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- The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 20/32 -
doesn't see anything of them, he can come back here to Lanesport, and spend the night in the Eagle House. Then the rest of us will join him tomorrow afternoon, with or without Captain Bannister, as the case may be. But we'll wait at Big Duck till noon."
When we got back to the yacht, there was the Chief, peacefully reading a last year's magazine. We routed him up, and cooked the dinner. While we were eating, the question arose: who was to go to Rogers's Island?
"We'll draw lots," said someone. We did so,--with slips of paper, and I was more than pleased when I saw that I had,--well, I was going to say: won. I thought I had won at the time, and I was tickled at the idea of going on this expedition by myself.
As we were separated from our boat, clothes, and all our belongings, Sprague fitted me out with some money, and I left Lanesport on the horse-car. At Squid Cove I looked anxiously to see if the car-driver would remember me, and I was glad to see a boy, about my own age, driving the old horse.
"Gran'father's gone over to Bailey's Harbor," said he, "to see if the burglars have come back. Gee! I'd like to see a burglar, wouldn't you? Gee! they say these had black masks, an' six- shooters, an' bottles of chloro-chlory--of that stuff they put folks to sleep with. An' brass knuckles. Say, did you ever see any brass knuckles? I did. I know a feller that has got a pair. He keeps 'em in the hay in the barn, so's his father won't get onto him. Gee! They put the burglars into the new jail, but they all got out, an' no one knows how they did it. Nate Bradley come back on his milk-cart from Bailey's and he says he went into the jail, an' the cells was all locked up, so they must have clumb out through the bars somehow. Gee! No one can find old Mose Silloway, an' they think the burglars drownded him, outer revenge. Giddap!"
He leaned over the front of the car and hit the horse a loud slap, with the ends of his reins.
"Gee! You bet Eb Flanders is madder than a settin' hen!"
"Who is he?" said I. Which was guile on my part.
"He's constable. He caught the burglars, y'know, right in the face 'n eyes of two policemen from Lanesport. An' when they got away, Eb pretty near bust his biler. He got his possy together again, an' he says he'll have 'em back if it takes a leg, an' when he gets 'em he'll set over 'em night an' day, with a shot-gun. Gee!"
He hit the horse another slap with the reins, and then turned to grin at me through a gap where four front teeth were missing. He was a jolly looking boy, with a round, red face like the rising moon.
"I wouldn't like to be them burglars, when Eb ketches hold of 'em again," he continued. "No, sir. Why, Eb arrested two fellers last summer for haulin' Levi Sanborn's lobster-pots,--he took an' tied 'em back to back an' carried 'em over to Lanesport in his boat, an' turned 'em over to the police. One feller got six months in the House of C'rrection. Gee! You're goin' to Bailey's, aint yer?"
"No, I'm going to Rogers's Island."
"You be? Why, the excursion aint till tomorrow!"
I said "What excursion?" before I thought.
"Why, the Comp'ny. Aint you heard 'bout the Comp'ny? Gran'father's goin'. Everbody's goin'. Don't you live in Lanesport?"
"No, I don't know anything about it. What is it,--a picnic? How many people live there,--on Rogers's Island?"
"Didn't no one live there--till 'bout a month ago. Then those two gen'lemen came,--the P'fessor an' Mr. Snider. The house had been empty for a year an' a half,--ever since old man Rogers died. He was the last of the fam'ly, an' his folks have owned the island an' lived in the house ever since the first one of 'em come over in the 'Mayflower' or with Christopher C'lumbus, or somebody. When Gran'father was a boy there was twenty-seven of 'em livin' there, an' nineteen of 'em was children. Gee! there must have been a mob,--all in one house! But they've been dyin' off, or movin' away or somethin', an' when old man Rogers died there wasn't no one for him to leave the prop'ty to but a hospittle or somethin'. An' the hospittle aint never come to live there, or nothin', an' it's stayed empty. I went over there once last summer, an' peeked into the winders. ... But Mr. Snider an' the P'fessor are there now,-- they hired the whole island to 'stablish the Comp'ny on."
He stopped the car for some passengers,--two women and two little girls who had been picking flowers beside the road. One of the women commenced to ask questions and I did not get much chance to talk with him again until we came to the end of the line, at the causeway leading to Bailey's Harbor.
I decided not to linger at this point, but merely stopped to ask the boy if I would be able to get a boat to row to Rogers's Island.
"You won't want one," said he, "there's a bridge. You'll find it all dry walkin'."
I learned what this meant, when, after about half an hour's walk, I came to a turn in the road, and a post with a metal sign: "Rogers's I.--1/2m." Here was another causeway across a marsh, not as well kept, nor as much used, as that from Bailey's Harbor, but quite passable. The island was in plain sight at the end of the road,--a rocky hummock of land, with two patches of trees. At the edge of one of these groups of trees I could see a chimney and one corner of a house. A big, pink poster, stuck up on the sign-post, had caught my eye. It was like several others which I remembered having seen on trees and fences as I came along the road. Now, for the first time, I stopped to read one of them. This is what it said:
GOLD FROM THE VASTY DEEP OLD OCEAN GIVES UP HIS WEALTH AT LAST SUCCUMBS TO THE MODERN WIZARD EASE AND COMFORT PLACED WITHIN THE REACH OF ALL BY THE METROPOLITAN MARINE GOLD COMPANY COME TO THE GRAND DEMONSTRATIONS AT THE COMPANY'S PLANT, ROGERS'S ISLAND TWO EXCURSIONS--MORNING & AFTERNOON
I read that poster, and wondered what it was all about. July 30th,--that was to-morrow. Then I remembered what the boy on the horse-car had said about "the Company" and the excursion. This was the thing he had meant. Well, it was nothing to me,--I had only to find out if Captain Bannister and the "Hoppergrass" were there, and if not, to go back to Lanesport. "Gold from the vasty deep,"-- I wondered what that was. The buried treasure on Fishback Island, --had it anything to do with that?
Half way across the causeway was a wooden bridge, painted white. It spanned a narrow stream, not much more than a creek, running through the marsh. This was the only water which divided Rogers's Island from the mainland.
On the railing of the bridge was tacked another pink poster. This one said:
RICHES FROM NEPTUNE'S HOARD TREASURE FROM THE BOUNDLESS MAIN WHY TOIL AND SLAVE ALL YOUR LIVES WITH THE MEANS FOR LUXURY AT YOUR DOORS? GRAND EXCURSIONS TO ROGERS'S ISLAND, JULY 30. STEAMER "MAY QUEEN" LEAVES LANESPORT AT 8.30 A. M., AND 2 P. M. THE METROPOLITAN MARINE GOLD COMPANY IS ENDORSED BY THE LEADING FINANCIERS AND SCIENTISTS OF THE WORLD AND BY HON. J. HARVEY BOWDITCH & DEACON ENOCH CHICK LANESPORT
There were some hand-bills blowing around on the bridge, and I picked up one or two of them. They were like the posters,--about the Metropolitan Marine Gold Company, and the excursions to Rogers's Island. At the end of the causeway, where the road went up a little grade, there was a big sign, painted on white cloth, and fixed to some boards:
THE METROPOLITAN MARINE GOLD COMPANY (Limited)
The road wound up the slope, and I followed it and turned the corner. There was a great house, three stories high and as square as a child's block. If it had ever been painted, the paint had worn off, and the wood was almost black. For a hundred years or more the wind and rain and snow had beaten against it,--storms from the ocean, storms from the land, winds from all quarters, for except at one corner it was unprotected by trees. It stood on high ground, and faced the open water of the bay. Grass had grown rank all around, and there was no sign of anybody either indoors or out. There was an enormous barn behind the house, as well as woodsheds, and hen-houses.
I stood still for a few moments, and then walked up the weed-grown path, and hammered on the front door with the brass knocker. The knocking echoed all over the house, and the door swung slowly open. It was my knocks which had opened it, however,--there was no one inside, so far as I could see. I looked into an empty hall, dusty and neglected. A broad staircase led upstairs, but the only thing in the hall was a pile of pink hand-bills lying on the floor. I thumped again with my knuckles on one of the panels of the door, and called out: "Anybody here?" There was no answer, and after hesitating a moment I decided to try the rear of the house.
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