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- The Voyage of the Hoppergrass - 8/32 -
that,--for you haint follered the sea very much, I take it?"
"Not very much," said Mr. Daddles.
"Not that yer troubles with that there canoe proves anything," returned the skipper, "for foolisher things was never invented. I wouldn't git into one of 'em not if you was to give me a thousand dollars. No, sir."
"Oh, my experience of a sailor's life has been limited," said the new passenger. "To tell the truth, I've never been as far East as this but once before. I was here for a few days, summer before last. My uncle lives at Bailey's Harbor, on Little Duck Island."
"Does he?" asked Jimmy Toppan,--"What's his name?"
"Is HE your uncle?" exclaimed the Captain. "I know his house,--up there on the hill, aint it?"
"Yes, but he isn't there now. My aunt was there for a while, but she went away, about two weeks ago. The house is closed, I suppose."
Jimmy, who had been looking toward the shore, turned to the Captain.
"This is Pingree's, isn't it, Captain?"
"Yessir; this is Pingree's Beach. Two of yer better go ashore an' see old man Haskell. That's his shanty,--the one with the red door. Ask him to let yer have a basket of clams. Tell him I sent yer."
Pingree's Beach was a short strip of sand, bordered with eel- grass. There were two small cottages, set above high-water mark, three dories drawn up on the shore, and a heap of lobster-pots and nets. Mr. Haskell could be seen moving in and out of his shanty.
Jimmy Toppan and Mr. Daddles went for the clams, after the latter had changed his bathing-suit for a shirt, and a pair of duck trousers. Captain Bannister sailed the "Hoppergrass" quarter of a mile below the beach, put about, and came back in time to pick them up when they returned in the tender. Mr. Daddles was interested in the idea of a clam-chowder. He had already noticed the funny little noise which the clams made, as their shells opened and shut.
"It seems rather hard-hearted to make them into a soup," he observed, "when they sing all the time like that."
The Captain was not troubled by the song of the clams, however.
"Here, Jimmy," he said, "you take the wheel while I shuck them clams."
"Do what to 'em?" asked Mr. Daddles.
"Shuck 'em," the Captain replied.
Mr. Daddles still looked puzzled.
"Take 'em out of the shells," explained Jimmy.
While the Captain worked over the clams, he had an oil-stove lighted down in the cabin, and he tried out some pork. Ed Mason hunted up a pail of fresh milk and some crackers, while I washed and peeled the potatoes. In about half an hour the dinner was ready. The Captain brought up the steaming kettle of chowder, and from it we filled our bowls. We also had coffee and bread and butter, and some of the mince turnovers which Ed Mason had brought. Then we remembered the water-melon.
"Don't think 'twill give yer the stomach-ache, do yer?" asked the Captain, as he prepared to cut the melon. "You remember how it killed one of them Black Pedros, don't yer?"
We all voted that it could not possibly give us the stomach-ache. And it didn't. Then we drew lots to see who would have the unpleasant job of washing the dishes. Ed Mason and I lost, and retired below to do the work. We could hear them talking on deck. Jimmy was still at the wheel; the Captain and Mr. Daddles lighted their pipes.
"I thought, when yer begun to talk 'bout pirates," said Captain Bannister, "that yer meant something 'bout the diggin' for treasure on Fishback Island."
"No; I never heard of it."
"Why, they've been diggin' an' blastin' there for years. Some folks was doin' it when my father was a boy. He had a try at it, an' so did I, one summer 'bout nine or ten year ago."
"Who put the treasure there?"
"Cap'n Kidd, they said. They lay everything on him. Why, folks has come from all round. One crowd formed a jint-stock company, an' sold shares, an' skun a whole pile of money outer people. Another man come in his yacht, an' he fetched a feller with him who could find treasure with his eyes shut, so he said. He was one of these wizards, an' he had a divinin' rod. His divinin' rod led him right up to a hummock in the middle of the island, an' they dug there, an' fetched up against the skeleton of an old dead hoss. That got 'em all excited, an' they pitched in an' dug like Sancho. But they never found nothin' 'cept the old hoss, an' so the wizard went back to town, an' took his divinin' rod with him. Then there was a lot of college fellers come an' camped out there all summer, once. I see 'em at it, two or three times. They was playin' base-ball, mostly. One of 'em had a map that he'd got outer some old book, an' he let me look at it. Accordin' to the bearin's of the island it might have been most anywhere between Fundy an' Key West, but it was good enough for this feller. He was sure it meant Fishback."
"Where did you dig?"
"Oh, round anywhere. I just did it for fun, between two fishin' trips. You can go over an' see the island this afternoon, if yer want to. Just go over to the mainland, an' take the hoss-car to Squid Cove. There'll be someone that will let yer take a boat across to Fishback."
An hour later we sailed into Bailey's Harbor. This was the only village of any size on Little Duck Island. A number of huts and houses, with one or two shops, stood about the head of the inlet. Behind them a road led up a hill, and then branched,--one road going off to the north-east, for the island was three or four miles long. The other road joined the causeway which had been built across the marsh in the rear of the island. Only this marsh separated the island from the mainland,--it was only an island in name, now.
We came to anchor, and the Captain started us off on our trip to the place where the treasure was supposed to lie. He rowed us in to the wharf.
"You ought to be back here by six o'clock. I'll leave yer canoe with Pike, all right,--I know where he hangs out, I guess. Take a good look round the island, an' if yer find any of the loot, don't forget me!"
And then as we started up the wharf he called out:
"Got any money with yer? There'll be hoss-car fares to pay, yer know."
I felt in my pockets.
"Mine's on the boat," I said.
"So's mine," said Jimmy.
"And so's mine," said Ed Mason.
"That's all right," said Mr. Daddles, "I've brought some,--all the change we'll need."
We went through the village and crossed the causeway. It was only a short walk to the end of the car line. Here was standing an old horse-car. The car was old, the horse was old, and the man who drove the horse was older still. He was sitting by the side of the road, and he eyed us suspiciously as we came up.
"Didn't see no one else coming across the causeway, didger?" he inquired.
"Not a soul." I
"Guess I might's well start, then."
He pulled a watch out of his pocket.
"What do you make it?"
Not one of us had a watch, so we couldn't make it anything at all. We thought it was about two o'clock.
"'Taint," said the car-driver decidedly, with the air of a man nipping a fraud in the bud. "It's one fifty four. Didn't know but what Ike Flanders would be coming over, an' trying to bum his way with me as usual. Well, climb aboard, an' we'll get under way."
All the way to Squid Cove he entertained us with an account of Ike Flanders' many attempts to get a ride for nothing. He had never succeeded, owing to the watchfulness of the driver. His whole life--the driver's--seemed to have consisted of a warfare against rascals and swindlers. People were always coming around with some scheme to cheat him, but he had defeated them all. When he found that we were going to row across to Fishback Island, he said he guessed he could let us take a boat,--for fifteen cents. It came out that he not only drove the horse-car, but sold fish and lobsters, ran a boarding-house, and had one or two boats to let. He left the horse-car standing in front of his house, and came down to the water to show us the boat.
"Better row round to the west'ard a little, when you get to Fishback," said he, "it's kinder choppy on this side sometimes, an' if my boat got all stove to pieces on the rocks 'fore you got
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