A Canal Boy
Dissatisfied at HomeLonging for the SeaA CompromiseBound for Lake ErieApplication to Captain of a SchoonerHorrible SceneThe RepulseMusingCall of Captain LetcherJamess Surprise and BargainThe Canal OutfitBoatmen Rough and IgnorantHis First Day as DriverJames and Mules Tumble into CanalAn Exciting SceneThe Comical View of itEleven Miles LockJames RelievedCatechised by the Captain Captain Opposes his going to SeaAdvises 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 dont 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 mothers feelings, but she was a sagacious woman, and there was a change in her tactics.
Im not particular where; I want to see something of the world, was Jamess answer.
Its 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 dont 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 dont 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 dont like it, Ill give it up.
Thats 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 mothers 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 wont 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. Garfields 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.