Bixby could answer, Mr. W---- came in to take the watch, and he said--
'Bixby, you'll have to look out for President's Island and all
that country clear away up above the Old Hen and Chickens.
The banks are caving and the shape of the shores changing
like everything. Why, you wouldn't know the point above 40.
You can go up inside the old sycamore-snag, now.
So that question was answered. Here were leagues of shore changing shape. My spirits were down in the mud again. Two things seemed pretty apparent to me. One was, that in order to be a pilot a man had got to learn more than any one man ought to be allowed to know; and the other was, that he must learn it all over again in a different way every twenty-four hours.
That night we had the watch until twelve. Now it was an ancient river custom for the two pilots to chat a bit when the watch changed. While the relieving pilot put on his gloves and lit his cigar, his partner, the retiring pilot, would say something like this--
'I judge the upper bar is making down a little at Hale's Point;
had quarter twain with the lower lead and mark twain
'Yes, I thought it was making down a little, last trip. Meet any boats?'
'Met one abreast the head of 21, but she was away over hugging the bar, and I couldn't make her out entirely. I took her for the "Sunny South"-- hadn't any skylights forward of the chimneys.'
And so on. And as the relieving pilot took the wheel his
However, I must have gone to sleep in the course of time, because the next thing I was aware of was the fact that day was breaking, Mr. W---- gone, and Mr. Bixby at the wheel again. So it was four o'clock and all well--but me; I felt like a skinful of dry bones and all of them trying to ache at once.
Mr. Bixby asked me what I had stayed up there for. I confessed that it was to do Mr. W---- a benevolence,--tell him where he was. It took five minutes for the entire preposterousness of the thing to filter into Mr. Bixby's system, and then I judge it filled him nearly up to the chin; because he paid me a compliment-- and not much of a one either. He said,
'Well, taking you by-and-large, you do seem to be more different kinds of an ass than any creature I ever saw before. What did you suppose he wanted to know for?'
I said I thought it might be a convenience to him.