The sand was becoming softer and Bertie’s feet began to sink down into it with each step.
This made for slower going. He kept lagging behind and having to scurry to catch up. Often Sebastian stopped, looked over his shoulder and called out “Come along with ye, Bertie. We needs ter get t’ the water’s edge afore the tide runs out any further.”, and Bertie would scamper back to him, huffing and puffing to catch his breath.
Soon they had left the soft deep sand behind. Bertie asked, “Why is the sand becoming damp, Sebastian? We’re still a long way from the water.”
“That’s on account o’ the sea water travels under the sand.It slips along silent-like beneath the sand from the ocean’s edge toward the dry land a good ways further ’n y’d think. Though ya can’t see water under the sand at yer feet, if y’ were t’ dig down a few inches right here y’d find salt water. An’ there be lots of wee critturs livin’ in it.”
“Will we be meeting any of them, Sebastian?” he asked hopefully.
“Can’t promise yer anythin’.” replied his friend. “Let’s jest keep forgin’ ahead with our eyes peeled, an’ we shall see what we shall see.”
He picked up one of these delicious looing tidbits.
As Bertie glanced around he saw, strewn over the beach in every direction, all manner of dried up crinkly stuff, clumps of dead grass, pebbles, bottles, bits of rope, strange looking pieces of wood, shiny jagged objects that looked like bits of broken rock and many small pieces of white stuff. These last reminded him of the tasty cracker morsels which from time to time his father would bring home from the farmhouse kitchen. Expecting a sweet treat he picked up one of these delicious looking tidbits and nibbled at its edge.
“IKKKKHH!”, he cried and spit it out, for it was as hard as a stone and had no taste at all. “What’s this awful stuff, Sebastian? It looks so delicious but it hurts my teeth and tastes like a stone!”
“Bertie, y’re a funny little mouse,” the gull laughed, “That thar’s a piece o’ broken seashell, all what’s left o’ one o’ the many, many former residents what once lived hereabouts in the sand an’ in the waters near by t’ this here beach. Gone to their reward now, be they, but they’ve left behind their protective jackets. I tells yer, them seashells is no good fer eatin’.”
Disgusted, Bertie was tossing the bit of clamshell over his shoulder when he saw a very strange and scary looking creature rushing sideways across the sand towards the water. He turned to Sebastian. “What the heck is that?” he asked.
“That be Mr. Crab.” said Sebastian and he held up a wing. “Avast thar, Cranky! “ he called out. The crab immediately came to a halt and crouched stiffly with its forearms in front of its face in a menacing gesture as if prepared for a fight. “Whar be yer off ter in sech a hurry? I wants ter introduce me friend, Bertie, t’ yer.”
“I’ve no time for any social rubbish, Sebastian. Can’t you see I’m in a rush?”
“ O’course I can, y’ cranky old crustacean.
But Bertie here’d be pleased ter make yer acquaintance. Come over here close aboard ter us an’ we’ll have us a gam. No harm’ll come ter ye, I warrant.”
“Keep your distance. You too Bratty or Bertie or whatever your name is!” he burbled. As he spoke bubbles were frothing out from the place where Bertie thought his mouth should be.
“You’re not fooling me for a minute, Sebastian. I know what you’re up to—you and your sneaky ways.” the ornery crab blustered on and waved his claws wildly which gave Bertie a considerable fright. “Let me warn you, I’m in no mood to have it out with you just now. With one pinch of my claw here I could…”
“Shiver me timbers, Cranky! No need fer all yer carryin’ on so. Y’ve got yerself into a fine pickle, now.” Sebastian chuckled “Y’r findin’ yerself with too much beach ‘tween yerself an’ the water’s edge. Y’ be far from yer element, bucko, and y’d be no match fer me if I’d a hankerin’ ter make a meal o’ yer, I’m thinkin’. An’ I’d make fast work o’ ye, too, yer can bet yer six boots on it. But I’m presently out fer a peaceful stroll with me new shipmate here an’ will have no cause t’ bother with yer on this particalerly fine day, y’ c’n thank yer stars fer that.”
“Whatever,” the crab replied with false bravado. “You two keep your distance if you know what’s good for you. I could turn your small friend into fish food in a few seconds, Sebastian, if you weren’t around, you big bully. But I’ll just be scuttling along now. I want to get my dinner before the tide goes out further.” and with that he rushed off toward the water on his prancey toes.
“Oh, my, what a fierce fellow! I’m so glad you were here, Sebastian. What was that strange thing?” asked Bertie.
“Old Cranky there’s a member o’ the Blue Crab family. They’re mighty sav’ry eatin’, I tells ya, but I’ve jest had me breakfast so I let him have safe passage.”
“He’s sure a weirdo looking creature with those funny eyes on sticks; and what an ugly mouth. And all those legs! He moves them so fast when he runs. They’re a blur. What were those big things that go where his front paws should be?”
“Them’s his claws. He uses ‘em t’ eat with an’ t’ fight off boardin’ attackers if any comes alongside o’ him.”
“UGGHHH!”, said Bertie with a fearful shudder. “I’d hate it if he grabbed my nose with those nasty claws.”
“He’s all smoke ’n’ fire but thur’s no cannon shot to . He wouldn’t hurt ye unless y’ tried to harm ‘im. Them crabs don’t care fer live mouse meat, anyways. The prefers dead stuff they finds in thur travels,” Sebastian added. “Lets be gettin’ along now.”