, followed by Harry, Jack, and the family lunch basket.

Every one looked happy, and even the car horses trotted briskly along the broad avenue to the Plaza as if they knew we were anxious to be there.

Arrived at the Park, the two boys put their wise heads together, and gallantly agreed that I should be captain of the party, a decision they shortly after announced in an important manner.

"Follow your leader, then," said I, helping Nell into one of the large phaetons standing near the entrance.

"All right," responded Harry, as the whip cracked, and away dashed the horses in fine style.

Now we swept past velvety fields and wood-crowned hills; now we rolled softly under arches of tremulous green; then through miniature valleys between blossoming heights; now through shadowy forests, and away again beside open meadows.

"How lovely!" cried Nell, rapturously, as one moment we caught the glitter of a distant lake, the next the twinkle of a reedy pool overhung with hazel and alder bushes.

Even the boys were stirred to delight, when, crossing a rustic bridge, they could look down and see a dashing cascade tumble and foam over mossy precipices, till it reached a stony basin below, where it lay golden and clear as a topaz.

On and on we sped, past new wonders of blossoming groves and ferny hollows, to the end of our ride.

Which way to turn, after we left our basket at the Lodge, we knew not. Labyrinthine walks met us in every direction, leading to bowers and dells and wildernesses innumerable.

"Let us take the nearest," said I; and away we went, tripping it gayly, till the path ended unexpectedly at the loveliest bower imaginable, all hidden with clambering vines and shrubbery, from which peeped out a thatched roof, with two odd little peaks, surrounded by bird-houses.

Past its pretty arches, as we sat on the rustic seats, we could look upon acres of velvety meadow, dotted with wild flowers, and gay with groups of pleasure-seekers.

Near by, Madam Nurse trundled Miss Baby; yonder, a company of girls played at "bean bags"; further on, the croquet-players were busy with mallets and balls; while passing to and fro were troops of school-children making the most of their weekly holiday.

"Listen!" cried Nell, suddenly, as sounds of music were borne to us on the breeze.

"It's 'Nancy Lee'; go for it!" shouted Harry, leaping over the railing, and darting across the meadow.

"Come on; follow the sound, girls," cried Jack, bounding after him.

Nell and I take the path sedately, "hastening slowly," for we can not help stopping to listen to the soft twitter of the birds, to admire the golden laburnums; we even wait to let a sparrow hop leisurely down the walk before us.

We have had time to spare, for when we arrive in sight of the "merry-go-round" in its pretty pavilion, the musical history of Nancy Lee is still being repeated.

But a pretty vision greets us. Whirl, whirl, whirl, flies a magic ring of boys and girls, with their fluttering ribbons, bright eyes, and tossing curls.

Click, click, clash a score of shining blades, as the eager riders, with parted lips, lean forward and try to pick off the rings from a projecting bar.

Now the music begins to die away; the circle moves slower, and slower, and slower.

"Count your rings!" shouts the man in charge. "The biggest number wins the free ride."

"Sixteen, eighteen, twenty," calls out Harry, triumphantly, adding, as he spies Nellie, "There's my sister; give her a ride."

Nothing loath, Nell is strapped on a gray pony, and waits impatiently for the music. The seats fill, the organ sounds forth, "I'm called Little Buttercup," and away they float as light as feathers.

"It is well they're so merry," groans the poor horse beneath them in the cellar, as he treads his weary beat; "they'd find it a sad-go-round if we changed places."

The noon hour strikes; the merry-go-round man is mortal, and wants his dinner, which reminds us that it is time to send for the lunch basket.

Choosing a lovely spot under a spreading elm in the meadow, we lay the cloth, set out our luncheon, brew a pitcher of fine lemonade, and sit down, the merriest of merry parties.

In the midst of our entertainment four uninvited but welcome visitors make their appearance. Guess who they are.

A toad came first, and sat blinking at us with the funniest airs imaginable. Then a robin-redbreast and two sparrows edged their way up to our table with great caution, winked at us with bright eyes, concluded we were trustworthy, and ventured to peck at the crumbs we scattered for them.

PROSPECT PARK, BROOKLYN.—Drawn by L. W. Atwater. PROSPECT PARK, BROOKLYN.—Drawn by L. W. Atwater.

Gathering up the remnants of our feast, we wended our way to a pretty summer-house overlooking a small lake, in which sported a multitude of gold-fish, a pair of swans, some geese, and a bevy of ducks with lovely rings of red, purple, and gold-green feathers about their necks.

Here Nell and the boys found fine sport throwing crackers into the water, and watching the ducks and fishes rush for them, but came away in high disgust because one old drake gave the ducks and fishes hardly any chance at all, but darted and dived and bobbed about so fast that he grabbed a dozen pieces to their one.

"Good-by, old greedy; hope you'll never come up again!" cried Jack, moving away, as the nimble fellow dove head-first till nothing but his funny tail flirted above the water.

A peep at the deer, pony-rides for the boys, and a drive in the goat-carriage for Nell, varied our ramble to the Aerial Skating Rink, which we found on the other side of the Park.

As we came in sight of the elevated square of asphalt pavement, with its gay cavalcade of skaters flitting to and fro inside the railings, the boys hurrahed with delight.

"It's perfectly glorious; let's try it," shouted Harry, bounding down the hill-side, followed closely by Jack.

"I could do that too," said Nell, imitating the movements of the skaters.

"You shall try," replied I; and a minute later we were inside the square, bargaining for a lesson on the odd three-wheeled triangular arrangement, with its horse's head and handled reins.

"Plant your feet firmly on this brace," said the instructor, showing Nell the iron bar; "hold the reins well in hand, bend your right knee, and strike out with your foot as if skating; now your left; and away you go."

Sure enough, off shot Nell, managing to keep up a tolerable speed, then slacking, then increasing, then coming to a dead halt, as Jack, shouting, "Clear the track!" bore down on her car, almost upsetting it.

"A miss is as good as a mile," screams Harry, flying by on the other side, with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.

"Strike out, little girl!" cries a lad, giving Nell's car a push, and sending her speeding along. In and out, around and about, they fly, like mimic charioteers, until, fairly exhausted, they are willing to stop, and go over to the Rotary Yacht, whose snow-white wings are visible from the hill-top.

A pleasant walk across the sloping meadow and along by the side of a small lake brings us to this novel boat, which is merely a great hollow ring of seats, with oars and rowlocks for calm, and sails for breezy, weather.

We step in and sit down; the wind, coming in soft puffs from the south, sends us floating around and around with a dreamy, restful motion that our tired little charioteers thoroughly appreciate as they lean back and trail their hands idly through the cool water.

"Come, come," said I at last, "wake up for our row on the lake, sleepers, and then heigho for home and supper!"

"I was only fooling, Miss Eleanor; I'm fresh as a lark," cried Harry, leaping nimbly out on the platform.

"So am I," said Jack, lending a hand to Nellie.

"The Rotary Yacht will do for a rest, but this is what I call life," exclaimed Harry, as later he and Jack, with even sweep of the oars, sent our pretty boat skimming over the waters of the lake.

Now we sped around curving shores, and past grassy capes; now we skirted fairy islands and reedy shallows; then under hollow bridges, that gave back jolly echoes to Nell's laughter and the dip of the oars.

"Quick, quick—quick, quick," screamed a bevy of ducks, hurrying to shore, as we rounded a woody bend in the lake, and came upon them with a rush that sent the water in diamond showers over their backs.

"Tirra-la, tirra-la," whistled a wood-thrush in the grove; "tirra-la, tirra-la," answered another.

"Ah! that's a warning, children; he sings at sunset. See the light shooting gold green through the trees; that means that our happy day is over. And there's another sign; look over your right shoulder—the new moon."

"Tu-whit, tu-whoo, good-night to you," hooted an owl, as we turned our boat homeward.

"Don't be alarmed; we are going," sighed Harry, half sad that the jolly day at Prospect Park was ended.