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WELL, I catched my breath and most fainted. Shut up on a wreck with such a gang as that! But it warn’t no time to be sentimentering. We’d GOT to find that boat now—had to have it for ourselves. So we went a-quaking and shaking down the stabboard side, and slow work it was, too—seemed a week before we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim said he didn’t believe he could go any further—so scared he hadn’t hardly any strength left, he said. But I said, come on, if we get left on this wreck we are in a fix, sure. So on we prowled again. We struck for the stern of the texas, and found it, and then scrabbled along forwards on the skylight, hanging on from shutter to shutter, for the edge of the skylight was in the water. When we got pretty close to the cross-hall door there was the skiff, sure enough! I could just barely see her. I felt ever so thankful. In another second I would a been aboard of her, but just then the door opened. One of the men stuck his head out only about a couple of foot from me, and I thought I was gone; but he jerked it in again, and says: I caught my breath and almost fainted. We were trapped on a wrecked ship with a gang of murderers! But this wasn’t the time to get emotional. We HAD to find that boat so that we could escape. We made our way down the starboard side, shaking with fear as we went. It was slow work, and it seemed like a week passed before we made it to the stern. No sign of a boat, though. Jim said he didn’t believe he could make it any further. He said he was so scared he hardly had any strength left. But I said we had to continue because we’d be in trouble if we stayed on this wreck. So we continued on. We headed toward the stern of the cabin area. When we got there, we scrabbled along toward the skylight in front. We hung on to the shutters because the edge of the skylight was in the water. When we got pretty close to the hallway door, we saw the skiff! I could just make it out. I felt so thankful that we’d found it. I was a second away from climbing aboard when just then the door opened. One of the men stuck his head out just a couple of feet from me. I thought I was a deadman, but he jerked it back in and said:
“Heave that blame lantern out o’ sight, Bill!” “Put that damn lantern out, Bill!”
He flung a bag of something into the boat, and then got in himself and set down. It was Packard. Then Bill HE come out and got in. Packard says, in a low voice: He flung a bag of something into the boat, and then climbed in and sat down. It was Packard. Then Bill came out and climbed aboard. Packard said in a low voice:
“All ready—shove off!” “All right—off we go!”
I couldn’t hardly hang on to the shutters, I was so weak. But Bill says: I was so weak that I could barely hang onto the shutters. But I heard Bill say:
“Hold on—’d you go through him?” “Hold on—did you do it?”
“No. Didn’t you?” “No. Didn’t you?”
“No. So he’s got his share o’ the cash yet.” “No. So he’s still got his share of the cash?”
“Well, then, come along; no use to take truck and leave money.” “Well, come on then. No use in taking loot and leaving money behind.”
“Say, won’t he suspicion what we’re up to?” “Hey, won’t he suspect that we’re up to something?”
“Maybe he won’t. But we got to have it anyway. Come along.” “Maybe, maybe not. But we’ve got to get it—can’t just leave it here. Come on.”
So they got out and went in. So they got out of the boat, climbed back on board the steamboat, and went back inside the cabins.
The door slammed to because it was on the careened side; and in a half second I was in the boat, and Jim come tumbling after me. I out with my knife and cut the rope, and away we went! The door slammed shut because it was on the side of the boat that was tilted upward. I jumped in the boat in a split second, and Jim came running after me. I got out my knife, cut the rope, and away we went!
We didn’t touch an oar, and we didn’t speak nor whisper, nor hardly even breathe. We went gliding swift along, dead silent, past the tip of the paddle-box, and past the stern; then in a second or two more we was a hundred yards below the wreck, and the darkness soaked her up, every last sign of her, and we was safe, and knowed it. We didn’t touch the oars and we didn’t speak—not even a whisper. We barely breathed. We glided along quickly, dead silent, past the tip of the paddlewheel at the stern. A second or two more and we were a hundred yards downstream from the wreck. The darkness swallowed it up, every bit of her. We e knew we were safe.
When we was three or four hundred yards down-stream we see the lantern show like a little spark at the texas door for a second, and we knowed by that that the rascals had missed their boat, and was beginning to understand that they was in just as much trouble now as Jim Turner was. When we were three or four hundred yards downstream, we saw the lantern appear like a spark in the darkness at the cabin door. We knew that the scoundrels had realized their boat was gone and that they were now in just as much trouble as Jim Turner.
Then Jim manned the oars, and we took out after our raft. Now was the first time that I begun to worry about the men—I reckon I hadn’t had time to before. I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there ain’t no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself yet, and then how would I like it? So says I to Jim: Jim started rowing, and we took off after our raft. I began to worry about the men on the wreck—I guess I hadn’t had time to think about them before. I began to think how awful it would be to be in their position, even if they were murderers. After all, I might become a murderer like them one day? How would I like to be stranded like that? So I turned to Jim and said:
“The first light we see we’ll land a hundred yards below it or above it, in a place where it’s a good hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then I’ll go and fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go for that gang and get them out of their scrape, so they can be hung when their time comes.” “The first light on shore that we see we’ll go back and land a hundred yards up or downstream from it. We’ll find a good hiding place for you and the skiff. Then I’ll make up a good story to convince somebody to go out to that wreck to rescue the gang. That way, they can be hanged when their time comes.”
But that idea was a failure; for pretty soon it begun to storm again, and this time worse than ever. The rain poured down, and never a light showed; everybody in bed, I reckon. We boomed along down the river, watching for lights and watching for our raft. After a long time the rain let up, but the clouds stayed, and the lightning kept whimpering, and by and by a flash showed us a black thing ahead, floating, and we made for it. But that idea turned out to be a failure. The storm soon picked up again, and this time it was worse than before. The rain poured down, we couldn’t see any lights on shore. I suppose everyone was in bed. We drifted downstream, watching for lights and our raft. After a long time, the rain finally left up. The clouds remained, though, and the lightning kept flashing. Pretty soon we could see something black floating ahead of us in the river. We headed for it.
It was the raft, and mighty glad was we to get aboard of it again. We seen a light now away down to the right, on shore. So I said I would go for it. The skiff was half full of plunder which that gang had stole there on the wreck. We hustled it on to the raft in a pile, and I told Jim to float along down, and show a light when he judged he had gone about two mile, and keep it burning till I come; then I manned my oars and shoved for the light. As I got down towards it three or four more showed—up on a hillside. It was a village. I closed in above the shore light, and laid on my oars and floated. As I went by I see it was a lantern hanging on the jackstaff of a double-hull ferryboat. I skimmed around for the watchman, a-wondering whereabouts he slept; and by and by I found him roosting on the bitts forward, with his head down between his knees. I gave his shoulder two or three little shoves, and begun to cry. It was the raft. We were so glad to get back on board. We saw a light to the right on the shore, so I said we should head toward it. The skiff was half full of the loot that the gang had stolen from the wreck, so we piled all up on the raft. I told Jim to stay on the raft and float about two miles downstream. There, he should make a fire and keep it burning til I came back. I picked up the oars in the skiff and started rowing toward the light on the shore. As I got closer, I could see a few more lights and realized it was a village up on a hillside. I continued heading toward the light and as I got closer, I saw that it was a lantern hangingin on a ferry. I looked for the ferry’s watchman, wondering where he’d be sleeping. Eventually I found him sitting near the


post on the deck of a ship used to anchor the ship to the dock with cable

at the front of the boat. He was asleep with his head resting between his knees. I nudged his shoulder two or three times and began to cry.