The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Book: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rodman Philbrick
Tags: Retail, Ages 9+
stretching the truth, and Mr. Fenton J. Fleabottom, he’s a stretcher.
    I decide to keep my eyes peeled, just in case.

    P ROFESSOR F LEABOTTOM lets me ride next to him, high up in the driver’s seat as the horses plod through the crowded streets, headed for the ferry terminal.
    Never have I seen so many people in one place, all trying to get somewhere at the same time. Folks of all colors, white and black and mixed, and a bunch that look like the Chinese Indians, and others I never seen before. Men in fine suits and tall hats, and ladies with parasols and gloves, and men in rags, and poor, hunched-up old women begging as they shuffle along. All in a hurry. Makes me feel a little out of breath to think that if one more human being sets foot on this end of Manhattan Island, it may tip over like a dinner plate and slip into the sea.
    Professor Fleabottom says there’s more people in this city than in the entire state of Maine, all jammed together with a hundred thousand horses, and more goats, dogs, cats, cows, and chickens than can be counted. All breathing the same smoky air and drinking the same water.
    The horses, he says, are a special kind of problem.
    “Multiply a hundred thousand horses by twenty pounds of manure each day, per horse, and what do you get?”
    “A big stink?”
    “On the nose!” he says, delighted. “Two thousand tons of odiferous delight. All of which makes me long for the fragrance of New Jersey.”
    “What’s New Jersey smell like?”
    “Grass and dirt, mostly, once we get past the swampy part. But first we must cross the river.”
    Every now and then he looks behind, as if worried about being followed. I check, too, but there are so many people there’s no way to know who might be following us, or who might just be going in the same direction.
    Wagons scrape by, heading the opposite way, and the big men driving the wagons crack their whips and shout abuse and make rude gestures.
    Professor Fleabottom smiles and waves, and tells Minerva to stay out of sight inside the wagon, in case her tattoos might stop traffic altogether.
    “Just drive, Fenton. I can take care of myself, as well you know,” she says, looking around.
    Seems like even though she made fun of him for mentioning spies, she’s keeping an eye out, too.
    As for me, I’m straining to catch a glimpse of the men driving the last two wagons in our little caravan. From what I can see, as we jounce over the cobblestones, they both look pretty normal. Just regular men with beards and floppy hats that hide their eyes.
    “Sit down and quit messing about,” Professor Fleabottom says. “You’ll scare the horses.”
    “What’s in those wagons?” I want to know.
    The way Fleabottom and Minerva are acting, there might be something hidden in the wagons. Something way more exciting than a boy who pretends to be a pig.
    “Ah!” Fleabottom says, his eyes glinting with humor. “You guessed, did you?”
    “I guessed there was something, but I don’t know what, exactly.”
    “Patience, young man. You will know all of our secrets by this evening. But not until then.”
    No matter how much I beg, he won’t tell me the secret in the wagons, and finally I decide to shut up and bide my chance.
    The ferry terminal is near as crowded as the streets, with a mob waiting impatiently to get across the Hudson River. Some are on foot, others in carriages and wagons. The ferries leave on the quarter hour, regular as clockwork. They have flat decks so you can drive straight aboard, and big steam-driven paddles on either side.
    At the sounding of a steam whistle the gate opens and a man shouts, “All aboard!”
    Ten minutes later, wagons and horses and all, we’re bound for Jersey City.
    The river is thick with ferryboats and steamships and sailboats of every size. Looks like the whole world is on the move, crossing that water. Behind us the island of Manhattan starts to fade away, until it looks like it’s made of fog and sticks. The

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