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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 10880

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

When I had completed my toilet, I hastened to find Captain Davis. I was indignant at his course in leaving Kansas City, and I felt that he had been guilty of treachery to me and to the Gracewoods. I went all over the boat, from the wheel-house to the main deck; but the captain was not to be seen. The engineer, in answer to my inquiry, told me Captain Davis had been up till after midnight, and probably had not yet turned out.

"What time did the boat leave Kansas City?" I asked.

"About eleven o'clock; possibly it was half past eleven."

"Did you see anything of the Daylight?"

"Not a thing; and you won't see her till we have been in St. Louis two or three days," replied the engineer. "She can't keep up with the Fawn. Besides, we are full of freight and passengers now, and shall make no long stops anywhere."

"That's mean," I growled, as I left the engineer.

I wanted to cry with vexation; but I had made up my mind that it was not manly to shed tears. I walked up and down the hurricane deck till breakfast time. This exercise had a tendency to cool my hot blood, and I considered the situation in a calmer state of mind. I could be of no service to the Gracewoods, and the father of the family was abundantly able to take care of them. If I could only have been assured of their safety I should have been satisfied.

I went to breakfast; but Captain Davis did not appear till most of the passengers had left the table. I suspected that he did not wish to see me; but that did not prevent me from taking a seat at his side, even at the risk of spoiling his appetite.

"You told me you should not leave Kansas City till the Daylight arrived, Captain Davis," I began.

"Not exactly, Phil. I told you she would probably be there in the morning, or something of that kind."

"Why did you leave, then, before morning?"

"Because my passengers were indignant at the delay I had already made for your friends."

"It was mean."

"Steady, Phil."

"It was mean to serve me such a trick."

"You seem to think, Phil, that we run this boat simply for your accommodation. You are slightly mistaken. I have done more now than most captains would have done. However, I suppose you feel bad, and I won't blame you for being a little cross."

"I didn't mean to be cross," I added, rather vexed that I had spoken so hastily. "I do feel bad. I have lost my money, and lost my friends."

"And I have done the best I could to help you find both."

"You have, Captain Davis. Excuse me for speaking so hastily."

"All right, Phil; but it's a poor way to blame your friends when things go wrong."

"I know it is. Mr. Gracewood had all my money except what I lost, and I haven't a dollar left."

"Well, your passage is paid to St. Louis, and, when the Fawn arrives there, we will see what can be done for you."

"Thank you, sir. You have been very kind to me, and I am sorry I said anything out of the way."

"That's all right now. I have no doubt your friends will come down in the Daylight, and then all will be well with you. Keep cool, and don't fret about anything."

I tried to follow this advice, but I found it very hard work. I talked over all the possibilities and probabilities with the captain, and I was almost convinced that I was worrying myself for nothing. We should arrive at St. Louis in a couple of days more, and the Daylight would soon follow us. I watched the ever-changing scene on the shores of the river with far less delight than when Ella Gracewood sat at my side. We passed large towns and small ones, and I saw the capital of Missouri, with its State House and other public buildings. Early on the morning of the third day after leaving Kansas City we passed into the Mississippi. A little later in the day we were approaching the great city of St. Louis.

I gazed, with wonder and astonishment, at the vast piles of buildings. I saw the crowds of people hurrying to and fro on Front Street, which borders the river; and I could not help feeling what an insignificant mite I was in the mass of humanity. At the Castle, where I was brought up, I was a person of no little consequence; but here, if I were to figure at all, it must be as a zero. The people on board of the Fawn seemed to catch the infection of bustling activity, for they began to hurry back and forth, collecting their baggage, and making preparations to land.

The boat ran up to the levee, and another lively scene ensued. Hackmen struggled for the passengers, and porters and draymen added their share to the din. I was bewildered, and gazed with my mouth wide open at the bustling life before me. In about an hour the passengers had all disappeared, and I was almost alone on the boiler deck, from which I viewed the panorama of civilization, so new and strange, which was passing before me. The drays were carting off the freight which we had brought, some of it from the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains. The captain had told me I might occupy my state-room, and take my meals with him in the cabin, till the arrival of my friends. I had nothing to do but wait, and when the scene in the vicinity of the Fawn became rather tame, I went on shore. The levee for half a mile was flanked with steamboats, and in several places the excitement I had just witnessed was repeated.

Leaving Front Street, I walked up Market Street, till I came to the Court House. Following Fourth Street, I halted, absolute

ly bewildered by the magnificent proportions of the Planters' Hotel, which I believe has since been destroyed by fire. But there was no end to my amazement, and I will not attempt to paint the impressions of a green boy as he gazed for the first time upon the elegant public buildings of St. Louis, and at the splendid private residences. All day long I wandered about the city, with my mouth, as well as my eyes and ears, wide open. I gazed at the rich displays of dry goods in the shop windows, and concluded that the people of the city were made of money if they could afford to buy such gorgeous apparel. I looked for hours at the pictures at the print-sellers', and stared at the costly equipages in which elegantly-dressed ladies were riding. I only returned to the steamer when my legs ached so that they would hardly sustain the weight of my body.

In the cabin, at supper, I astonished the captain with a glowing account of what I had seen, just as though the scene was as new and strange to him as to me. The next day I repeated my explorations; but at dinner time I examined all the steamers at the levee to satisfy myself that the Daylight had not yet arrived. I ventured inside of the Planters' Hotel, and some of the public buildings, and the interior of them was even more wonderful to me than the exterior had been.

Two days familiarized me in some degree with the wonders of the great city, and after that I was able to walk through the streets with my mouth shut. I felt that I ought to be at work. It was time for me to commence my new career of existence. In my walks through the city, I had stopped frequently to observe the work where new buildings were in process of erection. After examining the work for a while, I came to the conclusion that I had a great deal to learn before I could be a carpenter. However, I intended to make a beginning as soon as I could.

Phil and Captain Davis. Page 67.

"The Daylight is just coming in, Phil," said Captain Davis, as I came in to supper after the tramps of the second day in the city.

"I am so glad!" I exclaimed.

"Eat your supper, Phil, and I will go with you then to the place where she lies."

"Do you suppose the Gracewoods are on board of her?"

"I have no doubt they are; but I should not be at all alarmed even if they were not."

"Why not?"

"They may have missed the boat; but we won't guess at anything again. The Daylight passed us just as you came on board, and will make a landing below."

I bolted my supper, and was so excited I could not have told whether I was eating bread or shavings. When the captain had finished his meal, we hastened down the levee, and were soon on board of the Daylight. The passengers were just going on shore, and I watched the stairs by which they were descending to the main deck to catch the first glimpse of any familiar face. But I was disappointed; and when the last one came down, my heart sank within me.

Captain Davis ascended to the cabin, and I followed, actually trembling with anxiety. We found the clerk in his office, at work upon the manifest.

"Did you take on any passengers at Delaware City?" asked Captain Davis.

"Yes; a dozen of them."

"Any by the name of Gracewood?"

"No," replied the clerk, after he had consulted the list.

"Are you sure, sir?" I asked, unwilling to believe the unpleasant statement.

"Very sure."

"Please to look again," said I.

"You must excuse me; I am very busy. There is the list; you can examine it for yourself."

I looked over the names, but that of Gracewood did not occur.

"They are not here, Phil," said Captain Davis.

"No, they are not," I replied, gloomily.

"We will wait a little while, till the hurry is over, and then we may ascertain something about your friends."

We went out upon the boiler deck, where we could overlook everything that transpired. The deck hands were landing freight and baggage, and everybody was hurrying as though his life depended upon his celerity.

"I shall believe they were all drowned if I don't hear something from them soon," I said.

"That is not at all probable, and I shall not believe anything of that kind till I have positive evidence of it. It is just as easy, and a great deal more pleasant, to think everything is right with them, instead of wrong, until we get the facts."

"You haven't the same interest in the matter that I have, captain."

"That may be; but I don't believe in making myself miserable about anything on mere guesswork. I think it is all right with your friends. But I must say, if you don't hear from them to-day, we must make different arrangements for you, for my owners intend to send the Fawn down to New Orleans with a freight which we take on at Alton. We shall go up there to-morrow."

"What will you do with Mr. Gracewood's goods and baggage?"

"Send them to the storehouse. There!" exclaimed he, suddenly, as he pointed to a man who was wheeling a box on shore. "That is one of the hands who went with the Gracewoods in the small boat. And there is the other. We shall soon know what has become of your friends."

The fact that these two men had come down in the Daylight was hopeful, at least, and Captain Davis and I hastened down to question them; but the master of the steamer would not release them from their work, and we were obliged to wait till the hurry was over before we obtained the coveted information.

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