After a time, he lifted him up, and placed him across the edge of the boat, and then, with some struggling of his own, he was rolled over into the boat.
“You are safe now,” muttered the ferryman.
The stranger spoke not, but sat or leaned against the boat’s head, sobbing and catching at his breath, and spitting off his stomach the water it might be presumed he had swallowed.
The ferryman put back to the shore, when he paused, and secured his boat, and then pulled the stranger out, saying,—
“Do you feel any better now?”
“Yes,” said the stranger; “I feel I am living—thanks to you, my good friend; I owe you my life.”
“You are welcome to that,” replied the ferryman; “it costs me nothing; and, as for my little trouble, I should be sorry to think of that, when a fellow-being’s life was in danger.”
“You have behaved very well—very well, and I can do little more now than thank you, for I have been robbed of all I possessed about me at the moment.”
“Oh! you have been robbed?”
“Aye, truly, I have, and have been thrown into the water, and thus I have been nearly murdered.”
“It is lucky you escaped from them without further injury,” said the ferryman; “but come in doors, you must be mad to stand here in the cold.”
“Thank you; your hospitality is great, and, at this moment, of the greatest importance to me.”
“Such as we have,” said the honest ferryman, “you shall be welcome to. Come in—come in.”
He turned round and led the way to the house, which he entered, saying—as he opened the small door that led into the main apartment, where all the family were assembled, waiting for the almost only meal they had had that day, for the ferryman had not the means, before the sun had set, of sending for food, and then it was a long way before it could be found, and then it was late before they could get it,—
“Wife, we have a stranger to sleep with us to-night, and for whom we must prepare a bed.”
“A stranger!” echoed the wife—“a stranger, and we so poor!”
“Yes; one whose life I have saved, and who was nearly drowned. We cannot refuse hospitality upon such an occasion as that, you know, wife.”
The wife looked at the stranger as he entered the room, and sat down by the fire.
“I am sorry,” he said, “to intrude upon you; but I will make you amends for the interruption and inconvenience I may cause you; but it is too late to apply elsewhere, and yet I am doubtful, if there were, whether I could go any further.”
“No, no,” said the ferryman; “I am sure a man who has been beaten and robbed, and thrown into a rapid and, in some parts, deep stream, is not fit to travel at this time of night.”
“You are lonely about here,” said the stranger, as he shivered by the fire.
“Yes, rather; but we are used to it.”
“You have a family, too; that must help to lighten the hours away, and help you over the long evenings.”