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This trifling accident caused a good deal of excitement at the stern of the boat, only the big dog keeping his calm demeanor. He looked on with serene composure whilst Pete sprang for a pike-pole, and Molly took the helm, and Dick (another driver, who had been sleeping below) stumbled up the companion-way rubbing his eyes, and Cap'n Jack at the bow hauled. up out of the water the half of the line attached to the boat, and Jack from the tow-path hauled up the other half.
Cap'n Jack, gathering his half of the rope into a coil, threw it for little Jack to catch. Little Jack failed to execute his part of the manœuvre, for the good reason that the rope did not come within ten feet of him, and it fell once more into the canal. This made Cap'n Jack very wrathful. He drew out the wet rope again, and sprang ashore with the end of it the moment the bow touched the tow-path, and made a heavy swooping cut with it at little Jack's head. Little Jack dodged and it passed over him. Then Cap'n Jack made another swooping cut at his legs. Little Jack leaped in the air, and it passed under his feet. Then Cap'n Jack dropped the rope, and rushed upon him, seizing him by the ragged collar with one hand and by the raggedest part of his trousers with the other, and lifted him, kicking and screaming, in the air.
"Help! Pete, help!" shrieked the victim, "help!" as he swung to and fro over the tow-path,—face downwards, and head towards the canal, — until the powerful Berrick had got him well in hand. But Pete knew better than to interfere and draw Cap'n Jack's rage upon himself. "Help!" once more shrieked the little human pendulum, moving through an ever-increasing arc, "Dick! Molly! Lion!"
The last word was scarcely uttered when the hands that set him in motion relaxed their grip, and he shot headforemost, with a great splash and a stifled scream, into the canal. For a moment he disappeared; then he came up paddling and strangling and swearing under the bow of the boat.
Berrick stood and laughed while he scrambled to the shore and dragged himself out dripping upon the tow-path, then caught him up again. He had given him but one good swing, and was just giving him another, preparatory to launching him, when his hand was suddenly arrested. It was not Pete nor Dick nor Molly who came to the lad's rescue. Neither was it the gentleman who just then appeared walking on the tow-path, — though he quickened his pace at sight of the struggle. Swifter feet than his bounded past him, and a more formidable shape flung itself upon old Berrick.
It was Lion the dog.
JACK AND HIS ONE FRIEND.
LION the dog had travelled with the scow but a few weeks; and this is the way he happened to fall into such bad company.
As the boat was one day taking in water at one of those small canal ports
called "basins," little Jack noticed a lonesome, half-starved, strange-looking creature prowling about a stable.
"What's the matter with that dog?" he asked.
"Singed," said the stable-keeper. "The tavern was burnt here the other night; his master was drunk at the time, and he was burnt in it. That dog got 'most all his hair singed off trying to get him out. He burnt his feet too; but they're getting well. Nobody can coax him; and nobody wants a singed dog like that; and we 're going to have him shot. Give him a piece of bread, and he 'll snatch it, but he 'll snap at you."
"I'll see," said Jack. He went to the scow, and came back with a biscuit he had begged of Molly. Walking boldly up to the dog, he said, "Poor fellow!" and breaking the biscuit gave him a piece of it. The miserable creature ate it thankfully, and did not snap or snarl. So Jack gave him the rest of the biscuit and stroked his singed ears, and looked at his burnt paws, and "poor fellowed" him sympathetically. Then it was time for the
scow to move.
As it was Dick's "drive," Jack, bidding the dog an affectionate good-by, started to go aboard, when the poor thing came limping after him.
"Take him on, Pete!" said Jack. "'T won't hurt anything; and we can put him off any time we like. He looks mean, for he 's been singed, but I bet he's a real first-rate dog."
Pete, being a good-natured fellow, made no opposition, and the strange passenger was taken on. But when Berrick appeared, bringing his jug from the nearest grocery, he set out to kick the dog ashore. The dog growled. Berrick grasped a pike-pole; swinging the end of it around, he accidentally knocked off little Jack's hat. Just then came a puff of wind and blew the hat into the water. The dog was in after it in an instant; and he swam with it in his mouth to the tow-path. He would deliver it to no one but its owner. Little Jack was delighted, of course, and big Jack was conciliated. From that day Lion — for so the boy named him — travelled with the scow. His burns had now healed, his hair was beginning to lose its singed look, and his eyewinkers were growing again.
He was a fine watch-dog, and it was always safe to leave the cabin in his charge. One day the black jug got knocked overboard; and as it happened to be full it sank. Lion plunged in after it, went to the bottom, and reappeared with the handle in his jaws. This very important service made him a favorite even with Captain Berrick.
Still he owned but one absolute master, and that was little Jack. And now when he saw little Jack in the hands of big Jack, and heard his cry of "Lion!" he leaped from the stern, swam ashore, and reached the scene of the scuffle just as the boy was about being plunged in again.
Berrick was thrown to the ground, and in an instant Lion's jaws were at his throat. But Lion knew his business. The terrible teeth did not close, they only threatened to close. Berrick knew better than to struggle against such a foe. He lay quietly on his back in a mud-puddle, and called on Pete to "Pull the dog off!"
"Pete won't do any such thing!" cried the exultant little driver, springing to his feet, whip in hand. "Lion will do as I say!" and he called the dog. "But don't you lay hands on me again!'
So saying the little driver, very wet and very much excited, retreated, followed by Lion; while Berrick got up and shook off the mud.
Meanwhile Pete, turning his face towards the canal so that Cap'n Jack should not see him laugh, tied the broken rope, adding another knot to the five or six with which it was already ornamented. Then little Jack started up his team again. Lion kept by his side. Berrick disappeared in the cabin, while Molly took the helm, and Pete and Dick poled off the bow.
Little Jack was soon aware of somebody besides Lion keeping him company. It was the gentleman who appeared walking on the tow-path when the scuffle began, and who had stopped to see it over. He was a stoutish man, plainly dressed, and carried a hickory cane.
"Your horses seem hardly fit for this work," he said, in a friendly tone, walking on with the little driver.
"Dumbed if they be!" said Jack, whipping them.
"Every old worn
out beast in the country is sold to go on the canal. That's the reason you always see such a mean-looking lot. But it don't take us long to use 'em up; that's one comfort!" crack!
"You've a noble old dog here!" the man said.
"He'd 'ave jest chawed the old man's throat, if I had said the word!" replied Jack. And he turned to pat Lion's head.
"He's a Newfoundland,
or part Newfoundland, at least," the man
remarked. "Has he been clipped?"
"No, burnt; but I've trimmed him a little." And Jack told the dog's history. By this time he and the stranger were getting pretty well acquainted.
Jack looked up and grinned saucily in the man's face.
"You 're a minister, ain't ye?"
"What makes you think so?"
"O, you've kind o' got the ear-marks," laughed Jack. "But if you have been on the canal much, I guess you 've heard a feller swear afore to-day." "I have, too often!" said the gentleman. "Have you a mother?"
"Not much!" said Jack, bitterly. "He married my mother when I was a little shaver, and that's the way he happened to be my father. But she's been dead I don't know how many years, and that Molly is his wife now. My mother's name was Hazard. They called me Jack after him, but I don't own him for a father. He's a regular old toper!"
"You drink a little, too, don't you?"
"Course I do, when I can!"
"And so you are growing up to be a toper like him ?"
"I s'pose so!" said Jack, recklessly, and plied the whip. "Go 'lang there, you old
" crack, crack!
"And a bad man like him!" said the stranger. "It's a great pity, a great pity!" and he laid his hand gently on Jack's wet shoulder.
"Where's the help for it?" said Jack, affected by this kindness in spite of himself. "I'd be different if I could; but how can I?"
“Leave him; that is the only way."
"But he claims me; he's got papers that will hold me; and he'll ketch me as sure as I stay on the canal."
"Leave the canal."
"Pshaw! what could I do? I'm used to the old ditch. I ain't good for nothin' else but a driver."
"Come to me, and I'll get you a good place to do something else, learn a trade, or to work on a farm. I'll protect you; no matter for his papers."
"Are you a lawyer?"
"As much a lawyer as a minister. You see," said the gentleman, goodhumoredly, "you were slightly mistaken in the ear-marks."
The boy reflected a moment, gave the horses a cut or two, then said, "Pshaw! don't believe I should like a trade; and there's no fun on a farm, nor much else but hard work. Thank ye, sir; but there's worse men, after all, than Cap'n Jack. I guess I'll stick to driving."
"The packet is coming," said the man, casting a glance behind. "I am a passenger; I must leave you. Good by, my boy. Perhaps I shall hear from you again some time. Shall I hear good of you, if I do? — for you don't know yourself what you may become, if you try. I can see you industrious, upright, happy, commanding the respect of everybody."
"No you can't! 't ain't in me!" said Jack, beginning to choke. "You may be all thaf and a great deal more, my boy! But you must first get away from your old associates. Then make up your mind to three things. First, don't be afraid of hard work. Second, be honest and truth
Third, help others. Begin
ful, and decent in your speech and behavior. a new life anywhere on these principles, and you will be sure to succeed. Remember! Good by!"
Once more the stranger patted Jack's wet shoulder. Jack wanted to say something by way of answer, but he felt that if he spoke he must cry. He was not used to such kindness. Meanwhile he had stopped his team, and dropped the tow-rope to let the three strong packet horses trot over it; and now he dropped it again under the packet's bow. As the swift, slender, handsome boat passed between the scow and the tow-path, the gentleman stepped aboard, and Jack saw him no more.
"What a fool that I did n't say I'd go with him!" thought the wretched little driver, as he watched the proud packet disappear round a bend. He set his teeth hard, and winked hard at his tears, and repeated to himself, "What a fool!" For just then the possible future presented to him appeared, in contrast with the life he was living, very much like that fine, free, happy boat compared with Berrick's old scow; and it seemed, like that, to be passing from him forever.
“Lion!" said he, suppressing a sob, "you 're all the friend I've got ! We'll stick together, won't we? Dumbed if we won't!" And the lad's tears fell upon the faithful creature'
sympathetic, upturned nose.
HOW JACK LEFT THE Scow.
"LICK along, Jack!" sang out Pete from the stern; and he pointed significantly at the cabin, from which the discomfited Berrick had not yet emerged. "I ain't afraid of him!" muttered Jack. But he was afraid, much for himself, perhaps, as for Lion. He knew well that Cap'n Berrick never forgot an injury. "He'll kill my dog!" thought he, looking back at the scow. Then he looked forward again with bitter regret in the direction of the vanished packet. "Why didn't I take him at his offer? He praised Lion; and maybe he'd have let me keep him with me. Now if I leave the scow I must leave the dog too, for how can I take care of him? 'T will be all I can do to take care of myself!"
Then he thought of all the attractions of that moving, adventurous life. He even felt for the old canal an affection which his late plunge into its turbid current could not chill. Just now it curved about a high embankment that commanded a view of Lake Ontario, several miles away. A lovely picture was outspread between, -forests and farms warmly tinted in the mellow sunshine and thin haze of early summer. Even this pure and tranquil beauty seemed a part of his wild, lawless life. Then he remembered the Valley of the Mohawk, and the great cities, and the locks; the jokes and stories of grocery and stable; the encounters with old acquaintances, and the making of new acquaintances, and the fights between boatmen. In all these things, it must be owned, there was novelty and enticement to the heart of the boy, and how could he bear to leave them, to settle down, and be respectable ?
One thing especially discouraged him from entertaining any serious hope of bettering his condition. "If I am going to try and be a decent sort of feller," thought he, "I must leave off swearing. Now I'll see if I can." But fifty times that afternoon he caught himself at the old trick again, — when he whipped the horses (they did n't seem to mind the lash unless it was accompanied by an oath), when he met a driver he knew (no friendly greeting of drivers would seem hearty unless they swore), but chiefly when his tow-rope got entangled with another and his near horse was pulled into the canal. Then he gave up all attempts at reform in that particular. As if habits which have been years in gaining their ascendency over us could be expected to abdicate in an hour!
The scow moved on, now under a bridge, and now over a culvert that carried some rushing stream beneath the canal, — now through a swamp, and now around a hillside, — keeping always the same artificial level, until at last Pete put a tin horn to his lips and blew a note.
That was always a welcome signal to poor little Jack, after his day's work; but now it gave him a thrill of uneasiness. He was to go to his supper; at the same time he was to meet Cap'n Berrick. "Keep a stiff upper-lip, Lion!" he said, talking to his own heart rather than to the dog.