“Oh, just something we had,” and stuffed it away in the kit-bag. He was quite red. Boys are funny sometimes.
“Now,” said our man, “comes the embarkation, and I’m afraid I’ll have to hurt you a little, Greg.”
He picked Greg up in one swinging swoop, and I wished that Jerry and I had been strong enough to do that last night. Greg had only time for one gasp before he was quite comfortable against our man’s shoulder. But he was brave, because it must have hurt like anything, even then, and I could see his jaw set hard. Jerry and I gathered up the kit-bag and the jersey and what was left of the skirt and followed along. Just beside the dinghy our man paused and looked all around at the ugly blackness of the Sea Monster and up to the jaggedy top of it. Then he looked down at Greg and smiled a little sorry smile, and said very slowly and gently:
“Ye be Three Poore Mariners.”
Jerry and I stared at each other, and I said:
“You must know that song, too. We used to pretend being marooned, but we never thought it would really happen.”
Then Jerry said suddenly:
“By the way, what’s your name, sir?”
“You’ll have to row, Jerry,” said our man, “because I must keep the wounded just the way he is.” Then he said:
“Some people call me Andrew, but my intimate friends call me ’The Bottle Man’.”
I thought that perhaps it might be a dream after all, because that’s the way things happen in dreams, and that I would wake up and find it still night and the rain splashing down and poor Greg crying. But the dinghy was real and so were the slippy slidy wet rocks, and I had to watch what I was about and not go staring in astonishment at our man. We all had to be careful about the rocks, and that’s why none of us said anything till we were in the dinghy, except for one gasp of astonishment.
“But how could you be?” Jerry and I asked together when we all were safely aboard, with our man in the stern holding Greg carefully.
“But how did you get un-oldened?” Greg asked.
“We thought you were a very old gentleman,” I explained giddily.
“I am,” said the Bottle Man. “Ancient.”
“But what about your gray hairs?” Jerry demanded, tugging away at the oars.
“If you’ve more than one gray hair you’ve gray hairs,” said our man. “I have eleven.”
He ducked down his nice, dark, rumpled-up head for us to look, but I must say I couldn’t see more than one little one all buried among the black.
“You’re grown up, but you’re not old at all,” I said. “We’ve been imagining you as an aged old man with a long white beard.”
“I never mentioned a long white beard,” the Bottle Man said.
“Yes; but what about your tottering along on two sticks?” Jerry said suddenly.