May I inscribe myself your most humble servant,
THE BOTTLE MAN.
P.S. I’m so glad your Bones are still where they belong.
Greg was counting elaborately on his fingers, and said:
“I believe he answered everything in my letter, but please let me have it, because there are some things I need to work out myself.”
“Now for the business,” Jerry said. “This must be the whole sad story of his life,—there’s pages of it. Coil yourself up comfortably, Chris, and I’ll fire away.”
So I coiled up beside Greg on the Gloucester hammock, and Jerry began to read.
From my desolate island refuge I salute the Intrepid Trio! Good sirs, what you tell me of the “Sea Monster” makes my flesh creep and my hair stir with terror. A murderous bad place I should call it, and not one to trifle with. Yet it might well be, as you think, that the sudden-appearing cavern is the mouth of a pirate cave fairly bursting with treasure, and only now exposed to the eyes of such daring adventurers as yourselves by a trick of the elements. Strange things there be above and below the waters of the world—which serves to remind me of a tale you might not scorn to hear. You may take it or leave it, as you will, but at least the penning of it will pass some of my hours of banishment in a pleasant fashion.
In the year of grace 18— (I
shudder to think how long ago)
I was a bold youth of perhaps the age of the valiant
Here Jerry paused to give a muffled hoot at me. I chucked a hammock cushion at him, and he went on:
My father’s house stood on a rambling street in an old waterside town, and from the windows of my room I could see the topmasts of sailing ships thrusting upward above gray roofs. Small marvel that my head should be filled with the ways of the sea and the wonder of it, or that I should spend long hours dreaming over books that told of adventures thereon. It was over such a book that I was poring one summer’s evening as I sat in the library bow-window. The breeze from the harbor came in and stirred the curtains beside my head, and brought with it the last westering ripple of sunlight and a smell of climbing roses. The book had dropped from my hand and I was well-nigh drowsing, when I saw, as plain as day, the queerest figure possible clicking open our garden gate. He looked to be some sort of South American half-breed,—swart face under rough black hair, and striped blanket gathered over dirty white trousers. Now I had seen many a strange man disembark from ships, but, never such a one as this, and when I saw that he was coming straight toward my window, I was half tempted to make an escape.
He leaned on the sill of the open casement with his dark face just below mine and began to pour out, in halting English, a tale which at first