“Dat’s good ’nuff for me to wear to meetin’,” said Mrs. Lee, when her eyes fell upon the gorgeous bit of cheap silk. “Reckon it won’t be wasted on any good-for-nuffin boy. I’ll show ye wot to do wid yer fish. You’ a-gettin’ too mighty fine, anyhow.”
Dick was disconsolate for a while; but his humility took the form of a determination to go for crabs that day, mainly because his mother had long since set her face against that tribe of animals.
“Dey’s a wasteful, ’stravagant sort ob fish,” remarked Mrs. Lee, in frequent explanation of her dislike. “Dey’s all clo’es and no body, like some w’ite folks I know on. I don’t mean de Kinzers. Dey’s all got body nuff.”
And yet that inlet had a name and reputation of its own for crabs. There was a wide reach of shallow water, inside the southerly point at the mouth, where, over several hundred acres of muddy flats, the depth varied from three and a half to eight feet, with the ebb and flow of the tides. That was a sort of perpetual crab-pasture; and there it was that Dick Lee determined to expend his energies that Saturday.
Very likely there would be other crabbers on the flats; but Dick was not the boy to object to that, provided none of them should notice the change in his raiment. At an early hour, therefore, Dab and Ford were preceded by their young colored friend, they themselves waiting for later breakfasts than Mrs. Lee was in the habit of preparing.
Dick’s ill fortune did not leave him when he got out of sight of his mother. It followed him down to the shore of the inlet, and compelled him to give up, for that day, all idea of borrowing a respectable boat.
There were several, belonging to the neighbors, from among which Dick was accustomed to take his pick, in return for errands run and other services rendered to their owners; but on this particular morning not one of them all was available. Some were fastened with ugly chains and padlocks. Two were hauled away above even high-water mark, and so Dick could not have got either of them into the water even if he had dared to try; and as for the rest, as Dick said,—
“Guess dar owners must hab come and borrered ’em.”
The consequence was, that the dark-skinned young fisherman was for once compelled to put up with his own boat, or rather his father’s.
The three wise men of Gotham were not much worse off when they went to sea in a bowl than was Dick Lee in that rickety little old flat-bottomed punt.
Did it leak?
Well, not so very much, with no heavier weight than Dick’s; but there was reason in his remark that,—
“Dis yer’s a mean boat to frow down a fish in, when you cotch ’im. He’s done suah to git drownded.”
Yes, and the crabs would get their feet wet, and so would Dick; but he resigned himself to his circumstances, and pushed away. To tell the truth, he had not been able to free himself from a lingering fear lest his mother might come after him, before he could get afloat, with orders for some duty or other on shore; and that would have been worse than going to sea in the little old scow, a good deal.