He had made an effort at first to please Brown, but it was no use. Brown was the sort of a man that refused to be pleased; no matter how carefully his subordinate steered, he as always at him.
“Here,” he would shout, “where are you going now? Pull her down! Pull her down! Don’t you hear me? Dod-derned mud-cat!”
His assistant lost all desire to be obliging to such a person and even took occasion now and then to stir him up. One day they were steaming up the river when Brown noticed that the boat seemed to be heading toward some unusual point.
“Here, where are you heading for now?” he yelled. “What in nation are you steerin’ at, anyway? Deyned numskull!”
“Why,” said Sam, in unruffled deliberation, “I didn’t see much else I could steer for, and I was heading for that white heifer on the bank.”
“Get away from that wheel! and get outen this pilothouse!” yelled Brown. “You ain’t fit to become no pilot!”
Which was what Sam wanted. Any temporary relief from the carping tyranny of Brown was welcome.
He had been on the river nearly a year now, and, though universally liked and accounted a fine steersman, he was receiving no wages. There had been small need of money for a while, for he had no board to pay; but clothes wear out at last, and there were certain incidentals. The Pennsylvania made a round trip in about thirty-five days, with a day or two of idle time at either end. The young pilot found that he could get night employment, watching freight on the New Orleans levee, and thus earn from two and a half to three dollars for each night’s watch. Sometimes there would be two nights, and with a capital of five or six dollars he accounted himself rich.
“It was a desolate experience,” he said, long afterward, “watching there in the dark among those piles of freight; not a sound, not a living creature astir. But it was not a profitless one: I used to have inspirations as I sat there alone those nights. I used to imagine all sorts of situations and possibilities. Those things got into my books by and by and furnished me with many a chapter. I can trace the effect of those nights through most of my books in one way and another.”
Many of the curious tales in the latter half of the Mississippi book came out of those long night-watches. It was a good time to think of such things.
LOVE-MAKING AND ADVENTURE
Of course, life with Brown was not all sorrow. At either end of the trip there was respite and recreation. In St. Louis, at Pamela’s there was likely to be company: Hannibal friends mostly, schoolmates—girls, of course. At New Orleans he visited friendly boats, especially the John J. Roe, where he was generously welcomed. One such visit on the Roe he never forgot. A young girl was among the boat’s guests that trip —another Laura, fifteen, winning, delightful. They met, and were mutually attracted; in the life of each it was one of those bright spots which are likely to come in youth: one of those sudden, brief periods of romance, love—call it what you will the thing that leads to marriage, if pursued.