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|Rudder Grange||Frank R. Stockton|
Treating of a Novel Style of Boarder
|Page 3 of 5||
The man called after me and I stopped. I could but stop, no matter what I might hear.
"Hello, mister," he said, "got any tobacco?"
I walked up to him. I took hold of him by the lapel of his coat. It was a dirty lapel, as I remember even now, but I didn't mind that.
"Look here," said I. "Tell me the truth, I can bear it. Was that vessel wrecked?"
The man looked at me a little queerly. I could not exactly interpret his expression.
"You're sure you kin bear it?" said he.
"Yes," said I, my hand trembling as I held his coat.
"Well, then," said he, "it's mor'n I kin," and he jerked his coat out of my hand, and sprang away. When he reached the other side of the road, he turned and shouted at me, as though I had been deaf.
"Do you know what I think?" he yelled. "I think you're a darned lunatic," and with that he went his way.
I hastened on to Peter's Point. Long before I reached it, I saw the boat.
It was apparently deserted. But still I pressed on. I must know the worst. When I reached the Point, I found that the boat had run aground, with her head in among the long reeds and mud, and the rest of her hull lying at an angle from the shore.
There was consequently no way for me to get on board, but to wade through the mud and reeds to her bow, and then climb up as well as I could.
This I did, but it was not easy to do. Twice I sank above my knees in mud and water, and had it not been for reeds, masses of which I frequently clutched when I thought I was going over, I believe I should have fallen down and come to my death in that horrible marsh. When I reached the boat, I stood up to my hips in water and saw no way of climbing up. The gang-plank had undoubtedly floated away, and if it had not, it would have been of no use to me in my position.
But I was desperate. I clasped the post that they put in the bow of canal-boats; I stuck my toes and my finger-nails in the cracks between the boards--how glad I was that the boat was an old one and had cracks!--and so, painfully and slowly, slipping part way down once or twice, and besliming myself from chin to foot, I climbed up that post and scrambled upon deck. In an instant, I reached the top of the stairs, and in another instant I rushed below.
There sat my wife and our boarder, one on each side of the dining-room table, complacently playing checkers!
My sudden entrance startled them. My appearance startled them still more.
Euphemia sprang to her feet and tottered toward me.
"Mercy!" she exclaimed; "has anything happened?"
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