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?"
"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 --"
"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."
"Why, there ain't but one."
"What, you don't mean the Walter Scott?"
"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.