Monday was a rainy day, but as a rough shed had been built to serve as a temporary workshop, the ferry-boat was begun. On it Mr. March laid out enough work to keep all hands busy except Frank, who was still confined to the house.
The rain fell steadily all that week, until the Elmers no longer wondered that bridges and dams were swept away in that country, and Mark said that if it did not stop pretty soon they would have to build an ark instead of a ferry-boat.
As a result of the rainy week, the boat was finished, the seams were calked and pitched by Saturday night, and it was all ready to be launched on Monday. By that time the rain had ceased, and the weather was again warm and beautiful.
On Monday morning Frank March left the house for the first time since he had been carried into it, and was invited to take a seat in the new boat. The mules were then hitched to it, and it was dragged in triumph to the edge of the river. It was followed by the whole family, including Aunt Chloe and Bruce, who had shown great delight at meeting his old master, Mr. March, and appeared to be ready to make up and be friends again with Frank, who had treated him so cruelly.
At the water’s edge the mules were unhitched, a long rope was attached to one end of the boat, stout shoulders were placed under the pry poles, and with a “Heave’o! and another! and still another!” it was finally slid into the water amid loud cheers from the assembled spectators. These cheers were answered from the other side of the river, where nearly the whole population of Wakulla had assembled to see the launch.
Mark and Frank begged so hard to be allowed to take the boat across the river on a trial trip that Mr. Elmer said they might. Armed with long poles, they pushed off, but in a moment were swept down stream by the strong current in spite of all their efforts, and much to the dismay of Mrs. Elmer, who feared they were in danger.
“Don’t be alarmed, my dear,” said her husband; “they are not in any danger in that boat. It will teach them a good lesson on the strength of currents, and they’ll soon fetch up on one bank or the other.”
They did “fetch up” on the opposite side of the river after a while, but it was half a mile down stream. When they got the boat made fast to a tree, both boys were too thoroughly exhausted to attempt to force it back to Wakulla.
Just as they had decided to leave the boat where she was and walk back through the woods, they heard a shout out on the river, and saw Jan and a colored man coming towards them in the skiff.
The men took the poles and the boys, jumping into the skiff, made it fast to the bow of the boat with a tow-line; and, by keeping close to the bank, they finally succeeded, after two hours’ hard work, in getting back to Wakulla. They left the boat on that side of the river for the time being, and all crossed in the skiff.
The rest of that day was spent in planting two stout posts, one on each side of the river, close to the old bridge abutments, and in stretching across the river, from one post to the other, a wire cable that Mr. Elmer had bought for this purpose. A couple of iron pulley-wheels, to which were attached small but strong ropes, were placed on the cable, its ends were drawn taut by teams of mules, and anchored firmly in the ground about twenty feet behind each post.