Us and the Bottleman
First Page:US and THE BOTTLE MAN
EDITH BALLINGER PRICE
Author of "SILVER SHOAL LIGHT," "BLUE MAGIC," etc.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Greg rigged himself up as an Excavator We hoped the Bottle Man would like the letter "Hang on, Chris!" Jerry said. "I can get it" "Ye be Three Poore Mariners"
It began with Jerry's finishing off all the olives that were left, "like a pig would do," as Greg said. His finishing the olives left us the bottle, of course, and there is only one natural thing to do with an empty olive bottle when you're on a water picnic. That is, to write a message as though you were a shipwrecked mariner, and seal it up in the bottle and chuck it as far out as ever you can.
We'd all gone over to Wecanicut on the ferry, Mother and Aunt Ailsa and Jerry and Greg and I, and we were picnicking beside the big fallen over slab that looks just like the entrance to a pirate cave. We had a fire, of course, and a lot of things to eat, including the olives, which were a fancy addition bought by Aunt Ailsa as we were running for the ferry.
When we asked her if she had any paper, she tore a perfectly nice leaf out of her sketch book, and gave me her 3 B drawing pencil to write with. It was very soft, and the paper was the roughish kind that comes in sketch books, so that the writing was smeary and looked quite as if shipwrecked mariners had written it with charred twigs out of the fire. We'd done lots of messages when we were on other water picnics, but we'd never heard from any of them, although one reason for that was that we never put our address on them. We decided we would this time, because Jerry had just been reading about a fisherman in Newfoundland picking up a message that somebody had chucked from a yacht in the Gulf of Mexico months and months before.
I wrote the date at the top, near the raggedy place where the leaf was torn out of Aunt Ailsa's sketch book, and then I put, "We be Three Poore Mariners," like the song in "Pan Pipes."
Jerry and Greg kept telling me things to write, till the page was quite full and went something like this:
"We be Three Poore Mariners, cast away upon the lone and desolate shore of Wecanicut, an island in the Atlantic Ocean, lat. and long. unknown. Our position is very perilous, as we have exhausted all our supplies, including large stores of olives, and are now forced to exist on beach peas, barnacles, and and "
"Eiligugs' eggs," said Greg, dreamily.
Jerry pounced on him and said they only grew on the Irish coast, but I said: "All right! Beach peas, barnacles, and eiligugs' eggs, of which only a small supply is to be had on this bleak and dismal coast. Our ship, the good ferry boat Wecanicut , left us marooned, and there is no hope of our being picked up for the next two hours. Any person finding this message, please come to our assistance by dropping us a line," (I must honestly say that this was Jerry's, and much better than usual) "as the surf is too heavy for boats to land on this end of the island. Signed: "
"Don't sign it 'Christine'," Jerry said. "Put 'Chris,' if we're to be real mariners."
So I put "Chris Holford, aet. 13," which I thought might look more dignified and scholarly than "aged," and Jerry wrote "Gerald M. Holford," and put "aet. 11" after it, but I'm sure he didn't know what it meant until I did it. Then we stuck the paper at Greg, and he stared at it ever so long and finally said:
"Ate eleven! He ate lots more than that; I saw him."
Jerry pounced again, I was laughing too hard to, and said:
"It's not olives, silly; it's an abbreviated French way of saying how old we are."
Then I had to pounce on him , and tell him it was Latin, as he might know by the diphthong. By that time Greg had written "Gregory Holford, Ate 8," across the bottom, very large, and Jerry said he might as well have put 88 and had done with it...