“Would you like to work for me?” said he.
I looked him in the face for a moment, and answered confidently, “Yes.”
“It’s a whack,” said he. “Maybe we’d better doctor that back o’ your’n a little, and git yeh heartened up for duty.”
And so, before I knew it, I was whisked off into a new life.
I LEARN AND DO SOME TEACHING
I lay in a bunk in one of the two little forward cabins next the stable, shivering and sobbing, a pitiful picture of misery, I suppose, as any one ever saw. I began bawling as soon as the captain commenced putting arnica on my back—partly because it smarted so, and partly because he was so very gentle about it; although all the time he was swearing at John Rucker and wishing he had skinned him alive, as he pretty nearly did. To feel a gentle hand on my shredded back, and to be babied a little bit—these things seemed to break my heart almost, though while Rucker was flogging me I bore it without a cry or a tear. The captain dressed my back, and said, “There, there, Bubby!” and went away, leaving me alone.
I could hear the ripple of the water against the side of the boat, and once in a while a gentle lift as we passed another boat; but there was nothing much in these things to cheer me up. I was leaving John Rucker behind, it was true, but I was also getting farther and farther from my mother every minute. What would she do without me? What should I do without her? I should be free of the slavery of the factory; but I did not think of that. I should have been glad to the bottom of my heart if I could have blotted out of my life all this new tragedy and gone back to the looms and spindles. The factory seemed an awful place now that I was free, but it was familiar; and being free was awful, too; but I never once thought of going back. I knew I could learn to drive the horses, and I knew I should stay with the captain who had flogged John Rucker. I who had never thought of running away was just as much committed to the new life as if I had planned for it for years. Inside my spirit I suppose I had been running away every time I had gone down and watched the boats float by; and something stronger than my conscious will floated me along, also. I fought myself to keep from crying; but I never thought of running up on deck, jumping ashore and going home, as I could easily have done at any time within an hour of boarding the boat. I buried my face in the dirty pillow with no pillow-case on it, and filled my mouth with the patchwork quilt. It seemed as though I should die of weeping. My breath came in long spasmodic draughts, as much deeper and bitterer than sighs as sighs are sadder and more pitiful than laughter. My whipped back pained and smarted me, but that was not what made me cry so dreadfully; I was in the depths of despair; I was humiliated; I was suffering from injustice; I had lost my mother—and