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- The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 4/32 -
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."
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