MoboReader> Literature > Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic


Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11717

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Of course you know whether the man we are looking for is in this room or not, Glynn," said the officer, when he found that the door was locked.

"'Pon my word I do not," protested the assistant.

"Did you let the room to any other person?"

"I did; but Lynch may occupy it with him, for aught I know. These fellows all run together, and I don't know who are in the rooms. We let them for a dollar a night, and don't care who sleeps in them."

The officer knocked at the door, and was promptly answered by a person whose voice did not sound at all like Lynch's. My hopes were failing, and I would have taken half my money, and given a receipt in full for the whole, if I could have made such a trade.

"Open the door," said the officer.

Even this request was promptly complied with, and we found the bed occupied by only one person. Glynn protested that he had not seen Lynch since he gave him the key and the light early in the evening; and, whether we believed him or not, we were forced to accept his explanation. We saw Redwood afterwards, and he appeared to be as innocent as his immaculate assistant. Both of them apologized to me for the rude treatment to which I had been subjected, and declared that they had made a bad mistake in taking me for a house-breaker, since I was now vouched for by no excellent a person as Captain Davis, of the steamer Fawn. If they ever saw Lynch again, they would hand him over to the officers of the law. It was for their interest to do so, because the reputation of the house was greatly injured by having a person robbed within it. They would do what they could to recover my money; and if they succeeded, where should they send it?

Captain Davis could not help laughing at this speech, and told me I need not trouble myself to leave any address. Both protested that they were in earnest; and certainty their logic was correct, whether they were sincere or not. If the local newspaper stated that a person had been robbed of a hundred dollars at Redwood's lodging-house, the fact would deter others from going there, for even gamblers and other fast men would object to having their money stolen. We left the house, and I gave up my money as lost; but I was willing to believe that I had purchased a hundred dollars' worth of wisdom and experience with it, and so I had a fair equivalent.

In the street I found the officer was not disposed to abandon the case. He had a reputation to make in that new land; and perhaps it was worth more to him than to me to find the money. I was entirely willing that he should increase his credit as a thief-taker by restoring my property, and I warmly seconded his endeavors. We watched the lodging-house till dinner time, but without seeing any one who looked like Lynch. In short, the officer made no progress in establishing a title to the position of chief of police when the office should be created in the new and growing city.

I returned to the steamer at the landing, and of course my first inquiries were for Mr. Gracewood and his family. To my astonishment and grief, not a word had been heard of them. Captain Davis had caused a thorough search to be made in the town, without obtaining the slightest clew to them. I was amazed, and so were others who were interested in the fate of the absent ones. It was incredible that any calamity had overtaken them by which the whole party had been lost. If the boat had been upset, the deck hands at least could have saved themselves.

I forgot all about my money in my anxiety for my friends. I could not believe that they had been lost; it was too sad and too improbable to be considered, and I rejected the supposition. But the mystery weighed heavily upon me. The steamer was ready to proceed on her voyage, and the passengers were grumbling at the delay; but Captain Davis was unwilling to proceed without the absentees. In the middle of the afternoon he cast off his fasts, when a portion of his passengers, who had not paid their fare, threatened to leave the boat, and take another which was in sight above the town. But, instead of continuing on his way down the river, he headed her up the stream, in order to examine the shores for any signs of the lost family.

I was deeply interested in the fate of Mr. Gracewood, his wife and daughter, for they were really the only friends I had in the world. I had been saved from a burning steamer by old Matt Rockwood, and was brought up by him in his cabin. I knew nothing of my parents, but old Matt had been a father to me, and the coming of Mr. Gracewood furnished me with a competent instructor in manners, morals, and the various branches of learning. After the death of old Matt, my good friend had been strangely joined by his wife and daughter, and I had lived one season with the family. As the winter approached, we had left our home in the wilds of the far west, and were now on our way to St. Louis. These events all passed in review through my mind, as I thought of the Gracewoods who had so strangely disappeared.

Old Matt Rockwood had left a considerable sum of money in his chest, which, with the profits of our farm and wood-yard, amounted to over sixteen hundred dollars, when the accounts were finally settled. Fifteen hundred of this sum was in the keeping of Mr. Gracewood, though I held his note for it, and was in no danger of losing it, though he should never appear again. But I had no selfish thoughts. I was interested only in the safety of my friend and his family. The daughter, pretty Ella Gracewood, had been my constant friend and companion at the settlement. I had rescued her from the Indians who had captured her, and it would have broken my heart to know that any calamity had overtaken her.

The Fawn went up the river in spite of the grumbling of the passengers. We passed the steamer coming down the stre

am; but Captain Davis declared that he should be on his way to St. Louis before the other boat could get away from Leavenworth. Like all other western steamboat masters, he said and did all he could to get and keep his passengers. Extending from the mouth of the stream, where our steamer had passed the night, there was a cut-off, through which the boat, with Mr. Gracewood, had come. The water rushed through it like a sluice, and probably by this time it is the main channel of the river.

"Stop her!" shouted Captain Davis to the pilot, as the boat was passing the outlet of this cut-off.

"What is it, captain?" I asked, startled by the order, and fearful that he had discovered some evidence of a disaster.

"There is an oar," said he, pointing to the shore.

I saw the oar, which had washed up on the bank of the river. The boat was run up to the point, and it was identified as one belonging to the missing boat.

"That is something towards it," said the captain, as the oar was examined on board. "If they didn't lose the other one they could get along well enough."

"Perhaps they did lose the other," suggested the mate.

"It is not very likely they lost both oars," added Captain Davis.

"Do you suppose the boat upset?" I asked, with my heart in my mouth.

"Certainly not. If it did we should have found the boat, or heard from the men. The whole party could not have been drowned in a narrow place like that," replied the captain, confidently.

"What do you think has become of them?" I continued.

"Nothing worse than being carried down the river could have happened to them. I'm sure of that. It's absurd to think that three men should be lost in a stream not a hundred feet wide. Go ahead, pilot!" shouted the captain.

"Down stream?" asked the man at the wheel.

"Yes; we shall pick up the party somewhere below."

The Fawn came about, and to the great satisfaction of the growling portion of her passengers, resumed her voyage down the river. I did the best I could to convince myself that no catastrophe had overtaken my friends. When we came to Leavenworth, we found that the steamer we had passed-whose name was the Daylight-was not there. If she had stopped at all, she had not remained there more than a few minutes. Captain Davis was annoyed at this circumstance, for she would take the passengers and freight that were waiting at the various points on the river below, which would otherwise have been taken by the Fawn. I saw him go down to the main deck, where the furnaces and boilers were located, and in a short time I was conscious that they were crowding the boat up to her highest speed. A race had commenced, not so much to ascertain which of the two boats was the fastest, as to obtain the freight and passengers that were awaiting transportation at the towns below us. I felt no interest in the trial of speed, which at another time might have afforded me a pleasant excitement. From the hurricane deck I watched the shores, to obtain any tidings of the missing boat or her passengers.

At Delaware City the Daylight made a landing; but the Fawn, to my surprise and chagrin, did not stop. It was possible that the Gracewoods had been carried down to this point in their unmanageable boat, and had landed here.

"Why don't you make a landing here? Captain Davis?" I inquired.

"Because the Daylight has gone in ahead of me, and I shall get no freight or passengers if I don't keep ahead of her."

"But Mr. Gracewood and his family may be here."

"It is not improbable. I feel that I have done all I could for them."

"You might stop."

"I can't sacrifice the interest of my owners, Phil. If the Gracewoods are there, they can take passage in the Daylight. They will not suffer any great hardship, while my boat may lose hundreds of dollars by the delay."

"I shall be in misery till I hear from them."

"You need not be. I am sure no serious accident has happened to them. I want the two men I sent in the boat, but I couldn't stop to get them, even if I knew they were at Delaware City. But we shall hear from your friends before long. The Daylight will drive her wheels hard to keep up with us. I see she hasn't much freight, and she will stop at every place of any size."

"But if you keep ahead of her all the time, how shall we get any news from her?"

"The Fawn is faster than the Daylight, and I can afford to let her pass me at any place where I can obtain freight enough to make it an object. If the Gracewoods are on board of her, they will make themselves known as she goes by. There will be a good deal of freight at Kansas City, where we shall arrive to-night. You will probably find the Daylight there in the morning."

I was satisfied with the captain's explanation, and I hoped the morning would justify his expectations. We made no landings till we reached Kansas City, about eight o'clock in the evening. There was a crowd of passengers there, who rushed on board as soon as the plank was laid down. The freight was immediately taken on board. I was very tired after the exertions and excitement of the day and of the preceding evening, and I went to bed, hoping and expecting to see the Daylight at the landing when I awoke in the morning. I slept very soundly, in spite of the grief and anxiety that weighed upon me; and it is fortunate that Nature will assert her claim, or we might sometimes wear ourselves out with fruitless repinings.

When I came to my consciousness in the morning, I discovered that the boat was in motion. The monotonous puff of the steam-escape pipes saluted my ears. Half dressed, I went out upon the gallery of the boat, but I could see nothing that looked like Kansas City, or the Daylight. The deck hands had been taking in freight when I went to sleep; but how long the boat had been in motion I could not tell.

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