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   Chapter 2 THE FERRY TO NOWHERE

The Admiral's Caravan By Charles E. Carryl Characters: 7194

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The rain had stopped, and the moon was shining through the breaking clouds, and as Dorothy looked up at the little stone house she saw that it had an archway through it with "FERRY" in large letters on the wall above it. Of course she had no idea of going by herself over a strange ferry; but she was an extremely curious little girl, as you will presently see, and so she immediately ran through the archway to see what the ferry was like and where it took people, but, to her surprise, instead of coming out at the water side, she came into a strange, old-fashioned-looking street as crooked as it could possibly be, and lined on both sides by tall houses with sharply peaked roofs looming up against the evening sky.

"'THEY'RE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FROM MINE, ANYHOW,' SAID THE STORK."

There was no one in sight but a stork. He was a very tall stork with red legs, and wore a sort of paper bag on his head with "FERRYMAN" written across the front of it; and as Dorothy appeared he held out one of his claws and said, "Fare, please," in quite a matter-of-fact way.

Dorothy was positively certain that she hadn't any money, but she put her hand into the pocket of her apron, partly for the sake of appearances, and partly because she was a little afraid of the Stork, and, to her surprise, pulled out a large cake. It was nearly as big as a saucer, and was marked "ONE BISKER"; and as this seemed to show that it had some value, she handed it to the ferryman. The Stork turned it over several times rather suspiciously, and then, taking a large bite out of it, remarked, "Very good fare," and dropped the rest of it into a little hole in the wall; and having done this he stared gravely at Dorothy for a moment, and then said, "What makes your legs bend the wrong way?"

"Why, they don't!" said Dorothy, looking down at them to see if anything had happened to them.

"They're entirely different from mine, anyhow," said the Stork.

"But, you know," said Dorothy very earnestly, "I couldn't sit down if they bent the other way."

"Sitting down is all very well," said the Stork, with a solemn shake of his head, "but you couldn't collect fares with 'em, to save your life," and with this he went into the house and shut the door.

"It seems to me this is a very strange adventure," said Dorothy to herself. "It appears to be mostly about people's legs," and she was gazing down again in a puzzled way at her little black stockings when she heard a cough, and looking up she saw that the Stork had his head out of a small round window in the wall of the house.

"Look here," he said confidentially, "I forgot to ask what your fare was for." He said this in a sort of husky whisper, and as Dorothy looked up at him it seemed something like listening to an enormous cuckoo-clock with a bad cold in its works.

"IT SEEMED LIKE LISTENING TO AN ENORMOUS CUCKOO-CLOCK."

"I don't think I know exactly what it was for," she said, rather confusedly.

"Well, it's got to be for something, you know, or it won't be fair," said the Stork. "I suppose you don't want to go over the ferry?" he added, cocking his head on one side, and looking down at her, inquiringly.

"Oh, no indeed!" said Dorothy, very earnestly.

"That's lucky," said the Stork. "It doesn't go anywhere that it ever gets to. Perhaps you'd like to hear about it. It's in poetry, you know."

"Thank you," said Dorothy politely. "I'd like it very much."

"All right," said the Stork. "The werses is called 'A Ferry Tale'"; and, giving another cough to clear his voice, he began:

Oh, come and cross over to now

here,

And go where

The nobodies live on their nothing a day!

A tideful of tricks is this merry

Old Ferry,

And these are the things that it does by the way:

It pours into parks and disperses

The nurses;

It goes into gardens and scatters the cats;

It leaks into lodgings, disorders

The boarders,

And washes away with their holiday hats.

It soaks into shops, and inspires

The buyers

To crawl over counters and climb upon chairs;

It trickles on tailors, it spatters

On hatters,

And makes little milliners scamper up-stairs.

It goes out of town and it rambles

Through brambles;

It wallows in hollows and dives into dells;

It flows into farm-yards and sickens

The chickens,

And washes the wheelbarrows into the wells.

It turns into taverns and drenches

The benches;

It jumps into pumps and comes out with a roar;

It pounds like a postman at lodges-

Then dodges

And runs up the lane when they open the door.

It leaks into laundries and wrangles

With mangles;

It trips over turnips and tumbles down-hill;

It rolls like a coach along highways

And byways,

But never gets anywhere, go as it will!

Oh, foolish old Ferry! all muddles

And puddles-

Go fribble and dribble along on your way;

We drink to your health with molasses

In glasses,

And waft you farewell with a handful of hay!

"What do you make out of it?" inquired the Stork anxiously.

"I don't make anything out of it," said Dorothy, staring at him in great perplexity.

"I didn't suppose you would," said the Stork, apparently very much relieved. "I've been at it for years and years, and I've never made sixpence out of it yet," with which remark he pulled in his head and disappeared.

"I don't know what he means, I'm sure," said Dorothy, after waiting a moment to see if the Stork would come back, "but I wouldn't go over that ferry for sixty sixpences. It's altogether too frolicky"; and having made this wise resolution, she was just turning to go back through the archway when the door of the house flew open and a little stream of water ran out upon the pavement. This was immediately followed by another and much larger flow, and the next moment the water came pouring out through the doorway in such a torrent that she had just time to scramble up on the window-ledge before the street was completely flooded.

"'DEAR ME!' SHE EXCLAIMED, 'HERE COMES ALL THE FURNITURE!'"

Dorothy's first idea was that there was something wrong with the pipes, but as she peeped in curiously through the window she was astonished to see that it was raining hard inside the house-"and dear me!" she exclaimed, "here comes all the furniture!" and, sure enough, the next moment a lot of old-fashioned furniture came floating out of the house and drifted away down the street. There was a corner cupboard full of crockery, and two spinning-wheels, and a spindle-legged table set out with a blue-and-white tea-set and some cups and saucers, and finally a carved sideboard which made two or three clumsy attempts to get through the doorway broadside on, and then took a fresh start, and came through endwise with a great flourish. All of these things made quite a little fleet, and the effect was very imposing; but by this time the water was quite up to the window-ledge, and as the sideboard was a fatherly-looking piece of furniture with plenty of room to move about in, Dorothy stepped aboard of it as it went by, and, sitting down on a little shelf that ran along the back of it, sailed away in the wake of the tea-table.

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