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- The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 2/32 -
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
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