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


Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 10379

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The two deck hands, who had worked their passage down on the Daylight, were relieved from duty as soon as the baggage of the passengers had been put on shore. They followed Captain Davis to the Fawn, where we drew from them all the information they had in regard to the Gracewoods.

"Where are the passengers who went with you?" was the first question which the captain asked, when we started up the levee.

"At Delaware City, sir. The lady was sick, and not quite able to come down in the Daylight," replied one of the men.

"Sick!" I exclaimed.

"Sick; but not very bad, I believe. She caught a cold coming down the river," answered the spokesman.

"Where is she?"

"At a house in the town; I don't know whose it is."

"Was the young lady sick?" I inquired, anxiously.

"No; she was first rate."

"But how came you at Delaware City?"

"We couldn't help going there, Captain Davis," replied the spokesman of the two, who was evidently embarrassed.

"You couldn't help it?" said the captain.

"No, sir; we could not. The current was very swift."

"Explain yourself, man. I didn't suppose I had sent a couple of hands in the boat with those passengers who couldn't handle a pair of oars."

"I didn't think so, either. We did as well as any men could; the gentleman will tell you so when you see him."

"Well, what did you do? What was the matter?" demanded the captain, impatiently.

"There was a line stretched across that cut-off. I suppose the man that owned the island used it to haul his bateau across by; for it was a seven-mile current in the place."

"It was all of that," added the other man, by way of fortifying the statement of his companion.

"Go on," said the captain.

"Well, sir, the boat ran on to that line, and it carried her bow clear out of water," continued the spokesman. "In fact, the water came in over the stern, and wet the lady who sat farthest aft. I sprang forward to trim the boat, for I did not know what the matter was then. In my hurry I lost my oar overboard. I couldn't help it, for I was thinking only of saving the ladies from drowning, for both of them were screaming with fright."

"That's so," said the other man. "They were scared out of their wits."

"When I went to the bow, I couldn't tell what the matter was. I took the other oar, and sounded with it, to see if we were aground, and then I felt the rope. It was caught just under the bow, where there was a break in the iron shoe. I put the end of the oar on the line, and crowded it down so that the boat could slide over it. But the blade of the oar was split, and the line was jammed into the crack. The boat went over, and when I tried to pull in the oar, it was fast. The current took the boat, and gave me such a jerk that I had to let go, or go overboard."

"And you left the oar fast to the line?"

"Yes, sir; I couldn't help it."

"Perhaps you couldn't; but go on."

"We went on in spite of ourselves. The current carried the boat through the cut-off into the river. I tried to pull up one of the thwarts, to use as a paddle, but we couldn't start them. It was very dark and foggy, as you know, captain, and we couldn't see where we were. We watched our chances as well as we could, and tried to get hold of something."

"Why didn't you sing out?"

"That's what we did. But the current carried us over the other side of the river from Leavenworth, and I suppose no one heard us; at any rate no one came to help us. The poor lady who had got wet in the cut-off was shivering with cold, and we tried everything we could think of to stop the boat; but still we kept going down stream, whirling round now and then."

"Well, how did you stop her at last?" demanded the captain, finding that the spokesman was disposed to be rather diffuse in his narrative.

"After we had been going about two hours-Wasn't it two hours, Dick?"

"It wasn't less than that."

"No matter how long it was. Go on," interposed the captain, who did not care to listen to a discussion on this point.

"Well, sir, we almost run into a man who was crossing the river in a bateau, with a lot of groceries. We shouted to him, and he run his boat alongside of us. We made fast to him, and he pulled us to the shore. He told us we were on the other side of the river from Delaware City. Mr. Gracewood made a trade with him to take us over to that place, and I helped him row over, towing the boat astern of us. I reckon the gentleman paid him well for his trouble."

"Where did they go then?" asked the captain.

"They went to a house in the town. The lady was all used up, and had chills and fever that night; but they thought she was better in the morning. They sent up to Leavenworth for a doctor."

"Then she was very sick," I added.

"No; the doctor didn't say so. He thought she would be out in a week."

"Where did you go then?" asked the captain.

"We found a place to sleep on the levee. Mr. Gracewood gave us five dollars apiece, and-"

"And you got drunk," suggested the captain.

"No, sir; we did not. I won't say we didn't take something, for we were cold."

"Why didn't you go up to Leavenworth, where you knew the boat would

be in the morning?"

"We meant to do that in the morning, as soon as it was daylight; but Dick was afraid the Fawn might get there and start down the river before we could tramp up to the place. Besides, we wanted to know how the lady was, so as to let you know; and we didn't like to go to the house so early in the morning," added the spokesman, glancing at his companion.

"I thought it was safer to wait on the levee till the Fawn came down," said Dick. "We supposed, of course, she would stop there."

"I was of the same mind myself," continued the spokesman. "We waited till most night, when the Daylight made a landing; and then we saw the Fawn coming; but she stood off from the levee, and went down the river at full speed. I hailed her as loud as I could, but she took no notice of me. The captain of the Daylight let us work our passage down."

"Where is the boat?"

"On board the Daylight."

"How was Mrs. Gracewood when you left Delaware City?" I inquired.

"She was too sick to leave in the Daylight; but the doctor thought she might be able to take a boat in two or three days," replied Dick.

"Now go and get the boat," added the captain.

"They may not come for a week," said I, as they departed.

"Perhaps not; but you can't tell much about it from the story of these men."

"Don't you think they told the truth?"

"In the main, they did; but in my opinion they got drunk. If not, they would have returned to Leavenworth. Probably they have stretched the story a little. At any rate, you can't tell how sick the lady is from anything they said."

"She got wet in the boat, and took cold, I suppose."

"I suppose so."

The news from my friends was not very cheering, but it was a relief to be assured that no calamity had overtaken them. I would have gone to them at once if I had had the money to pay my passage; and I said as much to Captain Davis.

"That would be a useless step, Phil," he replied. "If the lady is sick, you can do them no good. It would be a waste of money for you to do so."

"If I had it, I should be willing to waste it in that way," I added.

"Then it is fortunate that you haven't it, Phil. What do you mean to do here in St. Louis? Does Mr. Gracewood intend to support you?"

"I don't intend to be supported by any one," I answered, perhaps with a little indignation; "I mean to support myself."

"What do you intend to do?"

"I am going to learn the carpenter's trade, if I can find a place."

"All right, Phil. That's a sensible idea. I didn't know but you expected to be a gentleman, as most of the boys do who come from the country," said the captain. "Come with me, my boy, and we will see about a place."

"That's just what I want, captain-a chance to learn the carpenter's trade. I know something about it now."

I followed the captain on shore, and we went to a quiet street in one of the humbler sections of the city, where he rang the bell at a house.

"Is Mr. Clinch at home?" asked Captain Davis of the woman who answered the summons.

"Yes, sir; he has just come in from his work. Won't you walk in?"

We entered the house, and were shown to a very plainly furnished parlor, where Mr. Clinch soon appeared. He was clothed in coarse garments, but he had a very intelligent countenance, and I liked the looks of him.

"O, Captain Davis," exclaimed the carpenter, grasping the hand of my companion, "I am glad to see you."

"It always does me good to take your honest hand, Clinch. This young man is Phil Farringford, and he comes from the upper Missouri. He is a smart boy, and wants to learn your trade."

Mr. Clinch took me by the hand, and gave me a cordial greeting.

"I don't take any apprentices, now," he added. "I find it don't pay. As soon as we get a boy so that he can drive a nail without pounding his fingers, he wants a man's wages, or runs away as soon as he is worth anything to me."

"If I make a trade, sir, I shall stick to it," I ventured to say.

"You look like an honest young man, but I can't take apprentices, as we used to in former years."

"Phil knows something about the business now," interposed the captain. "He is handy with tools, and is as tough as an oak knot. He knows what hard work is, and has just come out of the woods."

"But I can't take a boy into my family," continued Mr. Clinch; "I haven't room, and it makes the work too hard for my wife."

"He might board somewhere else," said the captain.

"That indeed. I like the looks of the boy."

"If you can do anything for him, I shall regard it as a favor to me," added my friend.

"I should be very glad to serve you, Captain Davis. I want more help, but a boy isn't of much use. How old are you, Phil?"

"Thirteen, sir."

"You look older. What can you do?"

I told him what I could do; that I could handle a saw, axe, hammer, and auger; that I had built a bateau, made boxes, and done similar work. He seemed to be very sceptical, but finally agreed to give me three dollars a week, which he thought would board and clothe me, if, upon trial, I proved to be worth that. He told me where he was at work, and wished me to be on hand the next morning.

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