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- The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 1/32 -


THE VOYAGE OF THE HOPPERGRASS

BY EDMUND LESTER PEARSON

AUTHOR OF "THE BELIEVING YEARS"

TO PHILIP RICHARDSON PEARSON

Dear Philip,--

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.

Your uncle,

EDMUND LESTER PEARSON

July 28, 1913

(The anniversary of the sailing of the "Hoppergrass.")

CONTENTS

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

CHAPTER I

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


The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 1/32

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