The next couple of hours was a season of aching back, and sloppy feet, and grunting, and swearing that I don’t much care about remembering in detail. The wind blew till the tears ran down our cheeks. The sand stuck and clogged every move we made till I used to dream of it afterward. If you think it was just a simple little job, taking that rig to pieces and packing it to dry land on our backs, just give another guess. And if you think we were any of us in a mood to look at it as a joke, you’re miles off the track.
Pochette helped us like a little man—he had to, or we’d have done him up right there. Old King sat on the ferry-rail and smoked, and watched us break our backs sardonically—I did think I had that last word in the wrong place; but I think not. We did break our backs sardonically, and he watched us in the same fashion; so the word stands as she is.
When the last load was safe on the bank, I went back to the boat. It seemed a low-down way to leave a man, and now he knew I wasn’t fishing for help, I didn’t mind speaking to the old reprobate. So I went up and faced him, still sitting on the ferry-rail, and still smoking.
“Mr. King,” I said politely as I could, “we’re all right now, and, if you like, we’ll help you off. It won’t take long if we all get to work.”
He took two long puffs, and pressed the tobacco down in his pipe. “You go to hell,” he advised me for the second time. “When I want any help from you or your tribe, I’ll let yuh know.”
It took me just one second to backslide from my politeness. “Go to the devil, then!” I snapped. “I hope you have to stay on the damn’ bar a week.” Then I went plucking back through the sand that almost pulled the shoes off my feet every step, kicking myself for many kinds of a fool. Lord, but I was mad!
Pochette went back to the boat and old King, after nearly getting kicked into the river for hinting that we ought to pay for the damage and trouble we had caused him. Frosty and I weren’t in any frame of mind for such a hold-up, and it didn’t take him long to find it out.
The bank there was so steep that we had to pack my trunk and what other truck had been brought out from Osage, up to the top by hand. That was another temper-sweetening job. Then we put the wagon together, hitched on the horses, and they managed to get to the top with it, by a scratch. It all took time—and, as for patience, we’d been out of that commodity for so long we hardly knew it by name.
The last straw fell on us just as we were loading up. I happened to look down upon the ferry; and what do you suppose that old devil was doing? He had torn up the back part of the plank floor of the ferry, and had laid it along the sand for a bridge. He had made an incline from boat nose to the bar, and had rough-locked his wagon and driven it down. Just as we looked, he had come to the end of his bridge, and he and Pochette were taking up the planks behind and extending the platform out in front.