THE BOTTLE MAN.
“Well, of all mean tricks!” Jerry said.
“It’s worse than a continued story,” I said. “Bother the horrid native child! Do you suppose that’s really why he stopped?”
“Probably not; he knew it was the excitingest place to stop. What did I tell you about his being ancient? Now he says he has gray hairs, so that proves it.”
“I should think he might,” I said, “after such experiences. What do you think it could have been that stared at him?”
“An octopus, most likely,” Jerry said. “They have goggly black eyes; I’ve read it.”
“But he said he’d never seen such eyes on any sea beast he knew of, and he’s read as much as you have; that’s sure.”
“That treasure! Oh, my eye!” Jerry sighed. “Do you suppose he brought home hunks of it?”
“Just the same hunks that we dig up on Wecanicut, I suppose,” I said.
“You mean you think he’s making up the whole yarn?” Jerry asked. “Well, even if he is, it’s a mighty good one, and it might have happened to him, at that.”
Greg looked up suddenly from beside me, and said:
“I think the thing what stared at him was a mer-person.”
“My child,” said Jerry, “I believe you’re right.”
Next day Jerry was well enough to walk around with a cane, and when he’d broken Father’s second-best malacca stick by vaulting over the box border with it, we decided that he was quite all right, and the summer went on again as usual. Of course we wrote to the Bottle Man at once, and told him, as respectfully as we could, just what we thought of him for letting the native child interrupt him in such an exciting part. We also begged him to write again as soon as possible, and to choose a place where the inhabitants weren’t likely to come with offerings. We kept waiting and waiting, and no letter came, so we settled ourselves to Grim Resignation, as Jerry said. It was worse than waiting for the next number of a serial story, because you’re pretty certain when that will come, but we had no idea how long it would be before the Bottle Man wrote to us.
Aunt Ailsa still needed cheering up a good deal, and that kept us busy. The cheering was great fun for us, because it consisted mostly of picnics and long, long walks,—the kind where you take a stick and a kit-bag and eat your lunch under a hedge, like a tinker. We also wrote a story which we used to put in instalments under her plate at breakfast every other day. We took turns writing the story, and Greg’s instalments always made Aunt Ailsa the most cheered up of all. The story was much too long to put in here, and rather ridiculous, besides.