A Canal Boy

Dissatisfied at Home—Longing for the Sea—A Compromise—Bound for Lake Erie—Application to Captain of a Schooner—Horrible Scene—The Repulse—Musing—Call of Captain Letcher—James’s Surprise and Bargain—The Canal Outfit—Boatmen Rough and Ignorant—His First Day as Driver—James and Mules Tumble into Canal—An Exciting Scene—The Comical View of it—“Eleven Miles Lock”—James Relieved—Catechised by the Captain— Captain Opposes his going to Sea—Advises Him to Teach School —Sets James to Thinking

James was restive and dissatisfied when he returned home. His mother saw that he was uneasy, and she feared that he was thinking about the sea. Nor was she mistaken in her apprehensions, although she remained silent on the subject. Thus matters continued through the winter, James attending school and looking after the place. In the spring he worked at odd jobs in the town, until the farm demanded his attention. It was evident, however, that his heart was not in his work. His thoughts were on the sea. At last he seemed to reach a point where he could restrain his desires no longer. It was about the first of July. He said to his mother:

“Mother, you don’t know how I long for the sea. Why cannot I look after a place on a ship?”

“Where do you want to ship to, James?” his mother replied.

This answer was unexpected. James anticipated a direct refusal, but the answer indicated a change of feeling in his mother, he thought; and it encouraged him to proceed. There was really no change in his mother’s feelings, but she was a sagacious woman, and there was a change in her tactics.

“I’m not particular where; I want to see something of the world,” was James’s answer.

“It’s rather queer for a boy of your ability not to know where he wants to go,” said his mother. “If I wanted to go somewhere, I would find out where in the first place. You don’t care whether you go to Europe, Asia, or Africa!”

“Not exactly that,” replied James; “I would like to cross the Atlantic.”

“And be sick enough of it before you got half across,” remarked Mrs. Garfield. “Boys don’t know what they want.”

I know what I want,” retorted James; “and that is what I am trying to tell you. I want to try life on the ocean. If I don’t like it, I’ll give it up.”

“That’s not so easy. You get out to the Mediterranean, or to China, and it will not be very easy to give it up and come home. You will wish that you had taken your mother’s advice.” His mother said this with much feeling.

“I shall never know till I try,” James continued. “But I will never go to sea, or anywhere else, unless you consent.”

“Suppose you try a trip in a schooner on Lake Erie first, and see how you like it,” suggested his mother. “Perhaps you won’t like it. You will not be far from home then.”

“Are you willing that I should do that?” inquired James, brightening up at the prospect.

“I much rather you would do that than to cross the Atlantic, and I would give my consent to that,” his mother answered, with reluctance.

“It is settled, then,” replied James. “I shall start for Lake Erie as soon as I can get ready.”

Mrs. Garfield’s tactics prevailed. She had given much thought to the subject, and had reluctantly concluded that, if worse came to worse, she would compromise with the boy, and allow him to ship on Lake Erie.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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