Chapter 13





CHAPTER XIII.

WELL, I catched my breath and most fainted.
Shut up on a wreck with such a gang as that!
But it warn't no time to be sentimentering. We'd GOT
to find that boat now -- had to have it for ourselves.
So we went a-quaking and shaking down the stabboard
side, and slow work it was, too -- seemed a week be-
fore we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim
said he didn't believe he could go any further -- so
scared he hadn't hardly any strength left, he said.
But I said, come on, if we get left on this wreck we
are in a fix, sure. So on we prowled again. We
struck for the stern of the texas, and found it, and
then scrabbled along forwards on the skylight, hanging
on from shutter to shutter, for the edge of the skylight
was in the water. When we got pretty close to the
cross-hall door there was the skiff, sure enough! I
could just barely see her. I felt ever so thankful. In
another second I would a been aboard of her, but just
then the door opened. One of the men stuck his head
out only about a couple of foot from me, and I thought
I was gone; but he jerked it in again, and says:

"Heave that blame lantern out o' sight, Bill!"

He flung a bag of something into the boat, and then
got in himself and set down. It was Packard. Then
Bill HE come out and got in. Packard says, in a low
voice:

"All ready -- shove off!"

I couldn't hardly hang on to the shutters, I was so
weak. But Bill says:

"Hold on -- 'd you go through him?"

"No. Didn't you?"

"No. So he's got his share o' the cash yet."

"Well, then, come along; no use to take truck and
leave money."

"Say, won't he suspicion what we're up to?"

"Maybe he won't. But we got to have it anyway.
Come along."

So they got out and went in.

The door slammed to because it was on the careened
side; and in a half second I was in the boat, and Jim
come tumbling after me. I out with my knife and cut
the rope, and away we went!

We didn't touch an oar, and we didn't speak nor
whisper, nor hardly even breathe. We went gliding
swift along, dead silent, past the tip of the paddle-
box, and past the stern; then in a second or two more
we was a hundred yards below the wreck, and the
darkness soaked her up, every last sign of her, and we
was safe, and knowed it.

When we was three or four hundred yards down-
stream we see the lantern show like a little spark at the
texas door for a second, and we knowed by that that
the rascals had missed their boat, and was beginning
to understand that they was in just as much trouble now
as Jim Turner was.

Then Jim manned the oars, and we took out after
our raft. Now was the first time that I begun to worry
about the men -- I reckon I hadn't had time to before.
I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for mur-
derers, to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there
ain't no telling but I might come to be a murderer
myself yet, and then how would I like it? So says I
to Jim:

"The first light we see we'll land a hundred yards
below it or above it, in a place where it's a good
hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then I'll go and
fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go
for that gang and get them out of their scrape, so they
can be hung when their time comes."

But that idea was a failure; for pretty soon it begun
to storm again, and this time worse than ever. The
rain poured down, and never a light showed; every-
body in bed, I reckon. We boomed along down the
river, watching for lights and watching for our raft.
After a long time the rain let up, but the clouds
stayed, and the lightning kept whimpering, and by and
by a flash showed us a black thing ahead, floating, and
we made for it.

It was the raft, and mighty glad was we to get
aboard of it again. We seen a light now away down
to the right, on shore. So I said I would go for it.
The skiff was half full of plunder which that gang had
stole there on the wreck. We hustled it on to the raft
in a pile, and I told Jim to float along down, and show
a light when he judged he had gone about two mile,
and keep it burning till I come; then I manned my
oars and shoved for the light. As I got down towards
it three or four more showed -- up on a hillside. It
was a village. I closed in above the shore light, and
laid on my oars and floated. As I went by I see it
was a lantern hanging on the jackstaff of a double-hull
ferryboat. I skimmed around for the watchman, a-
wondering whereabouts he slept; and by and by I
found him roosting on the bitts forward, with his head
down between his knees. I gave his shoulder two or
three little shoves, and begun to cry.

He stirred up in a kind of a startlish way; but when
he see it was only me he took a good gap and stretch,
and then he says:

"Hello, what's up? Don't cry, bub. What's the
trouble?"

I says:

"Pap, and mam, and sis, and --"

Then I broke down. He says:

"Oh, dang it now, DON'T take on so; we all has to
have our troubles, and this 'n 'll come out all right.
What's the matter with 'em?"

"They're -- they're -- are you the watchman of the
boat?"

"Yes," he says, kind of pretty-well-satisfied like.
"I'm the captain and the owner and the mate and the
pilot and watchman and head deck-hand; and some-
times I'm the freight and passengers. I ain't as rich
as old Jim Hornback, and I can't be so blame' gener-
ous and good to Tom, Dick, and Harry as what he is,
and slam around money the way he does; but I've
told him a many a time 't I wouldn't trade places with
him; for, says I, a sailor's life's the life for me, and
I'm derned if I'D live two mile out o' town, where
there ain't nothing ever goin' on, not for all his spon-
dulicks and as much more on top of it. Says I --"

I broke in and says:

"They're in an awful peck of trouble, and --"

"WHO is?"

"Why, pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker;
and if you'd take your ferryboat and go up there --"

"Up where? Where are they?"

"On the wreck."

"What wreck?"

"Why, there ain't but one."

"What, you don't mean the Walter Scott?"

"Yes."

"Good land! what are they doin' THERE, for gracious
sakes?"

"Well, they didn't go there a-purpose."

"I bet they didn't! Why, great goodness, there
ain't no chance for 'em if they don't git off mighty
quick! Why, how in the nation did they ever git into
such a scrape?"

"Easy enough. Miss Hooker was a-visiting up
there to the town --"

"Yes, Booth's Landing -- go on."

"She was a-visiting there at Booth's Landing, and
just in the edge of the evening she started over with
her nigger woman in the horse-ferry to stay all night
at her friend's house, Miss What-you-may-call-herQI
disremember her name -- and they lost their steering-
oar, and swung around and went a-floating down,
stern first, about two mile, and saddle-baggsed on the
wreck, and the ferryman and the nigger woman and
the horses was all lost, but Miss Hooker she made a
grab and got aboard the wreck. Well, about an hour
after dark we come along down in our trading-scow,
and it was so dark we didn't notice the wreck till we
was right on it; and so WE saddle-baggsed; but all of
us was saved but Bill Whipple -- and oh, he WAS the
best cretur ! -- I most wish 't it had been me, I do."

"My George! It's the beatenest thing I ever
struck. And THEN what did you all do?"

"Well, we hollered and took on, but it's so wide
there we couldn't make nobody hear. So pap said
somebody got to get ashore and get help somehow. I
was the only one that could swim, so I made a dash
for it, and Miss Hooker she said if I didn't strike help
sooner, come here and hunt up her uncle, and he'd
fix the thing. I made the land about a mile below,
and been fooling along ever since, trying to get people
to do something, but they said, 'What, in such a night
and such a current? There ain't no sense in it; go
for the steam ferry.' Now if you'll go and --"

"By Jackson, I'd LIKE to, and, blame it, I don't
know but I will; but who in the dingnation's a-going'
to PAY for it? Do you reckon your pap --"

"Why THAT'S all right. Miss Hooker she tole me,
PARTICULAR, that her uncle Hornback --"

"Great guns! is HE her uncle? Looky here, you
break for that light over yonder-way, and turn out
west when you git there, and about a quarter of a mile
out you'll come to the tavern; tell 'em to dart you
out to Jim Hornback's, and he'll foot the bill. And
don't you fool around any, because he'll want to know
the news. Tell him I'll have his niece all safe before
he can get to town. Hump yourself, now; I'm a-
going up around the corner here to roust out my
engineer."

I struck for the light, but as soon as he turned the
corner I went back and got into my skiff and bailed her
out, and then pulled up shore in the easy water about
six hundred yards, and tucked myself in among some
woodboats; for I couldn't rest easy till I could see
the ferryboat start. But take it all around, I was feel-
ing ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this
trouble for that gang, for not many would a done it.
I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she
would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions,
because rapscallions and dead beats is the kind the
widow and good people takes the most interest in.

Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and
dusky, sliding along down! A kind of cold shiver
went through me, and then I struck out for her. She
was very deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much
chance for anybody being alive in her. I pulled all
around her and hollered a little, but there wasn't any
answer; all dead still. I felt a little bit heavy-hearted
about the gang, but not much, for I reckoned if they
could stand it I could.

Then here comes the ferryboat; so I shoved for the
middle of the river on a long down-stream slant; and
when I judged I was out of eye-reach I laid on my
oars, and looked back and see her go and smell around
the wreck for Miss Hooker's remainders, because the
captain would know her uncle Hornback would want
them; and then pretty soon the ferryboat give it up
and went for the shore, and I laid into my work and
went a-booming down the river.

It did seem a powerful long time before Jim's light
showed up; and when it did show it looked like it was
a thousand mile off. By the time I got there the sky
was beginning to get a little gray in the east; so we
struck for an island, and hid the raft, and sunk the
skiff, and turned in and slept like dead people.



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