THE VOYAGE OF THE HOPPERGRASS
BY EDMUND LESTER PEARSON
AUTHOR OF "THE BELIEVING YEARS"
TO PHILIP RICHARDSON PEARSON
This is the book you have asked me about,—once or twice. You remember "The Believing Years," don't you? That was a book about some boys I knew, and although it was written for grown-up readers, there were boys—yourself amongst them—who claimed to have read it.
This story is about boys and men. There are two kinds of pirates in it. One kind is for readers from about eight years old to, say, sixteen. The other kind is recommended from sixteen up to ninety- seven, or eight. There are other things beside the pirates, of course.
It would do no harm, I think, after you have read the book, to let your Father try it. And if Elizabeth and Katharine think they would like it, why, give them 'a chance to find out. That is an advantage girls have over us,—they usually like our books, while we seldom care very much for theirs. I have sent Constance a copy, so you will not have to lend this one to her.
EDMUND LESTER PEARSON
July 28, 1913
(The anniversary of the sailing of the "Hoppergrass.")
I. THE BEGINNING OF THE VOYAGE II. A MAN ON A DESERT ISLAND III. THE LAST OF THE PIRATES IV. WELL BURIED TREASURE V. MIDNIGHT BURGLARS VI. WE ARE OFFERED LODGINGS VII. BUT WE DECIDE TO GO VIII. HUNTING THE HOPPERGRASS IX. THE GOLD COMPANY X. MR. SNIDER XI. PIRATES IN TROUBLE XII. THE VOYAGE BEGINS AGAIN
THE VOYAGE OF THE HOPPERGRASS
THE BEGINNING OF THE VOYAGE
It was a lucky thing that the "Hoppergrass" was a large boat. When we started there were only four of us,—counting Captain Bannister. But we kept picking up passengers—unexpected ones— until the Captain said "we'd have the whole County on board." It was not as bad as that, but we were glad before we came home again, that we had a comfortable cabin, with plenty of sleeping room.
She was a big, white cat-boat, with her name in gilt letters on the stern. On the day when our voyage began she lay quietly at anchor, well out toward the middle of the river. It was still early,—shortly after five of a morning in July. The river was quiet, with only one or two boats moving,—as quiet as the streets of the town through which we had walked on our way to the wharf. There had been a shower just before daylight, and this had discouraged us a little, but now the sun was coming through the clouds, and there were white spirals of mist rising from the water. Across the river, on Fisher's Island, two or three men were moving about their dories, and smoke poured steadily from the chimneys of the houses. A man's head looked out of the cabin of the "Hoppergrass."
"There's someone on board her," said Jimmy Toppan.
"Yes," replied Captain Bannister, "it's Clarence. He's havin' some breakfast, I guess. He helped me bring her up river last night, and he slept on board. He aint goin' with us, but he'll help us with this stuff."
Then he shouted: "Hey! Clarence!"
The "Hoppergrass" was Captain Bannister's boat,—he had just bought her. He did not like the name, but as yet he had not found any way of changing it. Captain Bannister was a retired seaman, but I do not know whether he had ever been a full-fledged captain of a ship. In our town it was often the custom to call a man "Captain" if he had ever risen as high as mate. The Captain was a short, red-faced man, with such bowed legs that you could have pushed a barrel, end-ways, right between them. Ed Mason thought that the Captain's legs were bowed like that because he had been made to sit for hours astride a barrel. Ed believed that this was a favorite form of punishment on board ship,—especially in the navy.
I had a different idea about the Captain's legs. It was my belief that they were what sailors call "sea-legs." I had often read, in stories about the ocean, of people who were very sick and unhappy until the got their "sea-legs." After that, as near as I could make out, they could balance themselves better as they walked the deck, and they didn't mind the rolling of the ship. It seemed resonable that a man who had followed the sea for forty years, like the Captain, would get "sea-legs" for good and all. But we never dared to ask the Captain about it.
"Hey! Clarence!" he shouted again. "What's the matter with yer? Think we want to stand here all day?"
The others of us, waiting on the wharf, were Ed Mason, Jimmy Toppan, and myself. My name was Sam Edwards. (It still IS Sam Edwards, of course, except that some people call me Samuel now).
"You boys provide the grub," the Captain had said, "an' I'll find the boat for a week's cruise."
We were more than willing to agree to that, and we got our families to agree to it. In fact we got them so much interested in it that they fitted us out with a plentiful supply. I had a basket which contained, among other things, a whole boiled ham,—one of those hams that are all brown on the outside, covered with cracker-crumbs and sugar, with cloves stuck in here and there. It makes me hungry to think of them. Jimmy's grandmother had provided all kinds of food, including a lot of her celebrated sugar-gingerbread, and a water-melon. Jimmy was carrying the water-melon now, by means of a shawl-strap. Ed Mason brought up the rear of our procession, as we came down the wharf, with a wheel-barrow full of the rest of our food,—coffee, and bacon, crackers, pork, eggs, butter, condensed milk (horrid stuff!) and two or threee loaves of fresh bread. Oh, and I forgot threee dozen mince turnovers, brought by Ed Mason.
The Captain snorted a little over the fresh bread and some of the other things.
"If you'd ever had to live for months at a time on salt-hoss an' hard tack, the same's I've done, you wouldn't bring soft bread on a boat. It spiles in no time."
That did not seem to me a good argument, for if the Captain didn't like to live on these things, why should he want us to bring them? But I could see that Jimmy Toppan—who liked everything done sailor-fashion—was rather fascinated by the idea of eating nothing but ship's food. Ed Mason and I, however, had read the books by Clark Russell, and we didn't want to eat biscuits full of weevils, bad meat, and all the other unpleasant things they gave to sailors. We agreed that salt horse, or fresh horse, either, did not strike our fancy. Anyhow, we ate up the soft bread the first day so we did not have to worry about it afterwards. We counted on getting fish and clams for chowders, and probably some lobsters at Duck Island.
By this time, Clarence was coming ashore in the tender. He did not sit facing the stern, and pull with the oars as any ordinary person would have done. Instead, he faced the bow, and used the oars to push with. He had seen the Captain doing this, and, like Jimmy, it was his aim to be as much of a sailor as possible. Why the Captain did it, I cannot say, unless it was for the reason that sailors often seem to enjoy doing things in an odd and awkward fashion, so as to puzzle landsmen. Neither of them made very good progress by it, and Clarence wabbled the boat, and caught crabs every other stroke.
At last he got alongside the wharf, and we put some of our things in the boat, and rowed out to the "Hoppergrass." It took two trips to carry everything, for we had bags of clothes, as well as rubber boots and oil-skins. Ed Mason and Clarence, between them, managed to let the water-melon slip out of the straps, so it fell into the river and went bobbing down stream with the tide. The Captain and I, who were still in the tender, went after it.
Did you ever try to fish a big water-melon out of a river? It is about the roundest thing, and the slipperyest thing, and the hardest thing to get hold of, that you could imagine. It rolls over and over, and when you get it out—plop! it tumbles back into the water and sinks out of sight. Then it comes up again— bobbing—at some other place. Clarence and Ed were in an argument as to which of them had dropped the melon, while Jimmy stood up in the bow and shouted directions to me.
"Gaff it! gaff it! Why don't you gaff it?"
"How can I gaff it? What can I gaff it with,—you!"
"Never mind him," said the Captain. "Now, look,—I'll lay the boat right across its bows. ... Now, wait. ... Now! Can't you get it now?"
I did get it that time, and we took it back to the "Hoppergrass."
"You ought to have gaffed it, you know," remarked Jimmy.
Captain Bannister climbed on board.
"Come on, boys," he said, "we want to get under way while this breeze holds. It don't amount to much now. Sam, you take Clarence ashore, and get back as quick as you can. Jimmy, you can help me on the sail, an' Ed—you stow all these things below. I've got to have standin' room."
When I got back from shore Ed had put the clothes, and most of the food into the cabin, and the sail was going up.
"Now, the anchor," the Captain sang out; "all of yer better take hold ... one of yer coil up that rope ... now! all together! ... now! ... now!"
And with the usual and very necessary grunts and groans from the Captain the anchor slowly came out of the water. We were already moving down river.
"Swash it round, and get that mud off,—I don't want any of it on the deck. ... That's right. Now, shove these jugs under the seats, ... that's better. What's that striking?"
He was at the wheel, listening to the North Church clock.
"Four, five, six. Fust rate, fust rate,—I like to get away on time."
All the clouds had disappeared, and it was a fine, clear morning. We were sailing almost into the sun. Perhaps you think that I have forgotten to tell you where we were going, but one of the best things about the beginning of that voyage was that we didn't know exactly where we WERE going. All we had to do was to keep on down the river, turn into Sandy Island River, and pretty soon we would come out in Broad Bay. And in Broad Bay there were any number of islands,—some people said three hundred and sixty-five, one for every day of the year. Some of these islands had people living on them, but a great many of them were uninhabited. We could sail about for a week, call at half a dozen different islands every day, and still have a lot of them left over.
"Can we get to Duck Island tonight?" asked Ed Mason.
"Not 'fore tomorrer noon. We'll put in at Little Duck, tonight."
We were slipping along now beside a big, three-masted schooner—a coal schooner—which was anchored in mid-stream. The crew must have been below at breakfast, for the decks were deserted except for one man. He wore a blue shirt, and he leaned over the rail, smoking a day pipe. As we passed he spelled out the name on the stern of our boat. He did this in such a loud voice that it was clear he wished us to hear him.
"Haitch—o—double p—e—r—HOPPER—g-r-a—double s-GRASS. HOPPER- -GRASS!"
And then he scornfully spat into the river.
Captain Bannister's face turned a darker red, and he glanced over his shoulder at the man. Then he bent forward again, peered ahead and under the sail as if sighting our course with great care, and turned the wheel a little.
"Some folks don't have nothin' to do but mind other folks's business for 'em," he remarked, looking aloft as if speaking to the mast head.
There was silence for a moment. We felt that the man in the blue shirt had somehow insulted all of us.
"Not that I care what a Pennsylvania Dutchman that aint never been anywhere 'cept between here an' Philadelphy a-shovellin' coal says, anyhow," he added.
Then he was silent again.
'"Taint as though I give her the name, myself," he observed, at last. "Seein' I just got her a week ago last Saturday. I ASKED Casper Hoyt what under the canopy possessed him to give her a name like that. Said his father named her. Well, I thought his father must be plumb foolish, or something, but I didn't like to say so to HIM. Seems too bad to waste them gilt letters, or I'd a-had another name on her 'fore this. I wanted to use as many of them letters as I could, an' I thought of callin' her for my aunt, over at Greenland."
"What is your aunt's name?" inquired Jimmy Toppan.
"Hannah J. Pettingell."
"Isn't that too long a name?"
"Too long? 'Taint as long as the 'Abbie and Elizabeth Sweetser' that I went out to Calcutta in, summer of '68. And yer see I could use some of them letters,—the H, an' the P, an' the G,—but not all of 'em."
"I don't think I like that name as well as 'Hoppergrass,'" said Jimmy.
"Anything's better'n that," replied the Captain, decidedly. "Besides, my aunt was a sort of benefactor of mine,—she always said I was her fav'rite nephew."
"Is she dead?"
"Died seven year ago this spring, while I was in New Orleans. She left me her second best ear-trumpet,—she was deef as a post. She had two of 'em. One was a rubber toob sort of thing,—pretty nigh four foot long. She only used that on Sundays, an' when the minister called. She left me the other, an' I've got it to home, over the parlor mantelpiece."
I remembered seeing it there, when I had called on the Captain. He lived all alone on West Injy Lane, in a house full of cats and curiosities. The ear-trumpet always had a bouquet of dried flowers stuffed in the big end, and I had supposed that it was a speaking- trumpet. I thought the Captain had used it to shout orders through, when his ship was going round Cape Horn in a gale. It disappointed me to hear that it was nothing but his aunt's ear- trumpet. And I couldn't see why Miss Hannah Pettingell, who had only left the Captain her ear-trumpet (and the second-best one, besides) had any right to have the boat's name changed in her honor.
"I like the name, just as it is," I said.
"Do yer?" inquired the Captain. "Well, there's no accountin' for tastes, as the man said when he found the monkey eatin' glue."
This seemed to be a joke on me. Ed and Jimmy joined the Captain in laughing, and I felt rather put down. But we soon had something else to think of, for we went on another tack to enter Sandy Island River. A bridge crossed this river, not far from the mouth, and the draw had to be turned to let us through. Ed Mason got a long fish-horn from the cabin, and began to blow it. After a while the old draw-tender, who lived in a shanty, quarter of a mile away, came hobbling up the road. He slowly swung open the draw, and then, as we approached the bridge, peered down at us.
"This yer new boat, Lem?" said he to the Captain.
"This is her, right enough," said our skipper.
"Sets kinder high in the water, don't she?"
The aged draw-tender had the air of a man who was expected to find fault, and was quite able to do it.
"Hadn't noticed it," replied the Captain, shortly.
He was attending closely to sailing the boat through the narrow gap in the bridge. The old man cackled.
"Guess you'll find, when you git her outside, that them boys 'll wish you had some more ballast in her."
Then he caught sight of the name on the stern.
"Hopper-grass! Hoppergrass! Where didger git that air name, Lem? Invent it yerself?"
"No, I didn't," said the Captain. He was very much irritated, and he did not look around.
"Well, then, if 'taint yer own inventin', I jes as soon tell yer— if yer ask ME,—that it's the most ding-busted, tom-fool name I ever see on a cat-boat in all my born days."
"Well, I didn't ask yer," shouted Captain Bannister, "an' it don't matter two cents to me WHAT you think."
The ancient cackled again. Either he was deaf, or else he was pretending not to hear, in order to thorn the Captain. He kept on with his remarks.
"Yessir, the very WUST I ever see on the stern of a boat. That's what I think, Lem, an' you can take it or leave it."
There was nothing to do but leave it, for we had already left the bridge behind, and were feoon too far away to hear the critic's remarks. He continued to give us his opinion, however, for we could see his jaw move, though we could not make out a single word he said.
This river was very different from the main stream. Narrow and muddy, it ran between high banks which were covered with marsh grass. There were sudden twists and turns, so that we never knew what might be ahead of us. Sometimes we sailed so near the shore that the boom swept along the bank, brushing the grass. Once we turned a corner suddenly, and started up four crows, who were pecking at a dead fish, and in another place a big crane jumped clumsily up from a pool, and flapped heavily away. The dark, muddy water boiled up in thousands of bubbles in our wake.
"We'll see if we can get a mess of clams at Pingree's Beach, an' then we'll have a chowder for dinner,—what d'yer say, boys?"
We all said that the Captain's idea was a good one. There was a sharp turn in the river just then, and he put the boat about to round a sort of headland, where the banks were eight or ten feet high.
"Hard-a-lee! Look out for your heads," he shouted; and when the sail had swung over he continued: "I come up through here one night two years ago, in a boat that belonged to Dave Rodigrass,—I was bringing her up from Little Duck Island, for him. It was thicker'n burgoo, an' when I got the other side o' this pint, I heard a feller sing out from this side that he was aground, an' he warned me off, an' when I got here I couldn't see him, an' pretty soon he begun shoutin' from the other side. I tell yer I thought I'd got 'em again, or something, an' I—"
The Captain's recollections stopped that instant, for a voice—a loud, cheerful voice—arose only a few feet from us. It came from the other side of the sail, and that was all we could tell about it.
"Look out there!" it shouted, "look out! Oh, I mean: ship ahoy! ship ahoy!"
This hail came so suddenly that it made us jump, and Ed Mason, who was standing up forward, nearly fell overboard. He grabbed the mast to save himself, and then we all stooped to looked under the sail. The shouting had begun again, and there was a great racket of "Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!"
A MAN ON A DESERT ISLAND
"All right, all right!" shouted Captain Bannister, "we hear yer. You needn't ahoy so much."
But the voice continued to shout "Ship ahoy!" at a great rate, until the "Hoppergrass" drew slowly ahead, and we could see what had been hidden by the sail.
A sand-bar stuck out of the water, right in the middle of the river. Only a few feet of it showed, and the island which it made was very small. It was so small that the man who was sitting on it had his legs drawn up till his knees came right under his chin, so as to keep his feet from getting wet. He was a young man, about twenty years old. He had on white trousers and a pink shirt, and he was slowly waving a white canvas hat. His hair was sandy, and very much ruffled, and his big, pale blue eyes were wide open, as though he were surprised about something.
"Ship ahoy!" he remarked again, but in an ordinary conversational tone, this time.
Then he climbed to his feet,—carefully, so as to keep the steep sides of his little, sand island from giving way, and letting him down into the water. As soon as he was standing up straight he raised one hand in the air, as if he were in a play, and said: "Rescued at last!"
Then he turned toward us, and remarked: "Gentlemen, I thank you."
"You better wait till you're on board," said the Captain, "before you begin thankin' us. I'll come about in a minute, an' then we'll fetch yer in the tender."
Jimmy Toppan had already begun to pull the small boat alongside, but before he could get into it, the young man called out: "That's all right! I'll swim."
And he plunged into the water, and struck out toward us. Of course he could not overtake a sail-boat, and we soon left him behind. He kept on swimming, however, until his hat fell off. Turning around, he picked up the hat, and jammed it on his head again. By this time the Captain had put about, and started on a tack that brought us near the swimmer. The young man came alongside, with a smile on his wet face.
"Don't try to grab the boat," shouted the Captain, "get hold of the tender!"
So the swimmer let us pass him, seized the side of the small boat, and after one or two trials (which nearly upset the tender) managed to climb in. He stood up in the stern, and raised his hand toward the sky, again, as if he were "speaking a piece" in school.
"Safe! Safe, at last!" he cried.
At this instant the painter became taut; the small boat gave a sudden jerk, and he went overboard again like a flash, head first.
Captain Bannister turned his head to see how the young man was getting on. Of course the boat was empty.
"Where'n the nation has he got to, now?" exclaimed the bewildered Captain.
We were all doubled up laughing, but we managed to gasp out: "He's gone overboard again!"
"What's he done that for?"
"Fell over? What'n the dickens did he do that for? Where is he, anyhow?"
At this moment the sandy head, and astonished face came up, once more, in our wake. He brushed the water out of his eyes, looked at us, and began to smile again.
"Say, you!" shouted the Captain, "be you comin' on this boat, or what be you goin' to do?"
The swimmer gasped.
"If you keep on at that rate," he called, "I'm probably NOT coming. If you'll wait a bit, though, I'll—"
Here he swallowed a mouthful of water, and stopped speaking. He waved one arm at us, however, and seemed to smile cheerfully.
"Well, I'll come back once more,—d'yer hear?" This from the Captain. "An' when yer get aboard, STAY aboard, will yer?"
The "Hoppergrass" turned again, and the same performance was gone through. The pink-shirted man climbed into the tender, but this time he sat down cautiously in the stern, and waited for the painter to become taut. It had not slackened however, so there was no chance for another such accident as that which knocked him overboard before. He watched the painter for a moment, and then shook his fist at it.
"Fooled you that time, you old rope!"
Jimmy and Ed pulled the tender alongside, and the wet man stepped gingerly aboard the "Hoppergrass." His clothes stuck tight to him, and his shoes made a squshy sound, wherever he stepped. But he insisted on shaking hands with us, all around.
"If you hadn't come just when you did," he remarked solemnly, "I should have been devoured by sharks. Already I had noticed a black fin circling about the island—I mean a LEAN, black fin,—or is it a low, rakish, black fin? No; that's a craft,—a low, rakish, black craft. It was a LEAN, black fin—"
Captain Bannister gave a great snort of disgust.
"SHARKS!" he exclaimed, "there aint no sharks in this river!"
"No? Well, probably you are more familiar with it than I am."
"Guess I ought to know something 'bout it," the Captain returned; "I've been on it longer than most folks 'round here."
"On it LONGER, no doubt," said the young man, politely, "but have you gone into it any deeper than I?"
The Captain smiled.
"Well, no; I guess not. You've got me there, all right."
The stranger perched himself on the house, and there was a moment's silence until the Captain spoke again.
"But how in the nation did yer git on that there sand-bar, anyway? Where'd yer come from?"
"I came from—what was the name of that place where I got off the train? I thought I'd remember it,—I remembered it by gammon and spinach—yes, that's it,—it's in that, somehow—"
' Rowley, Powley, Gammon and Spinach,—Heighho! says Anthony—'"
"Rowley!" we all exclaimed.
"That's it! that's it! Rowley. Think of living at a place so famous as that! It sounds like great fun. But nobody does live there. When I got off the train there was only one man in sight, and he was standing on a wharf watching a steamboat go up the river, or down the river, or whatever it is. That was MY boat,—I was going to Duck Island in her. But she'd gone, and the man said he'd let me take a canoe, for half a dollar, and I thought that was very trusting of him, for how did he know I'd ever bring it back? But he said I could leave it with a man named Pike, who lives on Little Duck Island, and he'd get it tomorrow. So I gave him half a dollar, and then I came away in the canoe. Aren't they wabbly? I never was in one before."
"Did you paddle down here in a canoe? And you'd never been in one before?"
"Yes. That is, I didn't do much with the paddle,—except push off from the bank every now and then. The canoe seemed to come along pretty well. How that river does twist! And it's very narrow,—I should think the steamboat would stick."
The Captain opened his mouth helplessly, once or twice.
"Gosh sakes!" he said, "you warn't in no river. You was in Pingree's Crik, or you wouldn't have got down here."
"I thought it seemed pretty narrow. But when I got out here—round that corner—and came out where it's so much broader, I couldn't make the canoe go at all, except backwards. The front end of her kept swinging round, for the river was running the wrong way. At last I ran right up on that island, and then I got out, for my foot had gone to sleep. You see I hadn't dared to move, the canoe wabbled so. And then I went to look at some critters that were crawling around in the water,—they looked like tennis-racquets, only their tails weren't quite big enough—"
"Horse-shoe crabs," said Ed Mason.
"I don't know what they were, but I got quite fascinated watching them, and the first thing I knew the island had grown smaller—"
"The tide was coming in," explained Jimmy.
"But where is your canoe?" I asked him, "what have you done with it?"
The astonished look came over the young man's face.
"Why, that's so! I wonder where it has gone?"
"Land o' libberty!" said the Captain, "don't yer know?"
"Why, yes, it floated off. While I was watching the tennis-racquet animals it got loose, somehow—"
"Naturally," observed Captain Bannister, "seein' the tide was risin', an' I don't s'pose yer pulled it up on the sand."
"And the first thing I knew it was quite a distance from the island."
"Couldn't you have swum for it?" I demanded.
"Yes; but I didn't want to get all wet,—I—"
And then we all looked at his soaked clothes, and he laughed with us.
"Somehow, I didn't think of that when you came along," he admitted.
"But don't you really know where the canoe is?"
'Why, it disappeared around that point, just before I saw your boat. I really ought to get it again, because Mr. Skeels—that's the name of the man who owns it—isn't it great? I tried to make up a poem about him as I came down the river, but I couldn't get any farther than:
There was an old person named Skeels, Who lived upon lobsters and eels,—
and he did look as if he lived upon lobsters and eels, too. Or WITH them. Anyhow, he'll be down to Mr. Pike's tomorrow, asking for the canoe. And my bag, and suit-case, and all my clothes are in it, too. So I suppose I'll have to find it. Will it go out to sea?"
"It can't," said the Captain, "not till the tide turns. We'll overtake it 'fore long,—you see if we don't."
Sure enough, we did overtake it. We had hardly passed the point of land when Jimmy Toppan, who spent most of his time standing in the bow, peering ahead like Leif Ericsson discovering Vinland, sang out that he had sighted the canoe. It had drifted into some eel- grass, near the shore, and we had no trouble in getting it. Beside the bags, there were in the canoe some large sheets of paper, torn out of a sketch book. These were covered with pictures of the horse-shoe crabs,—drawn in a very amusing fashion. One sketch showed an old crab, wearing a mob-cap and sitting up in bed, drinking tea.
The stranger was delighted to get his belongings. He promptly changed his wet clothes for a bathing-suit, leaving the wet things in the sun to dry.
"Now," he said, "I'm all ready to go overboard, but it will be just like my luck not to fall over at all."
"You stay on the boat," said the Captain, decidedly; "I've rescued you twice, and that's enough for one day."
"All right, Captain. Though I don't mind being in the water. It's this desert island business that scares me most to death. There was the question of food. The—what-do-you-call—'em crabs had all gone away before you came, and I didn't think much of eating them cold, anyway. I had a piece of chocolate—"
He laughed and jumped up.
"Here it is," he said, fishing it out from a wet trousers' pocket. "I was going to divide it so as to have a piece for each day. That's the way people do when they're shipwrecked, isn't it, Captain?"
"So they say. Never had to come to that, myself."
"Well, I was stuck right off. For how did I know how many days I was going to stay on the island? The books on shipwrecks don't say anything about that. I didn't know whether to divide the chocolate into five pieces or ten,—they'd have been pretty small, if I'd had to have made it last for ten days. Do you think it would have kept me alive for ten days, Captain?"
"I dunno," replied the Captain, "but I guess yer wouldn't have stayed there so long as that. There'll be six foot of water on that bar before noon, so yer wouldn't have found the settin' quite so comfortable. Besides, some of them sharks of yours might have et yer."
"Well, then," the young man returned, "it was lucky you came when you did. The water was crowding me rather close. And now, what shall I do? Will you give me a lift as far as Little Duck Island? Or if you haven't got room enough, and I'll be in the way, why, I'll get in Mr. Skeels' canoe again, and give you an exhibition of wabbling."
He looked dismally toward the canoe, which we now had in tow behind the tender. We all told the castaway that we would be glad to have him stay with us.
"Plenty of sleepin' room on board," said Captain Bannister, "an' you said you was goin' to Big Duck, didn't yer? You stay with us, and we'll get yer there all right, tomorrer."
"Do you know many people on Duck Island, Mr. Daddles?" asked Ed Mason.
The young man turned around.
"Where did you get that name?" he asked.
"It's on that card on your bag."
The owner of the bag examined the label.
"I know who put that on there," he remarked to himself, "well, I ... why ... no, I am going to the island, I suppose, to see a Mr. Kidd. Relation of the pirate, I hope. He didn't say anything about it in his letter. Whether he was related to Captain Kidd, I mean."
"You can find out tomorrer," said our skipper, "now we're headin' for Pingree's Beach to see if we can get a mess of clams of old man Haskell. Then we'll have dinner, and we can run over to the inlet at Little Duck in an hour, any time this afternoon."
The breeze was still light, and the "Hoppergrass" made only fair progress. Soon we were out of the river, and entering Broad Bay. The sun was high by this time, the air cool and pleasant. Everything seemed so clear and fresh, that it made us think the land a poor place in comparison with the water. How hot and dusty the streets of the town must be at this same minute! We felt sorry for the people who had to stay there. We had only the clean white hull of the boat between us and the sparkling water of the bay. Toward the sky the great white sail of our boat soared up, like the wing of a giant sea gull, and we went forward as easily and smoothly as one of the gulls who were gliding through the air, and dipping to the water a few hundred yards ahead of us. The grass covered river-banks were far astern now, and the only land ahead was some low sand-dunes and beaches, hardly to be seen in the distance.
"Here goes the chocolate," said Mr. Daddles, tossing it overboard, "once it might have saved my life, but I don't care for it now. Chocolate flavored with salt-water is pretty poor stuff."
Then he commenced turning over his clothes, which were spread out in the sun on top of the cabin.
"What made yer say p'r'aps this feller named Kidd was a relation of the pirate?" asked Captain Bannister. "You'd heard 'bout Fishback Island, hadn't yer?"
"No, I never heard the name, even."
"What about Fishback Island, Captain?" asked Ed Mason.
"You never heard all them yarns, an' all that diggin' that went on over there?"
"No, I never heard of it," Ed replied, "are there pirates there?"
"Of course not," said Jimmy Toppan scornfully, "there aren't any pirates anywhere, now."
"Aren't there?" the Captain inquired. He slacked the sheet a little, and made it fast with great deliberation. "You better not be too sure of that, cos' I know where there's plenty of 'em."
"Around here?" I inquired.
Captain Bannister chuckled.
"No, not very near this place. In the China Sea."
"Have you ever seen any of them?"
"A whole junk full of 'em."
"What did they do?"
All four of us spoke at once. Mr. Daddles seemed to be as much interested as the rest of us.
"Well, they tried to ketch us. But they couldn't. That was all there was to it, then. But I see six of 'em 'bout a month later in Hong Kong."
"In Hong Kong! What were they doing there?"
"They was havin' their heads cut off, by a feller with a long sword. Anyway, I guess they was some of the same crew that chased us in the junk, cos' they was took by a man-of-war in 'bout the same place."
"How did they like having their heads cut off?" asked Mr. Daddles.
"Well, yer can't tell 'bout a Chinaman. They didn't seem to mind it much. They get used to it, yer see."
"Somehow," said Mr. Daddles, "a Chinese pirate doesn't seem like the real thing to me."
"That's so," I agreed. I came and sat down with the Captain and Ed Mason in the cock-pit. "I always think of a pirate as a man with a black beard, and—"
"A red sash around his waist," put in Ed Mason.
"All stuck full of pistols and things," added Jimmy.
"Guess that kind has all died off," said the Captain.
"All except Black Pedro," remarked Mr. Daddles.
"Never heard of HIM."
"Never HEARD of him?" This in a tone of great surprise. "You never heard of him either?" said Mr. Daddles, turning to each of us boys, one after the other. "What have your parents been doing to let you grow up in ignorance? I'll have to tell you about him,— he's the very last of the pirates."
"Where does he hang out?" asked the Captain.
"On Rum Island or Alligator Key,—I'm not sure which. The accounts vary."
The Captain looked at Mr. Daddles in a quizzical fashion. "I guess you've got a yarn," said he,—"why don't yer let us have it?"
Mr. Daddles was perched on the cabin, swinging his bare legs over the cock-pit. The Captain was at the wheel, as usual, with his eyes fixed on the water ahead of us, part of the time, but now and then raised to look at Mr. Daddles. The latter had a serious, almost mournful expression on his face, as he told the story of the last of the pirates.
THE LAST OF THE PIRATES
"You know that a great many of the most famous pirates were really rather small potatoes. Take Captain Kidd, for instance. Why, they are still disputing whether he was a pirate or not. If he was one, he didn't take to it until late in life, and he'd been a perfectly respectable sailor up to that time. They sent him out to catch pirates, and according to one story he turned pirate himself."
"Well, they hung him for something," said Captain Bannister.
"Yes, sir. They did that because they said he was a pirate, and that he murdered his mate. He said his mate mutinied, and that he was justified in killing him. There were a lot of others who went out to catch pirates, but ended by turning pirates themselves. Then there were some who just carried on pirating as a kind of branch business, when other things were dull. What respect can you have for that kind of a pirate? Some of 'em were wreckers part of the time, and pirates the other part."
"What are wreckers?" I asked.
"Why, they," explained Mr. Daddles, "made a living by what they could steal from wrecks. Either they stayed on dangerous shores and waited for a wreck, or they would deceive sailors by building false beacons at night so as to toll the ships upon the rocks. That was a pretty mean sort of thing! They couldn't pick out a rich galleon, all full of gold ingots, and then fight for the treasure, like pirates and gentlemen! No; they had to take whatever came along, and, like as not, all they would get would be a miserable fishing-shack, loaded with hake and halibut! A real, simon-pure pirate would have refused to shake hands with a low- down wrecker, and it would have served him right, too.
"But Black Pedro was the very top-notcher of them all, the finest flower of piracy. He didn't go pirating just during the summer months, when his other business was slack. And he would have died before he'd have been a wrecker. It was a profession, with him. And an inherited one, too. He was the third of the name. He started in as cabin boy on the ship of his grand-father,—old Black Pedro the First. The old man, the grand-father, was captured once by an Admiral of the English Navy, and taken to Tyburn to be hanged. You see he was such a prominent pirate that they wouldn't just string him up to the yard arm, like a common buccaneer. He was tried with the greatest ceremony, and sentenced to death by the Lord Chief Justice himself. That was a great feather in his cap. But when they tried to hang him the crowd around the gallows liked him so well that they started a riot, and in the excitement he got away, and a year later he was back on the Spanish Main, pirating again, with all of his old crew who were still alive,— about eight of 'em.
"He had to get a new ship, for his old one—the 'Panther,'—had been sunk in the fight with the English Admiral. So he had one built for him by a firm in San Domingo, who made a specialty of pirate ships. It was the very latest thing in that kind of vessel, strong, swift, heavily armed, and luxuriously furnished. The crew had a social hall for holding their revels and the cabins were fit for a king. Even The Plank was solid mahogany."
"What plank?" This from Ed Mason.
"WHAT plank? Did you ever hear such a question? I shouldn't think you'd ever been to school. Why, THE PLANK,—the one that the pirates' victims have to walk. Didn't you ever hear of walking the plank?"
"Well, old Black Pedro the First named his new ship 'The Angel of Death' and he had a picture of the Angel embroidered in black velvet on his foresail. He was a proud man, I tell you, when he sailed out of San Domingo on his first voyage. He had a black velvet suit—made out of some that was left over from the picture of the Angel—and a red sash around his waist, in the proper style. This was stuck full of cutlasses and flint-lock pistols,— four cutlasses and eight pistols. And he had two or three more pistols in each boot. He had a fierce, black beard, and the most ferocious face you can imagine. He scared some people to death by just GLARING at them. And his own son was first mate,—he was almost as ferocious as old Pedro the First. And HIS son—the grandson, that is, of Pedro the First—was cabin boy. It was the boy's first voyage. Before they had been out a week they fell in with 'El Espiritu Santo,' a private galleon belonging to the King of Spain. It was loaded with bars of solid gold, and fifteen chests of gold doubloons. Black Pedro ordered the Jolly Roger hoisted at all three mast-heads, and went down to his cabin and stuck six more pistols in his boots. Then the two ships opened fire on each other with their big guns, and fought for about half an hour. At the end of that time, the first mate came to the captain and said:
"'Father, I think it's about time to board her.'
"'Are the scuppers running with blood yet?'
"Pedro the Second went and inspected the scuppers.
"'No,' he said, 'not yet.'
"'Continue firing till they are,' ordered the Captain.
"After about ten minutes more, the mate reported the scuppers running with blood in the regular manner. Then, and not till then, did old Pedro give orders to board. That was why he was the prince of pirates,—it was his attention to details, to the little things that make up the difference between a real pirate and a mere sea- thief. You can see what an inheritance the third Pedro had,—how he was brought up to reverence the best traditions of his calling.
"They laid the 'Angel' alongside the Spanish galleon, and grappled the two vessels together. Old Pedro led the boarding party, and when they got to the poop-deck of the galleon they found the Spanish captain, the first mate, and the cabin-boy waiting for them with cutlasses. The three Pedros, father, son, and grandson, engaged them according to rank, and finished them off at the same moment. The rest of the Spanish crew had been subdued in the meantime, and it only remained to make them walk the plank, then transfer the treasure to 'The Angel of Death,' and sail away, leaving 'El Espiritu Santo' on fire, so she would blow up when the fire reached her powder magazine.
"When the officers were killed, and the crew and passengers of the galleon were lined up on deck, awaiting their fate, old Pedro strode down from the poop-deck, wiping his cutlass.
"'Now,' he said, knowing that all eyes were on him, 'we'll feed 'em to the sharks!'
"And he roared: 'Fetch out The Plank!'
"There was a pause. No one moved.
"'Blood and Bones!' roared old Pedro, 'don't you hear me? Fetch out The Plank!'
"At this the bo's'n, Aaron Halyard, stepped forward.
"'Oh there you are, are you, Halyard?' bellowed the pirate chief, 'well, why don't you fetch out The Plank? It's your duty,—you're in charge of it.'
"The bo's'n pulled at his forelock, and bowed to his commander.
"'Beggin' yer pardin, Cap'n,' said he, 'kin I have a word with yer private-like? Lemme whisper in yer ear, if I may make so bold—'
"'No whispering,' returned his chief, 'no whispering here. What's the matter with you anyway? And why don't you fetch out The Plank?'"
'"Well, Cap'n,' said the bo's'n, rubbing his hands together, nervously, 'you know ME. I've been with you ever since you begun. I was with you in the days of the old 'Panther,' an'—' "'Cut it short!' shouted Pedro.
"'Well, Cap'n,' the bo's'n repeated, with his knees knocking together, 'I never was so mortified in all my life—specially in front of all the gentry here,' pointing his thumb toward the Spanish prisoners, 'but the fact is, Cap'n, I've clean forgot where I put The Plank!'
"'Forgot!' screamed old Pedro.
"'Yessir, plumb forgot. I jus' can't remember for the life of me, where I put her. I know I brought her aboard myself, an' I'd a- taken my affydavy I put her under my bunk, but when I looked for her, when we fust sighted this here galleon, strike me foolish if she was there at all! I asked the cook about it. He'll tell yer so hisself—an' he—'
"'Cut it short!' Pedro roared again.
"He glared around him—did old Pedro—like an infuriated lion. Once he raised his cutlass and seemed about to sweep off the bo's'n's head with it. At last he said in a choked voice—
"'Well, for goodness' sake, think! Can't you remember what you did with it?'
"Aaron shook his head dumbly. Then as he stood there, quaking, a sudden gleam of intelligence came into his eye.
"'That's it!' he said,'that's it. The cook wanted an ironin' board, he said, and he borrowed it—'
"He broke off, and scrambled hastily over the side of 'The Angel of Death.' Then he rushed below, and in a few minutes came back, nervously tearing off some sheets of white cloth, which surrounded the handsome, hand-carved, mahogany Plank.
"'Lucky for you!' bellowed Pedro, 'now put her in place, boys!'
"His men put her in place and the Spanish crew had the pleasure of starting the long procession of victims who were to go overboard by that route in the years to come.
"Such was the first fight of 'The Angel of Death' and just such success (excepting, of course, the hitch about The Plank) rewarded the efforts of old Pedro for over twenty years. Up and down the Spanish Main he sailed, and the sight of that foresail, with its terrible picture of the Black Angel, struck terror to the heart of every man afloat. Even men-of-war fought shy of the three Pedros. Once 'The Angel of Death' rounded the Cape of Good Hope and attacked a treasure fleet on its way back from the Indies. On that occasion it captured so many chests of gold doubloons that they quite blocked up the social hall, where the crew used to hold their revels, and they had to revel on deck, until 'The Angel of Death' got back to Rum Island, where they buried their treasure.
"Finally, old Pedro the First was taken sick. There was a fight, early one morning when the air was very damp, between the 'Angel' and a rich merchantman. The pirate captain got rather over-heated, during his usual duel with the captain of the merchantman, and then he foolishly sat down in a draft while he ate his breakfast. He had a bad attack of rheumatism, and it made it very hard for him to scramble over the bulwarks when he led a boarding party to the enemy's decks. The next time they put in at Rum Island the old man took his bed, dolefully predicting that his end was near.
"'Just at this season, when the plate-ships are all sailing for Spain,' he grumbled, 'I don't see what I've done to be put upon this way.'
"He got worse and worse, however, and the best doctors shook their heads over his case. He called in his son and grandson, and old Aaron Halyard, the bo's'n,—the same one who came so near to botching everything in the first fight. He said good-bye to them all, and gave some good advice to the youngest Pedro,—who was a fine, promising boy, by this time. Then he passed away, and they gave him the biggest funeral that had ever been seen on Rum Island.
"Of course, Black Pedro the Second took up the work right where the old pirate had left it. It was the season when the galleons were starting for Spain, loaded down with gold, and as soon as the funeral was over, the 'Angel' sailed on her regular autumn trip. Some of the Spanish captains had heard of the death of old Pedro, and so they weren't quite as cautious as they should have been. They found out their mistake very quick, however, and the 'Angel' had a most profitable voyage. Gold and silver from the mines of Peru, diamonds from Brazil, rubies and other kinds of precious stones,—oh, I tell you, the pirates sailed back to Rum Island that winter, chuckling with glee at the thought of the wealth they had won. They had with them the Governor General of the Antilles, a Spanish grandee of the very highest kind. They held him for ransom, and made the King of Spain pay fifty thousand dollars to get him back. 'The Angel of Death' got to be such a scourge of the seas that half a dozen men-of-war were sent out by England, Spain and Portugal to try to catch her. But she was the fleetest ship on the ocean, and she always gave them the slip. Once she got caught in a tight place, between Rum Island and Alligator Key. The pursuer was a Portuguese man-of-war, and the pirate vessel turned and fought so fiercely that the enemy was put to flight.
"So it went on for many years. The boy, Pedro, had worked his way up, by sheer merit—no favoritism—until he was now first mate. Then it came his father's turn to pass on, as the first Pedro had passed. The 'Angel' had put in at Alligator Key, for a few weeks one summer, and while they were there some friend presented the captain with a water-melon. He ate it at supper that night, and as it was unripe, it disagreed with him. Several glasses of ice- water, which he drank with the melon, had the effect of making him still worse. Next morning another of the Pedros was gone, and Pedro the Third was now captain of 'The Angel of Death' and leader of the pirate crew."
Mr. Daddles paused in his story and came and sat down with Ed and me in the cock-pit.
"When 'The Angel of Death' sailed on her next trip, she was probably the most dangerous pirate ship that was ever afloat. You see they were all of them experienced men. They had years of practice behind them. They knew their ship, and they knew the ocean. There wasn't a shoal or a passage, an inlet or a creek from one end of the Spanish Main to the other that they didn't know. Black Pedro spread terror into far corners of the ocean, where neither his father nor grand-father had ever been heard of. They would have been proud indeed, if they could have seen their son. He wore a black velvet suit, with a red sash, just like his grand- father before him. That had become the official costume in the family. He had made no change in it, except to add one or two more pistols in the sash.
"One autumn, after Black Pedro the Third had been captain for about a dozen or fifteen years, 'The Angel of Death' had a terrible fight with the biggest galleon she had ever tackled,— 'The Santa Maria Sanctissima,' a ship so huge that she towered far above the pirate vessel. While the great guns were roaring, and the cannon-balls flying, Black Pedro stood amid the smoke, in his velvet suit, his black beard bristling with rage, and his face bearing an expression ten times more ferocious than his grand- father's at its worst. He noted carefully the precise moment when the scuppers were running with blood, and then gave the signal for boarding. 'The Santa Maria Sanctissima' was so high that they had to use scaling-ladders to reach her deck, but the pirates soon swarmed on board, the captain was slain by Black Pedro, the rest of the crew walked The Plank, and 'The Angel of Death' sailed back to Rum Island with her booty.
"It was the richest she had ever captured. 'The Santa Maria Sanctissima' carried an enormous cargo of gold, intended for a great castle in Spain, and it took four days to unload the treasure at the pirates' lair, and six more days to bury it in the ground. Think how they felt when the last shovelful of earth was put in, how the sense of work well done filled their breasts with satisfaction! But on that very day disaster of the most terrible kind was hanging over them, and less than twenty-four hours lay between them and dire calamity.
"Early in the evening, on the day after they had buried the last gold bar, Black Pedro sat on the veranda of his cottage, smoking his pipe. This cottage was his regular dwelling place, while he was at Rum Island. From the veranda he could look out over the bay, where 'The Angel of Death' lay at anchor. The men's quarters were down the hill, near the beach.
"Black Pedro noticed that the men seemed unusually quiet that night. He did not hear the customary yells and cries. Suddenly he was surprised to see old Aaron Halyard, the bo's'n, come over the top of the hill, leaning on his cane. Behind him walked the entire crew of the 'Angel,' two by two. They were heading toward their Captain's cottage. This was not only astonishing, but it was strictly against the rules, as all interviews with the Captain, while on shore, were limited to the hours from 4 to 6 P. M. It was now 7.30. Black Pedro leaped to his feet in surprise. The men formed a line in front of the cottage—thirty-four of them—while old Aaron tottered forward.
"'Cap'n,' he said, 'we'd like to have a word with you.'
"'Well,' replied Black Pedro, 'what do you want?'
"'Cap'n, it's this way. You know ME. I've been your bo's'n an' yer father's an' yer grand-father's afore HIM, ever since the 'Angel' was built, an' afore that, too. Why, some on us can remember way back to the days of the 'Panther,' when you wa'n't knee-high to a cutlash. Me, an' Mike the Shark, here, an' Sandy Buggins, an' Roarin' Pete, an' some on us has stuck to the 'Angel' since the day she was built. There aint any on us but has seen more'n twenty years sarvice with you or yer father. Now some on us got talkin' over things today, and talkin' 'bout the big haul o' treasure we made last v'y'ge from that there 'Santa Maria.' An', o' course, big haul as it was, it aint nothin' at all to what's buried right here on this island. Why, all the loot that we've taken for sixty- five year is in the ground within half a mile of where we stand— all on it, way back to what we took outer that there 'Spirito Santo."
"And old Halyard paused, and blushed a little, as he remembered the embarrassing incident of that day.
"'Well,' said the Captain, 'go on.'" '"Well, sir, all on a suddent like, it come over us: what good is that there plunder a-doin' of?'
"'What good?' asked Black Pedro.
"'Yessir, what good? There's all that there gold an' silver, an' all them jooels an' preshis stones an' all them fine clo'es an' what not, an' what good is it all a-doin' of, a-buried in the ground? The book-keeper here, Mike the Shark, was a-reckonin' up this morning, an' a-addin' this last lot o' gold, an' he tells us that 'cordin' to the 'greement the share of ev'ry man jack on us reckons up to a powerful big figger.'
"The book-keeper stepped forward. 'For each man,' said he, 'the precise sum to date is nine hundred and sixty-six thousand, seven hundred and forty-three dollars, and twenty-two cents.'
"'An' all hard-earned money, too,' said old Aaron; 'we've been a- sailin,' an' a-fightin', an' a-shootin' folks, an a-stabbin' on 'em, an' a-slittin' of their wind-pipes, an' a-walkin' 'em on The Plank, for sixty-five year come the sixteenth o' next August.'
"'Well, what do you want?' asked Black Pedro again. His voice was low, but terrible.
"'Why,' said the bo's'n, 'we'd like some of our share of the money, if it's all the same to you.'
"'And when you get it,' continued the pirate chief, 'what do you propose to do with it?'
"'Why, spend some on it, an' buy some o' the good things o' life. Look at us. Like a lot of scare-crows, we be. In rags, ev'ry one on us, 'cept you,—an' your black velvet suit is lookin' a leetle mite rusty, if you'll 'scuse an ol' sailor-man, for speakin' right out. An' we'd like somethin' good to eat, an' somethin' good to drink. Look at me: risin' eighty-six year, I be, an' aint never tasted nothin' all my life 'cept salt-hoss, an' ship-bread, an' rum; never slep' nowheres 'cept in a hammock, an' had to turn out on deck an' stand watch in all kinds of weather. An' wuth today nine hundred an' sixty-six thousand, seven hundred an' forty-three dollars, an' thirty-two cents.'
"'Twenty-two cents,' corrected the bookkeeper.'
"'Twenty-two cents,' said Aaron. 'An' what good does it do me? Nothin' 't all. What can I buy with it, here on this here island? Nothin'. Here I am—an' here we all be—scorched an' burnt by the sun, and bit by these here scorpions, an' other varmints, an' dressed in rags an' tatters, an' all the while, all that loot of our'n lyin' there idle in the ground.'
"At this moment Black Pedro leaped four feet into the air, and gave a bellow like an infuriated tiger.
"'What?' he yelled, 'what? you dogs! you scoundrels! you miserable, low-down ruffians you! Oh, that I should have lived to see this day! Thankful am I that my father and grand-father are safe in their graves! This would have broken their hearts. Why, you horrible villains,—do you mean to tell me that you have been doing all this pirating for money?'
"Aaron Halyard scraped his feet in the sand, and shuffled about uneasily.
"'Beggin' yer pardin', Cap'n, but what in Sancho HAVE we been doin' of it for, else?'
"Black Pedro gave a moan, and then another bellow of rage.
"'Out of my sight, you miserable, sordid scoundrels,—out of my sight! What? You defy me, do you? This is mutiny! Take that! And that!'
"He snatched two pistols from his sash and commenced firing, right and left. The first shot hit Mike the Shark and doubled up the book-keeper like a jack-knife, and the second one did the same for Sandy Buggins.
"'Hold hard, Cap'n!' cried the old bo's'n, 'p'r'aps you'll tell us what all this pirating WAS for, if it wa'n't for money.'
"'It was for the joy of pirating, you old rascal, as you ought to know. It was for the pure love of the thing. And to think that all these years I have been leading a base gang of money-getters!'
"And he grabbed another couple of pistols out of his boots, and began firing once more. At this, the pirates lost their patience. They gave a deep roar, like a herd of angry buffalo, and closed in on their Captain. He jumped back, and continued to fire. They swarmed around him, and in a few minutes that group of pirates, who had always lived together like brothers, had changed into a blood-thirsty mob. Knives flashed and pistols cracked. Some of them hit each other in their excitement, and that made them so angry that they turned and fought amongst themselves. In the meantime, the Captain was firing his pistols and slashing with his cutlasses, and making terrible havoc amongst his followers. In ten minutes all was over. Of that proud band of pirates, once the terror of the Spanish Main, only two men were left alive. These were Black Pedro himself, slightly wounded in the leg, but still able to walk, and old Aaron Halyard, the bo's'n. Aaron was running at top speed toward the beach, trying to get to a small boat. A little way behind him came the Captain.
"'Don't you tech me! don't you tech me!' screamed old Halyard.
"Black Pedro stopped and took careful aim, with the last of his fourteen pistols. He pulled the trigger, but there was no report. Something had gone wrong with the priming. The bo's'n reached the boat, shoved off, and started to row for the ship. There was no other boat, and Pedro could only watch him. The old man rowed to 'The Angel of Death,' climbed aboard, and commenced, with the help of the boy, who had been left there, to get up the foresail. Then they hoisted the anchor, and the 'Angel' moved slowly out of the harbor. Black Pedro sat down on the beach, and watched it fade from sight. When night fell 'The Angel of Death' was only a speck on the horizon. Then the pirate chief returned to his cottage.
"On the following day a dreadful storm arose. Black Pedro knew that no ship, manned only by an aged bo's'n and a cabin-boy, could live through such a tempest. A few days later his worst fears were realized, for by the wreckage that was washed ashore, he knew that 'The Angel of Death' had gone to pieces in the storm. When The Plank itself, worn smooth on its upper side by the hundreds of feet that had passed over it, was tossed upon the shores of Rum Island, the pirate sat down on the sand and sobbed aloud. He knew that old Halyard and the cabin-boy must have perished, and the noblest crew of buccaneers on whom the sun had ever shone, were forever disbanded, and that he, their chief, was now the last of the pirates, alone and deserted on an undiscovered and unknown island.
"And there he lives to this day."
WELL BURIED TREASURE
When Mr. Daddles finished his story there was a moment's silence. Then Ed Mason asked:
"Is that all?"
"Isn't that enough?" inquired Mr. Daddles, "isn't that sad enough, just as it is?"
"It's sad enough," said Captain Bannister, "it's sad enough, all right. Once or twice I thought I'd bust right out cryin'."
And the Captain chuckled a little, choked, and wheezed.
"What beats me," he went on, "is where you picked up a yarn like that,—for you haint follered the sea very much, I take it?"
"Not very much," said Mr. Daddles.
"Not that yer troubles with that there canoe proves anything," returned the skipper, "for foolisher things was never invented. I wouldn't git into one of 'em not if you was to give me a thousand dollars. No, sir."
"Oh, my experience of a sailor's life has been limited," said the new passenger. "To tell the truth, I've never been as far East as this but once before. I was here for a few days, summer before last. My uncle lives at Bailey's Harbor, on Little Duck Island."
"Does he?" asked Jimmy Toppan,—"What's his name?"
"Is HE your uncle?" exclaimed the Captain. "I know his house,—up there on the hill, aint it?"
"Yes, but he isn't there now. My aunt was there for a while, but she went away, about two weeks ago. The house is closed, I suppose."
Jimmy, who had been looking toward the shore, turned to the Captain.
"This is Pingree's, isn't it, Captain?"
"Yessir; this is Pingree's Beach. Two of yer better go ashore an' see old man Haskell. That's his shanty,—the one with the red door. Ask him to let yer have a basket of clams. Tell him I sent yer."
Pingree's Beach was a short strip of sand, bordered with eel- grass. There were two small cottages, set above high-water mark, three dories drawn up on the shore, and a heap of lobster-pots and nets. Mr. Haskell could be seen moving in and out of his shanty.
Jimmy Toppan and Mr. Daddles went for the clams, after the latter had changed his bathing-suit for a shirt, and a pair of duck trousers. Captain Bannister sailed the "Hoppergrass" quarter of a mile below the beach, put about, and came back in time to pick them up when they returned in the tender. Mr. Daddles was interested in the idea of a clam-chowder. He had already noticed the funny little noise which the clams made, as their shells opened and shut.
"It seems rather hard-hearted to make them into a soup," he observed, "when they sing all the time like that."
The Captain was not troubled by the song of the clams, however.
"Here, Jimmy," he said, "you take the wheel while I shuck them clams."
"Do what to 'em?" asked Mr. Daddles.
"Shuck 'em," the Captain replied.
Mr. Daddles still looked puzzled.
"Take 'em out of the shells," explained Jimmy.
While the Captain worked over the clams, he had an oil-stove lighted down in the cabin, and he tried out some pork. Ed Mason hunted up a pail of fresh milk and some crackers, while I washed and peeled the potatoes. In about half an hour the dinner was ready. The Captain brought up the steaming kettle of chowder, and from it we filled our bowls. We also had coffee and bread and butter, and some of the mince turnovers which Ed Mason had brought. Then we remembered the water-melon.
"Don't think 'twill give yer the stomach-ache, do yer?" asked the Captain, as he prepared to cut the melon. "You remember how it killed one of them Black Pedros, don't yer?"
We all voted that it could not possibly give us the stomach-ache. And it didn't. Then we drew lots to see who would have the unpleasant job of washing the dishes. Ed Mason and I lost, and retired below to do the work. We could hear them talking on deck. Jimmy was still at the wheel; the Captain and Mr. Daddles lighted their pipes.
"I thought, when yer begun to talk 'bout pirates," said Captain Bannister, "that yer meant something 'bout the diggin' for treasure on Fishback Island."
"No; I never heard of it."
"Why, they've been diggin' an' blastin' there for years. Some folks was doin' it when my father was a boy. He had a try at it, an' so did I, one summer 'bout nine or ten year ago."
"Who put the treasure there?"
"Cap'n Kidd, they said. They lay everything on him. Why, folks has come from all round. One crowd formed a jint-stock company, an' sold shares, an' skun a whole pile of money outer people. Another man come in his yacht, an' he fetched a feller with him who could find treasure with his eyes shut, so he said. He was one of these wizards, an' he had a divinin' rod. His divinin' rod led him right up to a hummock in the middle of the island, an' they dug there, an' fetched up against the skeleton of an old dead hoss. That got 'em all excited, an' they pitched in an' dug like Sancho. But they never found nothin' 'cept the old hoss, an' so the wizard went back to town, an' took his divinin' rod with him. Then there was a lot of college fellers come an' camped out there all summer, once. I see 'em at it, two or three times. They was playin' base-ball, mostly. One of 'em had a map that he'd got outer some old book, an' he let me look at it. Accordin' to the bearin's of the island it might have been most anywhere between Fundy an' Key West, but it was good enough for this feller. He was sure it meant Fishback."
"Where did you dig?"
"Oh, round anywhere. I just did it for fun, between two fishin' trips. You can go over an' see the island this afternoon, if yer want to. Just go over to the mainland, an' take the hoss-car to Squid Cove. There'll be someone that will let yer take a boat across to Fishback."
An hour later we sailed into Bailey's Harbor. This was the only village of any size on Little Duck Island. A number of huts and houses, with one or two shops, stood about the head of the inlet. Behind them a road led up a hill, and then branched,—one road going off to the north-east, for the island was three or four miles long. The other road joined the causeway which had been built across the marsh in the rear of the island. Only this marsh separated the island from the mainland,—it was only an island in name, now.
We came to anchor, and the Captain started us off on our trip to the place where the treasure was supposed to lie. He rowed us in to the wharf.
"You ought to be back here by six o'clock. I'll leave yer canoe with Pike, all right,—I know where he hangs out, I guess. Take a good look round the island, an' if yer find any of the loot, don't forget me!"
And then as we started up the wharf he called out:
"Got any money with yer? There'll be hoss-car fares to pay, yer know."
I felt in my pockets.
"Mine's on the boat," I said.
"So's mine," said Jimmy.
"And so's mine," said Ed Mason.
"That's all right," said Mr. Daddles, "I've brought some,—all the change we'll need."
We went through the village and crossed the causeway. It was only a short walk to the end of the car line. Here was standing an old horse-car. The car was old, the horse was old, and the man who drove the horse was older still. He was sitting by the side of the road, and he eyed us suspiciously as we came up.
"Didn't see no one else coming across the causeway, didger?" he inquired.
"Not a soul." I
"Guess I might's well start, then."
He pulled a watch out of his pocket.
"What do you make it?"
Not one of us had a watch, so we couldn't make it anything at all. We thought it was about two o'clock.
"'Taint," said the car-driver decidedly, with the air of a man nipping a fraud in the bud. "It's one fifty four. Didn't know but what Ike Flanders would be coming over, an' trying to bum his way with me as usual. Well, climb aboard, an' we'll get under way."
All the way to Squid Cove he entertained us with an account of Ike Flanders' many attempts to get a ride for nothing. He had never succeeded, owing to the watchfulness of the driver. His whole life—the driver's—seemed to have consisted of a warfare against rascals and swindlers. People were always coming around with some scheme to cheat him, but he had defeated them all. When he found that we were going to row across to Fishback Island, he said he guessed he could let us take a boat,—for fifteen cents. It came out that he not only drove the horse-car, but sold fish and lobsters, ran a boarding-house, and had one or two boats to let. He left the horse-car standing in front of his house, and came down to the water to show us the boat.
"Better row round to the west'ard a little, when you get to Fishback," said he, "it's kinder choppy on this side sometimes, an' if my boat got all stove to pieces on the rocks 'fore you got ashore, why, where'd I be?"
"You would be right here," said Mr. Daddles; "where do you think we'd be?"
"You? Oh, huh! Yes, that's so. Well, p'r'aps you might as well give me the fifteen cents now, if it's all the same to you."
"It's exactly the same to me," replied our friend. And he handed over the money. The man looked at it carefully, and then went back to his home.
"What do you suppose he's going to do with that money?" I wondered.
"I know," said Jimmy Toppan, "he's going to hurry off and put it in the bank, before Ike Flanders tries to get it away from him."
"No," said Mr. Daddles, "he's going to bury it in his garden." "First," remarked Ed Mason, "he'll take it into the house and test it with acid, to see if it's genuine."
"He thinks we're a gang of bunco men," Mr. Daddles reflected. "I wonder why he trusts us with his boat."
"He knows that no one would be foolish enough to steal it," said Jimmy; "look at it!"
It was a shabby and ill-kept dory, dirty, and with half an inch of dirty water washing about in it. But we didn't care. Almost any boat is good enough when you are looking for buried treasure. We set out, with Mr. Daddles and Jimmy rowing. A breeze had sprung up and the bay was a little choppy, so we splashed and bumped along at no great speed. Mr. Daddles did not pay much attention to the management of his long oar, but got into a discussion with Jimmy about what they would buy with their share of the treasure. Jimmy said his first choice would be a sailing yacht. Next, after that, he thought he should buy a steam-yacht. Mr. Daddles said he should buy a piano.
"A piano! That's funny. What would you buy next?"
"A stick of dynamite."
"Dynamite! What for?"
"To blow up the piano."
"Why do you want to do that?"
"Well, you see the piano I'm going to buy belongs to a girl who lives next door to me at home. She practises on it all day long. Sometimes I get so I almost wish that she didn't have a piano at all."
Ed Mason voted for a horse, and I for a bicycle.
"I don't see how we can dig up much treasure, anyway," was Ed Mason's comment, "not even if we find where it's buried."
"What have we got to dig with?"
That was true,—we had forgotten to bring shovels.
"Never mind, this is only prospecting," Mr. Daddles reminded us. "We'll look around, and if we see any place that looks treasury, we'll come back another time."
We rowed around to the westerly side of Fishback Island, as the car-driver had suggested, and landed in a little pebbly cove.
Mr. Daddles was delighted with the appearance of the island. "I don't wonder they came here for treasure," said he. "It's the most likely looking place for a pirate's lair I ever saw in my life. Look at that tree on the hill,—a regular landmark. And look at the smuggler's cave!"
He pointed to a rocky cave on the shore, just above our landing- place. We walked over to examine it, but we couldn't find anything there except some egg-shells and paper boxes, where someone had eaten luncheon. Then we started on an exploring trip around the island. It was almost bare of trees, rocky in many places, and partly covered with scrubby grass. We found half a dozen pits and shafts where the treasure-seekers had been at work. We climbed the little hill where the tree stood,—it was gnarled and broken, "a blasted tree" declared Mr. Daddles in rapture.
"Here's where the treasure chest ought to be buried," he remarked, "with the skeleton of a pirate or two on top of it."
"This is where the old dead horse was buried," Ed Mason observed, digging into some loose earth with his foot.
"That must have meant something," I said. "Why should they bring a horse way up here to bury him?"
"Perhaps they didn't," Ed replied, "perhaps the horse lived up here."
"I'm afraid you were never made for a treasure-seeker," said Mr. Daddles.
Jimmy Toppan pointed to the beach on the other side of the hill. There was a smooth, sandy shore.
"Why not go in swimming down there?" he suggested.
The idea was a good one; we were not making much progress toward finding any treasure, and the beach certainly looked like a good place for a swim. The three of us ran down the hill, pulling off our clothes as we ran. Mr. Daddles lingered for a while, but presently joined us, and we all had a swim.
After we had dressed we walked around the island, keeping near the water. Everywhere there were signs of digging, but no signs of treasure. We were in no hurry, so we strolled along, on the watch for anything we might discover. The shore of the cove where we landed was covered with flat stones, and we spent some time skipping them on the water, and a still longer time throwing stones at an empty bottle which we found and set afloat. After a while Jimmy Toppan thought we ought to be going.
"There's a fog-bank out there," said he, "and it will be awful thick if it comes in."
We all looked out to sea, where a gray mass hung over the water.
"Let's have one more look on the hill," said Mr. Daddles, "remember how sorry we'd be if someone else came here after us, and found a chest of golden guineas."
So up to the hill we went again, and prowled around, kicking at loose rocks, and stamping wherever the earth sounded hollow.
"Under the tree is a more likely place," Mr. Daddles reminded us, "they always bury it under a tree."
"We ought to start," said Jimmy, "the wind has come out east, and that fog will be here before long."
"Just a minute—look around here, boys,—we'll find it, if you'll only look around."
And he scrabbled around at a great rate.
"Leave no stone unturned," said he, turning over two of them.
But we found nothing at all. Nothing, that is, except dirt, grass, mullein-stalks, and beetles or crickets under the stones. Mr. Daddles hunted energetically, pulling up grass by the roots, digging in the soil with his fingers, and kicking at stones with the toes of his tennis-shoes, until he shouted "Ouch!" and jumped about holding his foot in his hand. Then he set to again, so excitedly that we looked at him in astonishment.
"P'r'aps we'd better start," said Jimmy again.
"In a minute, in a minute," exclaimed Mr. Daddles, poking about. "Hunt, boys, hunt,—I feel sure we'll find something if we only hunt."
We hunted, scraped over the earth and sand around that tree, and moved every stone and pebble.
"I tell you we must find some treasure here,—we MUST!"
"How can we?" asked Ed, "if there isn't any to find."
"But there is. I know there is!"
We stared at him.
"I know there is, because I buried it myself."
"You did? When? How? Where? What for?"
"When you all went down to swim. I thought you would feel disappointed not to find any treasure, so I buried all I had,—a dollar and a quarter,—two halves, two dimes, and a nickel. And now we've got to find it, or we can't get back on that horse-car. We'll have to walk,—or else be as bad as Ike Flanders."
Then we began to hunt in dead earnest. We pulled up every blade of grass, felt in all the crevices of the rocks, and dug a toad out of his hole. He looked highly surprised and indignant, but he gave us no help about the money.
"Well, I'm sorry,—sorry to get you into all this mess," said Mr. Daddles. "We'd better leave it, I suppose, and go back to Squid Cove. We can walk—and if that really is fog—"
"It's fog, all right," said Jimmy.
There was a sea-turn. The wind smelt salty and damp, and the fog was creeping in. It was not more than a mile distant. We all knew enough about fogs not to want to be out in the bay in one, without a compass, and when it was nearly sunset. So we hurried down to the boat, and pushed off.
"If anyone ever asks me if there is treasure on Fishback Island," reflected Mr. Daddles, "I'll know what to tell 'em."
The fog shut down thick before we got to the Cove, but we were already so near that it didn't make much difference. We left the boat at the slip where we had first seen it. The horse-car was standing at the house, but we did not look for the driver. Instead, we set out on our tramp back to Little Duck Island.
That was a dismal and tiresome walk. It was almost dark when we started, and quite dark in half an hour,—a thick, foggy night. Not one of us had looked at the road much on the way over; we had been listening to the car-driver's battles with crime. It would not have done us much good if we had looked, for everything changes on a foggy night. After a while we came to a fork in the road.
"Which of these is ours?" asked Jimmy Toppan.
"That's easy enough," said Ed Mason, "follow the car-track."
"Yes," said Mr. Daddles, "but there's a track leading up both of 'em."
"Toss up a coin," I suggested.
"I will, if you'll go back to that isle of treasure and find me a coin."
So we chose the left-hand road. In doing so we chose wrong, for after we had gone about a mile we met a man in a wagon, who told us that the road led to Dockam's Hole.
"We don't want to go to Dockam's Hole," said Mr. Daddles; "back to the cross-roads! I begin to think I'll never see my home and mother again. This treasure-hunting is all it's cracked up to be, —and even worse."
The man peered out of his wagon.
"Say, I'd give you fellers a ride, if there wa'n't so many of ye."
And he whipped up his horse and drove away into the darkness. In an hour or more we reached the beginning of the causeway, and fifteen minutes later we were in Bailey's Harbor.
"I wouldn't mind something to eat," said Ed Mason.
"Some ham and eggs," I suggested.
"And some of those mince turnovers," remarked Jimmy Toppan, almost breaking into a run.
"And some coffee," said Mr. Daddles.
"Do you suppose there is any of that chowder left?" asked Ed Mason; "it's always better warmed over."
"The Captain must have had his supper long ago," said I. "And gone to bed, too," put in Mr. Daddles,—"say, do you know, it's pretty late?"
To judge by the looks of Bailey's Harbor it might have been midnight. There was not a soul on the street, and only one or two houses had a light.
"Oh, well, they go to bed early here."
"Don't want to worry the Captain. He expected us back before supper."
"We'll relieve his mind now, all right."
"Gee!" said Jimmy, as we tramped down the hill, "but I'll be glad to get aboard the 'Hoppergrass.' There's nothing in the world so cosy as the cabin of a boat, on a night like this."
The same idea struck all of us, and we hurried down the wharf. The fog had lifted a little, and blew by us in wisps and fragments.
"For one thing," remarked Ed Mason, "I'd like to get into some dry clothes. I'm beginning to be soaked."
"Oh, we'll be all right again," I said, "when we're aboard. The Captain—"
I stopped suddenly. We all halted on the end of the wharf, and stared across the inlet. We looked at the spot where our boat had anchored, and then we looked up and down the inlet. The "Hoppergrass" was gone!
"What!" exclaimed Jimmy Toppan, "gone?"
"Gone," replied Ed Mason, "sailed away and left us. Like old Aaron Halyard, in 'The Angel of Death'."
Mr. Daddles looked at him and grinned.
"At least, you remember your classics," he said, "you can fall back on the consolations of literature in a time of sorrow."
"But he can't be gone," put in Jimmy, "he wouldn't sail off and leave us like this. He must be somewheres about."
And he commenced to shout "On board the 'Hoppergrass'!" He got us to shout the same phrase. The sailor-like way of putting it did not please Ed Mason.
"Oh, I don't see any sense in shouting 'On board' of anything, when the whole trouble is that we're not on board."
There was an echo from a building across the inlet—an insulting echo—which repeated the phrase, or rather the last three letters of the last word in an irritating fashion.
"I feel like one," said Mr. Daddles, "but I don't like to be told so by a blooming old echo."
Then we all stood and looked at one another, and wondered what we should do.
"Friendless and alone, in a strange place," said Mr. Daddles.
"Wet," said Ed Mason.
"Hungry," I added.
"Tired," said Jimmy.
"With no money," remarked Mr. Daddles.
"And nothing that we could do with it, if we had it," Jimmy Toppan gloomily reflected, shoving his hands deep into his trousers pockets.
"And it's ten o'clock," I suggested.
"Eleven," said Jimmy.
"Twelve," thought Ed Mason.
"Our case is desperate," said Mr. Daddles, "but we'll pull through, somehow. Perhaps the Captain went treasure-hunting himself, and has got lost in the fog. This has been a busy little day. Now, let's see. I think I remember a woman up the road here, who used to let rooms, or—"
He broke off, and slapped the back which was nearest him,—it was mine.
"Well, Great Scott! That echo was right!"
"Why? What's the matter?"
"The idea of our standing here for a second, when there is a house, and maybe things to eat, and beds to sleep in, anyhow,—all waiting for us!"
"My uncle's, of course!"
"That's bully! Come on!"
"And that's not the best of it, either," he said. "We can make an attack on that house like a real gang of burglars, and enter it in true burglar style. I've always wanted to have a chance to commit a burglary. There's nothing so exciting in the world as a burglar's life,—but what chance do you get to lead one? None at all. I was brought up to believe that it's all wrong,—many's the time my poor old grandmother told me: 'Never be a burglar.' And the effect of that teaching has not worn off. I still believe that it's wrong to be a burglar. Besides, they put you in jail for it. But this,—they can't object to our breaking into my own uncle's. Even my grandmother would approve, I'm sure. Of course, there won't be as much plunder as if Aunt Fanny were at home,—she's probably taken all the pie away with her. But there'll be something in the pantry, even if it's only pickles. What do you say,—shall we burglarize the house in style?"
We all agreed in delight. Mr. Daddles's enthusiasm, and his curious ideas made us quite forget how tired and wet and hungry we had felt. The fog had settled down thick again, and the air and earth were damp with it. Great drops of moisture gathered on the wood-work of the wharf, and on the burdock leaves that grew between gaps in the planking. High overhead the sky must have been cloudless, for we could see the moon, now and then, like a dim dinner-plate, when there was a moment's rift in the fog.
"Just the night for a deed like this," said Mr. Daddles; "come on! But wait a minute—there's no sense in being burglars way off at this distance, we'll be,—let's see,—we'll be smugglers, first, —a gang of smugglers."
He insisted on forming us in single file. He led, followed by Jimmy, then I came, and Ed Mason brought up the rear.
"Remember!" whispered our leader, "we are smugglers till we get to the top of the hill. After that,—burglars."
We started up the wharf on tip-toes. This was rather unnecessary, for as we all had on rubber-soled shoes we could walk very quietly even if we went in the usual manner. Besides, it gets tiresome to walk on your tip-toes after a few minutes. But Mr. Daddles kept on that way almost to the end of the journey. When we reached the head of the wharf he turned around, and spoke again, with one hand held mysteriously at the side of his mouth, so not to be overheard.
"Now, boys," said he, "if we meet any King's officers,—GIVE 'EM THE COLD STEEL! If you haven't got any cold steel, give it to 'em luke warm. Give it to 'em somehow, anyhow. Remember, it's them as try to keep us honest fellows from a livelihood, just because we run a few casks of brandy and some French laces without paying anything to King Jarge,—bless him!"
And Mr. Daddles solemnly took off his hat.
"Now, are you ready, boys?"
"Yes," we all whispered.
"No, no! Not 'yes'," returned Mr. Daddles, with an agonized expression; "you must say 'Ay, ay,—heave ahead,' and you must GROWL it."
We all tried to growl: "Ay, ay,—heave ahead," but we didn't make much of a success of it.
"That's fair," said Mr. Daddles, "only fair. You need lots of practice. We ought to have rehearsed this before we started. It's embarrassing to do it here, with the eyes of the world upon us, so to speak. Now try again."
We tried again, and our leader said we had done much better.
"Ed," he said, "walk with more of a roll in your gait,—a deep-sea roll. See—this way. And pull your hats down low over your eyes, and glance furtively from right to left."
"I can't roll, nor anything else," Ed remarked, "until I get this pebble out of my shoe."
And he sat down on the door-step of a house, and took off one shoe. As he did so, the clock in a church belfry struck eleven.
"Eleven," reflected Mr. Daddles. "I mean: 'tis the signal, men! If the Cap'n has not failed us the lugger should be in the cove at this hour,—and we coves should be in the lugger, too. Ha! how like ye the pleasantry? 'Tis a pretty wit I have, as no less a man than Mr. Pope himself told me at the Coca Tree—No; I don't believe Mr. Pope would know the mate of a gang of smugglers,—do you?"
Jimmy Toppan and I assured him that the only Mr. Pope we knew was librarian of the Sunday School at home, and that if he knew any smugglers he had kept it a secret. Ed Mason had got rid of his pebble, and he now joined us again.
"Are you ready, men?"
"Ay, ay,—heave ahead!"
So we started once more. The streets were black as ink. They were paved with cobblestones, and there did not seem to be any side- walks. The buildings were fishermen's and clammers' huts, boat- houses, and small shops,—all dark and deserted. The fog shut out everything at a short distance. At the top of the hill there was one dim light in the rear of a little shanty.
Mr. Daddles stopped us.
"It's the lair of the old fox himself!"
"None but black-hearted Gregory the Gauger. Him it was—or one of his minions—that killed old Diccon, our messmate, but a hundred paces from the cave, last Michaelmas. Shall we go in and slit his weazand?"
We crept up to the window and looked in. A little man, with chin- whiskers like a paintbrush, sat inside, shucking clams by the light of a lantern. We decided not to go in and slit his weazand. Suddenly he looked up, as if he had heard us, and then rising, started for the door. We all darted back hastily, and hid in the shadow of the next building. He came out, emptied the pail of clam-shells, looked toward the sky, yawned, and went in again.
As soon as he had closed the door, we were on the march. We turned the corner and took the road to the right. The walking was smoother here, and the street broader. We were soon past most of the shanties, and following a country road, where the buildings were far apart. They seemed to be large houses, set back from the road, with carefully kept lawns. Mr. Daddles stopped and peered at one of them through the fog.
"Here it is, I think. This one—or the next. No; it's this one, I remember the fence. It would never do to walk right up the front path when you're going to crack a crib. We'll have to get in a back window, anyway, so we'd better go a little farther down the road, get over the wall, circle round, and come up from the rear."
We carried out this plan, so far as getting over the wall, and then set out across a field. This was high ground, but the village behind us was still covered with the fog, and all we could see in its direction was a white cloud of vapor. The road we had just left wound on, down the hill again, and toward what might have been a dark clump of trees. The grass in the field was short and scrubby, and worn quite bare in places. There was a path which Mr. Daddles knew, and this we followed in single file.
All of a sudden we heard a strange, thumping sound, right in front of us. We stopped short. There was a dark, indistinct mass of something moving slowly toward us. It seemed to be humped up, like a man crawling forward on his hands and knees. Almost as soon as we stopped, it—whatever it was—stopped too. It was a very unpleasant thing to find in a lonely field, in the middle of the night, and as I stared at it, I felt a curious prickling sensation run all over me.
We all stood in perfect silence. So did the thing. It looked like a man, only it was a very big and broad man, and also a very low and stumpy one, as I said. Why he should be crawling along in that open field, on his hands and knees, was something I could not understand. Unless,—and this gave me another chilly feeling— unless he were a real burglar. I wanted to run, but I was ashamed to do so for fear of what the others would think. Moreover, although I was afraid to stay there, I was also afraid to run, for I didn't like the idea of that thing chasing me through the fog.
So we all stood there in a group. At last Mr. Daddles stepped toward the thing.
"What do you want?" he said, in a low tone.
There was no answer. The thing stayed perfectly motionless. This was getting terrible. I could feel my heart thumping away, and my temples seemed to be bursting with the blood which was pumped into them.
"What do you want?" said Mr. Daddles again; "come, who are you and what do you want?"
He took another step toward the thing, and then suddenly jumped back. The thing seemed to sway toward us, and then it uttered a horribly loud:
It was a second or two before we could laugh.
"Well, you miserable old cow!" exclaimed Mr. Daddles, "you nearly scared a crowd of burglars to death!"
And he walked up to her, where she had already begun to feed again, and slapped her fat side. She paid no attention to him, but kept on cropping the grass.
"Come on, now, boys. I thought we were attacked by a hippopotamus, at least."
"I thought it was a man without any legs," said Jimmy.
"I thought it was a real burglar," said I.
"I dunno what I thought it was," said Ed Mason, "and that was the worst of it."
And if any of you who read this think we were a silly lot to be frightened by an old cow, it is because you have never met one at night, in a thick fog. You try it some time, and see.
We went down a little slope, and came up behind the house and barn. We crossed a vegetable patch, and then a flower-garden.
Jimmy stopped Mr. Daddles.
"We'd better look out for the dog."
"No; my uncle never keeps one,—he doesn't like 'em."
In a grape-arbor, right back of the house, we paused to decide on a plan of action.
"We'll try that window first," said our leader, pointing, "and then the others on the veranda. I don't want to break one if we can help it. If we have to, we'll take a basement window. You stay here a second."
He darted out of the arbor, and ran noiselessly up the steps. He tried a window, gave it up, and tip-toed along the veranda to another. No sooner had he started to raise the sash than he turned and beckoned to us. In an instant we were out of the arbor, and at the window with him.
"This is great luck,—look!"
He raised the window without any trouble at all.
"Very careless of Aunt Fanny,—but it saves us from having to smash one."
We all climbed inside a small room. When he had closed the window, and pulled down the shade, Ed Mason lighted a match.
"The pantry!" we all exclaimed.
"Yes, we've landed on our feet at last. Is that shade down? Light the gas ... keep it turned low,—that's right. Now, let's see. We won't find much,—family's gone away ... taken all the pie with 'em, as I said, still, there ought to be something—"
We were all rummaging amongst the shelves and cupboards.
"Hum!" said Mr. Daddles, "stove-polish. Anybody want any stove- polish? Raw oatmeal,—that's a little better, but not much. Not much choice between 'em. What's this? ... Starch. Nice lot of nutritious food Aunt Fanny leaves for her burglars. Now, with some flat-irons and a couple of stove-lids we could make up a jolly little meal. What have you got there?"
I had found some dried currants in a tin box, Jimmy had a bottle of vanilla extract, while Ed Mason exhibited a box of tapioca, or something of the sort.
"Well, well,—this is more careless of Aunt Fanny than leaving the window unlocked. No wonder she left it unlocked,—she wanted burglars to come in, and choke to death. I never saw such a lot of foolish food. Here's some raw macaroni,—another toothsome dish— nutmegs—pepper—sticky fly-paper,—better and better. Perfectly delicious!"
"Here you are!" said Ed Mason.
He had found a cake-box, with half a loaf of pound-cake,—the kind that keeps for years. Just at the same instant I had climbed up on a shelf and captured two glass tumblers whose contents seemed promising. Sure enough,—their labels bore the fascinating words: "Raspberry Jam." Jimmy Toppan presently discovered a can of soda- crackers. Mr. Daddles plunged once more into a cupboard and came forth with a can of the stuff you shine brass with,—the kind with the horrible smell.
"Always fortunate," he murmured; "well, this will do,—what you've discovered. I don't seem to have contributed much to the picnic. We'll get some water to drink, and take this into the dining-room. I'm about ready to sit down and rest. Come on,—softly, now. Turn out the light. ... Here's the kitchen ... no, it isn't, either,— it's a laundry. ... That's funny ... been making improvements, I guess. Here we are—give me another match. No, don't light the gas,—no need ... and here's—what's this? Butler's pantry ... yes ... passage ... here's the dining-room. Here we are. Shades down? Yes ... light the gas ... hullo! Where's the old stuffed sea gull gone? New paper! Oh, well, it's two years since I was here."
Mr. Daddles wandered around the room for a while, with a puzzled air, but the rest of us were too hungry to pay much attention to him. Ed Mason filled a water-pitcher in the butler's pantry, and Jimmy brought some tumblers from a closet. I opened the jam, and got some plates and knives. Then we all sat down and began to eat. I have never tasted anything better than the crackers and jam. Nobody said anything for a few minutes: we just ate.
Suddenly Mr. Daddles held up his hand,—
We stopped everything and listened. For a minute or two we had quite forgotten that we were midnight burglars, and we were going on as if we were right at home.
"Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h!" said Mr. Daddles again, "don't you hear something?"
We all did hear something that very instant. No one could help hearing it. It was the strangest sound,—as much like the sawing of wood as anything I can think of. Except that toward the end of the stroke it seemed to run into some tough knots in the wood, for it made two or three funny, little noises, like "yop, yop, yop." Then it stopped for a second or two, and then there was another long stroke, with "yop, yop" on the end.
"Do you s'pose it's another cow?" whispered Jimmy.
Mr. Daddles shook his head, and held up his hand again for silence. The noise continued with perfect regularity for half a minute,—then it stopped altogether.
"It's in the wall," I suggested, pointing. "P'r'aps it's a mouse gnawing."
"It's more like a buffalo gnawing," said Ed Mason.
"Sh-h-h-h-h-h!" said Mr. Daddles, "we ought to have looked about the house a little before we began to eat. I think that's only the branch of a tree, or something like that, scraping against the house outside. Anyhow, we'd better investigate."
He got up, and lighted one of the candles on the side-board. Then he very carefully opened the other door of the dining-room, and we all followed him out into a hall. There we listened again, but could hear nothing. He led the way up the back-stairs, and we tip- toed behind him. The candle which he carried flickered, and cast a dim light into two rooms which opened off the landing. One was a nursery, with children's blocks, stuffed elephants, and Noah's Ark animals on the floor, and on a couch. The moon, which had come out of the fog, shone in at a window, and its light fell right on a white rabbit sitting under a doll's parasol. He had tea-cups and saucers on the floor in front of him, but he was perfectly quiet. The noise did not come from him. The room on the other side of the landing was an ordinary bed-room, quite empty.
We stole along the landing toward the front of the house. Here were two more large bed-rooms. The beds were smooth and undisturbed, and both rooms were quiet as the grave.
"Nothing here," whispered Mr. Daddles, "we'll go down the front stairs."
He spoke in the lowest kind of a whisper,—I could hardly make out what he said. But he beckoned toward the stairs, and we all tip-toed in that direction. I can see how that hall looked,—I can see it now, just as I saw it, as we came down stairs. The wood- work was all painted white, some little moonlight came in through the glass over the front door, and that, with the candle, made it fairly clear. The stairs were broad, and they sloped gradually. There were two big portraits on the wall, one of them over the stairs. Rooms opened to right and left of the front door, and in the corner of the hall, to the right, stood a big clock. It ticked slowly and solemnly, and a little ship, above the dial, rocked back and forth on some painted waves. I caught Mr. Daddles by the sleeve.
"The clock is going," I whispered.
He nodded. "Eight day clock," he whispered back.
Then we continued down stairs, still walking without a sound. Just as Mr. Daddles reached the foot of the stairs, the noise began again. The long-drawn, sawing sound, and then the "yop, yop, yop" so loud that it nearly made us fall over backwards in surprise. There was no possible doubt from what place it came. It was from the room nearest the tall clock.
Mr. Daddles instantly blew out the candle, and then we all stepped very carefully to the threshold, and looked in. The room was a library, with books from the floor to the ceiling. The gas was lighted, but turned down low, and there were the smouldering embers of a fire on the hearth. Seated in an arm chair in front of the fire, with his feet up in another chair, was a big, fat policeman. He was sound asleep, with his coat unbuttoned, his gray helmet on the floor beside him, and his brass buttons and badge glittering in the gas-light. On a couch at the other side of the room lay another policeman, in his shirt-sleeves. He, too, was asleep, his mouth was open, and from it came the most outrageous snores I ever heard.