“That’s not all. I’m determined to keep you on a duck diet for a week, so there’s another brace, and for good measure count these as ten!” announced the mighty Nimrod, climbing over the gunwhale himself, gun in hand.
It was a pretty assortment of game, six of them teal, three mallards and one of an unknown breed, which Maurice thought might be a broadbill, though he had an idea that class of divers kept near the salt water in its migration.
“I forgive that wretched thief; he’s welcome to the lone duck he took. Why, it looks like you’d enjoy nothing better than to agree to supply food for all the families in Evansville at this rate; and I believe you could do it, too, down here, for every time you shot, a million or two ducks sprang up above that marsh, and their wings made a roar like thunder. Say, I like this country around here. Given a good old gun like this Marlin, plenty of ammunition, a fishing outfit, and some cooking things and matches—yes, and a little tobacco for a fellow’s pipe, and I think I could exist here forever without needing a cent. I’m awful glad I came, ain’t you, pal?”
“Don’t I look like it, Cook? See anything like regret on my phiz? I’m just as happy as I look, and the end isn’t yet, for we’ve got several months of this before us; of course, there’ll be troubles and setbacks, but in spite of all we’re sure to keep making steady progress into Dixieland, and long before Uncle Ambrose gets into port again we’ll be waiting for him in New Orleans. It was just the finest thing in the world that his letter should have reached me on that black day; and then to think how you had this inspiration, too—why, I consider that we’re two of the luckiest fellows on earth this morning,” said Maurice, earnestly.
“Bully for you, old pal; my sentiments exactly; and now, come in to breakfast.”
A wild blow.
“How does it look to you—think we can make the riffle today?” asked Thad, as they floated down the stream, very broad and swollen at this point, as the low shores allowed the water just that much more expanse—further up, the Ohio is confined by hills that prevent its spreading to any great extent, even in the spring freshets.
Maurice knew what he meant, for they had only the one thought in mind just now, and that was getting into the Mississippi.
He drew out his charts and studied them to make sure he was right, though from frequent use he knew the same by heart.
“I can see no reason why we shouldn’t. As near as I can make out we’re now something like twenty-three miles above Cairo, and at the rate we’re sailing along we ought to pass there shortly after noon—say by two o’clock anyway. That will give us time to move down a few miles and have our first night on the greatest of American rivers,” he remarked.
“I’m a little bit worried as to how we’ll get on. You see I’ve heard so much about the tricks of the big river that I’m nervous,” admitted Thad.