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WE judged that three nights more would fetch us to Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes in, and that was what we was after. We would sell the raft and get on a steamboat and go way up the Ohio amongst the free States, and then be out of trouble. We figured that it would take three more nights to reach the city of Cairo in southern Illinois. That’s where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi, and it was the Ohio River we wanted. We could sell the raft and take a steamboat up the Ohio River and into the

free states

northern states where slavery was outlawed

free states
. Then we’d be out of trouble.
Well, the second night a fog begun to come on, and we made for a towhead to tie to, for it wouldn’t do to try to run in a fog; but when I paddled ahead in the canoe, with the line to make fast, there warn’t anything but little saplings to tie to. I passed the line around one of them right on the edge of the cut bank, but there was a stiff current, and the raft come booming down so lively she tore it out by the roots and away she went. I see the fog closing down, and it made me so sick and scared I couldn’t budge for most a half a minute it seemed to me—and then there warn’t no raft in sight; you couldn’t see twenty yards. I jumped into the canoe and run back to the stern, and grabbed the paddle and set her back a stroke. But she didn’t come. I was in such a hurry I hadn’t untied her. I got up and tried to untie her, but I was so excited my hands shook so I couldn’t hardly do anything with them. On the second night, it began to get foggy. It wouldn’t make any sense to navigate in the fog, so we headed toward a towhead to wait it out. I paddled ahead in the canoe with a rope to tie the raft, but when I got ot the towhead, I found only little saplings. I threw the rope around one of the saplings on the edge of the bank, but the current was so strong that the raft came zooming down and tore out the sapling by the roots. I got sick and scared as the fog closed in and the raft disappeared. I couldn’t see twenty yards ahead. I stood frozen with fear for a moment, then I jumped back into the canoe, ran to the stern, grabbed the oar, and started paddling. But the canoe didn’t move. I’d been in such a hurry that I forgot to untie it. I got out and tried to untie the canoe, but I was shaking so much from excitement that my hands were useless.
As soon as I got started I took out after the raft, hot and heavy, right down the towhead. That was all right as far as it went, but the towhead warn’t sixty yards long, and the minute I flew by the foot of it I shot out into the solid white fog, and hadn’t no more idea which way I was going than a dead man. As soon as I got the canoe untied, I took off after the raft. I paddled furiously along the bank of the towhead. That part went fine, but the towhead wasn’t longer than sixty yards, and the minute I got past the foot of, it I shot out into the solid white fog. A dead man would have had no better idea of which way he was going than I did.
Thinks I, it won’t do to paddle; first I know I’ll run into the bank or a towhead or something; I got to set still and float, and yet it’s mighty fidgety business to have to hold your hands still at such a time. I whooped and listened. Away down there somewheres I hears a small whoop, and up comes my spirits. I went tearing after it, listening sharp to hear it again. The next time it come I see I warn’t heading for it, but heading away to the right of it. And the next time I was heading away to the left of it—and not gaining on it much either, for I was flying around, this way and that and t’other, but it was going straight ahead all the time. I figured I’d be more likely to run into a bank or towhead if I paddled, so I didn’t. I decided to just sit still and float, even though it was pretty nerve wracking to have to hold my hands still at a time like that. I heard a small whooping sound from farther down the river, and my spirits lifted. I started paddling after it, listening carefully to hear it again. The next time I heard it, I realized I wasn’t headed straight toward it, but away and to the right from it. The time after that, I was heading to the left of it. And I wasn’t gaining on it much, since I was paddling all over the place instead of just heading straight for it.
I did wish the fool would think to beat a tin pan, and beat it all the time, but he never did, and it was the still places between the whoops that was making the trouble for me. Well, I fought along, and directly I hears the whoop BEHIND me. I was tangled good now. That was somebody else’s whoop, or else I was turned around. I wished that the fool would think to beat repeatedly on a tin pan. The quiet times between the whoops are what made it hard for me to steer. But he never did. I continued paddling until pretty soon I hear the whoops BEHIND me. I was in a fix now. EitherI was hearing someone else’s whooping or I was turned completely around.
I throwed the paddle down. I heard the whoop again; it was behind me yet, but in a different place; it kept coming, and kept changing its place, and I kept answering, till by and by it was in front of me again, and I knowed the current had swung the canoe’s head down-stream, and I was all right if that was Jim and not some other raftsman hollering. I couldn’t tell nothing about voices in a fog, for nothing don’t look natural nor sound natural in a fog. I threw the paddle down. I heard the whoop again; it was still behind me but in a different place. It kept coming toward me, and changing its place. I kept answering, and soon enough it was in front of me again. Now I knew the current had swung the canoe’s head down stream, and that I’d be alright as long as Jim was the one whooping and not some other guy. It was hard to identify voices in the fog, since things don’t look or sound natural.
The whooping went on, and in about a minute I come a-booming down on a cut bank with smoky ghosts of big trees on it, and the current throwed me off to the left and shot by, amongst a lot of snags that fairly roared, the currrent was tearing by them so swift. The whooping continued. In a minute or so I realized I was sliding across a steep bank with the smoky ghosts of big trees on it. The current had thrown me off to the left and was shooting by. The water was roaring loudly as it passed through some snags.
In another second or two it was solid white and still again. I set perfectly still then, listening to my heart thump, and I reckon I didn’t draw a breath while it thumped a hundred. After a second or two, things became solid white and still again. I sat perfectly still, listening to my heart thump. I held my breath and I’ll bet my heart thumped a hundred times before I breathed again.
I just give up then. I knowed what the matter was. That cut bank was an island, and Jim had gone down t’other side of it. It warn’t no towhead that you could float by in ten minutes. It had the big timber of a regular island; it might be five or six miles long and more than half a mile wide. At that point, I gave up. I figured out what was going on. The steep bank was on an island, and Jim had floated down the other side of it. This wasn’t a towhead that you could float past in ten minutes. It was a regular island with big trees on it. It might be five or six miles long and more than half a mile wide.