They had such a good time with the boats, loading them with cargoes of sea-shells and digging harbors and chasing away the crabs who came to watch, that they did not notice how the sun had dipped down behind the sand-dunes and the light-house brightened far out at sea. Suddenly they heard the curfew ring.
“Why it’s past supper-time!” they cried, and all the boys snatched up their boats and ran home. In a moment the beach was as deserted as the sea, and Birdling sat alone on the sands, his boat between his knees, while the shadows of night crept down to the water. At the furthest end of the beach gleamed a dull square of light—that was his great-aunt’s window, brightened by the oil-lamp behind it:
Oh, how she was going to scold him now! For this time he had really been naughty. He had gathered no driftwood, he was late to supper, and he had ripped the patch off the seat of his trousers!
“I don’t dare take you home, Little Dipper,’ he said as he placed his boat in the safest harbor, as far as possible from the incoming tide. “My great-aunt would burn you in the kitchen stove. Goodbye, Little Dipper!”