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- The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 10/32 -


"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!

CHAPTER V

MIDNIGHT BURGLARS

"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!"

"Where?"

"My uncle's, of course!"

"That's so!"

"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.


The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 10/32

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