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Chapter 13 Honest Loot from the "Walter Scott"

  • WELL, I catched my breath and most fainted. Shut up on a wreck with such _ang as that! But it warn't no time to be sentimentering. We'd GOT to fin_hat boat now—had to have it for ourselves. So we went a-quaking and shakin_own the stabboard side, and slow work it was, too—seemed a week before we go_o the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim said he didn't believe he could go an_urther—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 prowle_gain. We struck for the stern of the texas, and found it, and then scrabble_long forwards on the skylight, hanging on from shutter to shutter, for th_dge 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. _elt ever so thankful. In another second I would a been aboard of her, bu_ust then the door opened. One of the men stuck his head out only about _ouple 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 se_own. It was Packard. Then Bill HE come out and got in. Packard says, in a lo_oice:
  • "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 secon_ was in the boat, and Jim come tumbling after me. I out with my knife and cu_he rope, and away we went!
  • We didn't touch an oar, and we didn't speak nor whisper, nor hardly eve_reathe. 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 yard_elow the wreck, and the darkness soaked her up, every last sign of her, an_e was safe, and knowed it.
  • When we was three or four hundred yards down-stream we see the lantern sho_ike a little spark at the texas door for a second, and we knowed by that tha_he rascals had missed their boat, and was beginning to understand that the_as 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 firs_ime 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 murderers, to be in such a fix.
  • I says to myself, there ain't no telling but I might come to be a murdere_yself 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 _lace where it's a good hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then I'll g_nd fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go for that gang and ge_hem 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 thi_ime worse than ever. The rain poured down, and never a light showed; everybody in bed, I reckon. We boomed along down the river, watching fo_ights and watching for our raft. After a long time the rain let up, but th_louds stayed, and the lightning kept whimpering, and by and by a flash showe_s 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 _ight now away down to the right, on shore. So I said I would go for it. Th_kiff 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 i_urning till I come; then I manned my oars and shoved for the light. As I go_own 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 wen_y 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 b_nd by I found him roosting on the bitts forward, with his head down betwee_is 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 h_ook 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 th_wner and the mate and the pilot and watchman and head deck-hand; an_ometimes 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 h_s, and slam around money the way he does; but I've told him a many a time '_ wouldn't trade places with him; for, says I, a sailor's life's the life fo_e, and I'm derned if I'D live two mile out o' town, where there ain't nothin_ver goin' on, not for all his spondulicks and as much more on top of it. Say_—"
  • 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 ferryboa_nd 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 the_on't git off mighty quick! Why, how in the nation did they ever git into suc_ 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 th_vening she started over with her nigger woman in the horse-ferry to stay al_ight at her friend's house, Miss What-you-may-call-her I disremember he_ame—and they lost their steering-oar, and swung around and went a- floatin_own, stern first, about two mile, and saddle-baggsed on the wreck, and th_erryman and the nigger woman and the horses was all lost, but Miss Hooker sh_ade a grab and got aboard the wreck. Well, about an hour after dark we com_long down in our trading-scow, and it was so dark we didn't notice the wrec_ill we was right on it; and so WE saddle-baggsed; but all of us was saved bu_ill Whipple—and oh, he WAS the best cretur !—I most wish 't it had been me, _o."
  • "My George! It's the beatenest thing I ever struck. And THEN what did you al_o?"
  • "Well, we hollered and took on, but it's so wide there we couldn't make nobod_ear. So pap said somebody got to get ashore and get help somehow. I was th_nly one that could swim, so I made a dash for it, and Miss Hooker she said i_ didn't strike help sooner, come here and hunt up her uncle, and he'd fix th_hing. 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 nigh_nd such a current? There ain't no sense in it; go for the steam ferry.' No_f you'll go and—"
  • "By Jackson, I'd LIKE to, and, blame it, I don't know but I will; but who i_he 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 uncl_ornback—"
  • "Great guns! is HE her uncle? Looky here, you break for that light ove_onder-way, and turn out west when you git there, and about a quarter of _ile out you'll come to the tavern; tell 'em to dart you out to Ji_ornback's, and he'll foot the bill. And don't you fool around any, becaus_e'll want to know the news. Tell him I'll have his niece all safe before h_an get to town. Hump yourself, now; I'm a-going up around the corner here t_oust out my engineer."
  • I struck for the light, but as soon as he turned the corner I went back an_ot into my skiff and bailed her out, and then pulled up shore in the eas_ater about six hundred yards, and tucked myself in among some woodboats; fo_ couldn't rest easy till I could see the ferryboat start. But take it al_round, I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all thi_rouble for that gang, for not many would a done it. I wished the widow knowe_bout 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 peopl_akes the most interest in.
  • Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and dusky, sliding along down! _ind of cold shiver went through me, and then I struck out for her. She wa_ery deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much chance for anybody bein_live in her. I pulled all around her and hollered a little, but there wasn'_ny 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 _ong down-stream slant; and when I judged I was out of eye-reach I laid on m_ars, and looked back and see her go and smell around the wreck for Mis_ooker's remainders, because the captain would know her uncle Hornback woul_ant them; and then pretty soon the ferryboat give it up and went for th_hore, 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 di_how it looked like it was a thousand mile off. By the time I got there th_ky was beginning to get a little gray in the east; so we struck for a_sland, and hid the raft, and sunk the skiff, and turned in and slept lik_ead people.