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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: He woke up startled, but when he saw who it was, he only yawned and stretched. Then he said:
“Hello, what’s up? Don’t cry, bub. What’s the trouble?” “Hey, what’s up? Don’t cry, kid. What’s the matter?”
I says: I said:
“Pap, and mam, and sis, and—” “Pap and mom and my sis, and….”
Then I broke down. He says: Then I broke down in tears. He said:
“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?” “Come now, don’t cry like that. We all have our problems, and yours will work out in the end. What’s the matter with your family?”
“They’re—they’re—are you the watchman of the boat?” “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 sometimes I’m the freight and passengers. I ain’t as rich as old Jim Hornback, and I can’t be so blame’ generous 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 spondulicks and as much more on top of it. Says I—” “Yes,” he said in a self-satisified way. “I’m the captain, owner, mate, pilot, watchman, and head deck-hand of this ferry. And sometimes I’m the cargo and the passengers too. I’m not as rich as that guy Jim Hornback, and I can’t go throwing money around to every Tom, Dick, and Harry like he can. But I’ve told him many times that I would never trade places with him. I say the sailor’s life is the life for me, and I’ll be darned if I’d live two miles out of town where nothing exciting ever happens. No, I wouldn’t, not for all the riches in the world, says I….”
I broke in and says: I interrupted him and said:
“They’re in an awful peck of trouble, and—” “They’re in an awful lot of trouble and….”
“WHO is?” “WHO is?”
“Why, pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker; and if you’d take your ferryboat and go up there—” “My pap and mom and sis and Miss Hooker. And if you’d take your ferryboat and go up there….”
“Up where? Where are they?” “Up where? Where are they?”
“On the wreck.” “On the wreck.”
“What wreck?” “What wreck?”
“Why, there ain’t but one.” “Well, there’s only one!”
“What, you don’t mean the Walter Scott?” “What, you don’t mean the wreck of the steamboat Walter Scott?”
“Yes.” “Yes.”
“Good land! what are they doin’ THERE, for gracious sakes?” “Good God! What are they doing there, for goodness sake?”
“Well, they didn’t go there a-purpose.” “Well, they didn’t go there on 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?” “I’m sure they didn’t! My God, they don’t stand a chance if I don’t get them off there fast enough! Why, how in the world did they ever get into such a mess?”
“Easy enough. Miss Hooker was a-visiting up there to the town—” “Well, Miss Hooker visiting in the town up there….”
“Yes, Booth’s Landing—go on.” “You mean 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-her I 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.” “She was visiting Booth’s Landing, and around evening she started to head back across the river in the horse ferry with her n----- woman to stay the night with her friend, Miss What’s-her-name—I can’t remember. Anyway, the ferry lost its steering oar and swung around and went floating down the river, stern first, for about two miles until it ran into the wreck. The ferryman and the n----- woman and the horses were lost, but Miss Hooker was able to grab hold of the wreck and climb aboard. About an hour after nightfall my family and I came along on our trading skiff. It was so dark that we didn’t notice the wreck until we’d run into it ourselves. Everyone survived, except Bill Whipple—oh, he was the nicest guy! I wish I’d died instead of him!”
“My George! It’s the beatenest thing I ever struck. And THEN what did you all do?” “My word! That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! What did you all do after that?”
“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—” “Well, we yelled and carried on to get someone’s attention, but the river is so wide that no one could hear us. So pap said someone had to go ashore to get help. I was the only one that could swim, so I went for it. Miss Hooker said that if I couldn’t get anyone to help me, I should come here and find her uncle, who’d help. I reached the shore about a mile downstream, and have been running around trying to get someone to help. But no one would help me. They just say, ‘What? On a night like this with the current as strong as it is? It wouldn’t be any use trying. Go for the steam ferry.’ Now, if you’d 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—” “By George, I’d LIKE to help you, but, darn it, I don’t know if I can. But who in the world is going to PAY for it? You imagine your pap can….”
“Why THAT’S all right. Miss Hooker she tole me, PARTICULAR, that her uncle Hornback—” “Oh that’s no problem. Miss Hooker told me specifically 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.” “Great God! Hornback is her uncle? Look here, then. You head for that light over there. Turn west and go for about a quarter of a mile until you come to the tavern. Tell them to send you out to Jim Hornback’s, and he’ll pay the bill. And don’t waste any time getting there, because he’ll want to hear the news. Tell him that I’ll have his niece safe and sound before he can get to town. Hurry up now. I’m going up around the corner to wake up my engineer.”