CHAPTER I. Relates how an Ancient Mariner met three Little People and promised them a Little Story.
A bright sun shone on the little village of Rockdale; a bright glare was on the little bay close by, as on a silver mirror. Three bright children were descending by a winding path towards the little village; a bright old man was coming up from the little village by the same path, meeting them.
The three children were named William Earnest, Fred Frazer, and Alice. Alice was William Earnest’s sister, while Fred Frazer was his cousin. William Earnest was the eldest, and he was something more than eleven and something less than twelve years old. His cousin Fred Frazer was nearly a year younger, while his sister Alice was a little more than two years younger still. Fred Frazer was on a holiday visit to his relatives, it being vacation time from school; and the three children were ready for any kind of adventure, and for every sort of fun.
The children saw the old man before the old man saw the children; for the children were looking down the hill, while the old man, coming up the hill, was looking at his footsteps.
As soon as the children saw the old man, the eldest recognized him as a friend; and no sooner had his eyes lighted on him than, much excited, he shouted loudly, “Hurrah, there comes the ancient mariner!”
His cousin, much surprised, asked quickly, “Who’s the ancient mariner?” And his sister, more surprised, asked timidly, “What’s the ancient mariner?”
Then the eldest, much elated, asked derisively, “Why, don’t you know?” And then he said, instructively: “He’s been about here for ever so long a time; but he went away last year, and I haven’t seen him for a great while. He’s the most wonderful man you ever saw,—tells such splendid stories,—all about shipwrecks, pirates, savages, Chinamen, bear-hunts, bull-fights, and everything else that you can think of. I call him the ‘Ancient Mariner,’ but that isn’t his right name. He’s Captain Hardy; but he looks like an ancient mariner, as he is, and I got the name out of a book. Some of the fellows call him ‘Old Father Neptune.’”
“What a funny name!” cried Fred.
“What do they call him Father Neptune for?” inquired Alice.
“Because,” answered William, looking very wise,—“because, you know, Neptune, he’s god of the sea, and Captain Hardy looks just like the pictures of him in the story-books. That’s why they call him Old Father Neptune.”
By this time the old man had come quite near, and William, suddenly leaving his companions, dashed ahead to meet him.
“O Captain Hardy, I’m so glad to see you!” exclaimed the little fellow, as he rushed upon him. “Where did you come from? Where have you been so long? How are you? Quite well, I hope,”—and he grasped the old man’s hand with both his own, and shook it heartily.
“Well, my lad,” replied the old man, kindly, “I’m right glad to see you, and will be right glad to answer all your questions, if you’ll let them off easy like, and not all in a broadside”; and as they walked on up the path together, William’s questions were answered to his entire satisfaction....