Wrecked on Spider Island: How Ned Rogers Found the Treasure
Library of Alexandria
Ned Rogers had but few acquaintances in the city of Portland, Maine; but those few were positive the boy had run away from home. It was quite natural such should be the general idea among those who saw him trying from day to day to earn the small amount of money necessary to provide him with food. As a matter of course it was essential he should also have clothes and a bed at night; but Ned had found it such hard work to get sufficient to satisfy his hunger that it would have seemed a willful waste of money to expend it on anything save provisions. He very often found shelter in the store-houses on the wharves where he sought employment. Sometimes the crew of a fishing vessel would allow him to remain on board during the night, and more than once did he walk around the streets because of his inability to go elsewhere. As for clothing, the badly patched suit he wore, which had originally been made for a full-sized man, was quite as much as he aspired to until “luck came his way,” and to have new garments was a dream he never allowed himself to indulge in, because of the apparent impossibility. Now, while Ned presented every indication of a boy who has run away from home in order to better his fortunes, and wishes heartily that he could run back, he had never been so foolish, for the simple reason that so long as he could remember there was no home for him in all this wide world. His first remembrance of anything even approaching an abiding-place was when he had reached his fifth birthday, and then understood he was supported by an uncle, who seldom lost an opportunity of telling him what a useless article he was, more especially on a farm. After that he remembered a funeral, with his uncle in the coffin, and from the moment the hard-hearted farmer was carried to his last resting-place Ned’s journeyings began. First one neighbor and then another had some work by which he could earn enough to pay for the small amount he ate, and finally, as he grew older, even these opportunities ceased. He did not know that he had a single relative in the world to whom he could go, and while perfectly willing and even anxious to work, the townspeople called him a “lazy good-for-nothing, whose only desire was to eat the bread of idleness.” “It’s mighty little of any kind of bread I get,” Ned once said to Deacon Grout, when the latter had made use of this remark because the boy applied to him for work. “I allers have done whatever I could find that would give me a square meal or a place to sleep; but it looks as if you folks wasn’t willin’ to spare that much. I s’pose you think a feller like me oughter pay for the privilege of stayin’ in this blamed old town.” There is no question but that Ned’s provocation was great, yet it was an ill-advised remark, for from that day he not only had the reputation of being lazy, but impudent as well. The deacon predicted he would “come to some bad end,” and the deacon’s friends fully expected each morning to hear that “the Rogers boy” had been sent to jail, because of having committed some terrible crime. Despite this very unpleasant and unsatisfactory method of gaining less than half a livelihood, Ned remained in the town until he was fourteen years old; not for love of the place, but owing to his inability to leave. The city was so far away that he did not think it possible to walk, and as for paying his fare on the stage-coach, he might just as well have cried for the moon. The cost of riding from Jonesboro to Portland, in both stage and cars, was $7, and Ned had never been the possessor of a tenth part of that amount, although he was really as industrious as the townspeople would allow him to be. From the day he was ten years old the unhappy boy had said to himself that he would go to the city at the first opportunity; but as the weeks went by and he could see no possibility of carrying out such a plan, he grew discouraged.